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May 12 2013

Coda to the burial controversy

So Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body has been finally buried in a small private cemetery in Virginia, which I hope brings to an end a ridiculous chapter in the Boston bombing tragedy.

Martha Mullen, a woman in Virginia, hearing about the difficulty the family and funeral director were having in finding a cemetery willing to accept it, felt it was her Christian duty to help and so quickly organized a local interfaith group in her area to have him interred in a small burial ground. Her action has resulted in the predictable vituperation from local officials, neighbors, and the online community, as if she had committed a heinous crime.

But that did not end the circus. Although one of the groups that helped her was a Muslim group called the Islamic Society of Greater Richmond, a rival Islamic group called the Islamic Center of Virginia is furious at the action, saying that the relatives of other Muslims buried in that area won’t like having his grave near to the ones of their loved ones. Meanwhile the local sheriff says that he did not know about the act and went and checked the paperwork to see if it was in order. It was, so he is dropping the matter. But local authorities have now appealed to the state attorney general to see if any laws were broken. If they were, what are they going to do? Exhume the body? And then what are they going to do with it? Return it to the family? What of they refuse to accept it? Just dump it in their yard?

Get over it people! It is just a dead body, decaying organic matter that is little different from the dead leaves and animals that are also there, a bunch of molecules that over time will become indistinguishable from the surrounding soil.

It is quite amazing how angry people can get over things that are purely symbolic while at the same time laughing at others for having emotional attachments to their symbols. I am pretty sure that the people who are so upset at the burial of Tsarnaev also wonder why Muslims get angry over such silly things as cartoons about the prophet Mohammed.

The whole thing is crazy. But like all such controversies over symbols, it will die down and people will soon forget about it, unless some idiots feel that it is their patriotic duty to vandalize the gravesite while chanting “USA! USA!”, not realizing that it makes the US look as ridiculous in the eyes of the world as Muslims rioting over a film.

15 comments

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  1. 1
    jackal

    I could understand affected people not wanting see that grave when they’re visiting their relatives’ graves, but that doesn’t seem to be the main cause for the uproar. People were protesting the funeral home that accepted the corpse, as if allowing the corpse to be buried was tacit enforcement of terrorism. The other thing, Tamerlan Tsarnaev wasn’t born an antisocial pile of excrement. Now that the terrorist is dead, his parents should be able to mourn the boy he used to be. (Then again, they may never forgive him for his actions, or for involving his brother. But that’s beside the point.)

  2. 2
    Mattir, Another One With Boltcutters

    IIRC, in some religious and ethical traditions, treating a corpse with dignity is considered a great act of charity because the dead person cannot ever repay the act. The outcry over where to bury this particular corpse sort of illustrates why the treatment of corpses is still a useful metric for ethical behavior.

  3. 3
    Corvus illustris

    One of the religious and ethical traditions is called Christianity: to bury the dead is distinguished as the Seventh Corporal Work of Mercy. It’s fun to watch the Christians cavort.

  4. 4
    smrnda

    It isn’t like we don’t have monuments to all sorts of other horrible dead people. I’m thinking this reaction turned out the way it did just because Tsarnev died right after the attack, rather than after spending decades in prison.

    All said, it isn’t like people haven’t occasionally gone out of their way to punish corpses. Oliver Cromwell’s dead body got exhumed and ‘executed’ which, for however bad the guy was, is pretty silly.

  5. 5
    steve oberski

    There is a long xtian tradition to this.

    From Wikipedia:

    Formosus (c. 816 – 4 April 896) was Pope of the Catholic Church from 891 to 896. His brief reign as Pope was troubled, and his remains were exhumed and put on trial in the notorious Cadaver Synod.

    Pope Stephen VI, the successor of Boniface, influenced by Lambert and Agiltrude, sat in judgment of Formosus in 897, in what was called the Cadaver Synod. The corpse was disinterred, clad in papal vestments, and seated on a throne to face all the charges from John VIII. The verdict was that the deceased had been unworthy of the pontificate. The Damnatio memoriae, an old judicial practice from Ancient Rome, was applied to Formosus, all his measures and acts were annulled and the orders conferred by him were declared invalid. The papal vestments were torn from his body, the three fingers from his right hand that he had used in consecrations were cut off and the corpse was thrown into the Tiber (later to be retrieved by a monk).

  6. 6
    MNb

    This is about as embarrassing as MS and me quarreling about the correct symbol for energy – E or U. Burn all the books on physics using E! Or something.

  7. 7
    Matt G

    Clearly Christians acting they way they are supposed to act are in the minority….

  8. 8
    sbh

    Here’s the thing. We had a body sitting in a funeral home in need of burial. We had local and even more distant graveyards refusing to accept the body. We had people making threats against the funeral home. We had a 24 hour police presence protecting the funeral home. The whole situation (as Martha Mullen observed) was a major embarrassment to the United States.

    This situation couldn’t go on, and Martha Mullen found a way to bring it to a quiet conclusion. I commend her. It is now time for everybody to move on on this issue. (And public officials who fan the fires of outrage instead of working toward a sane solution ought to be publicly condemned.) This never should have been an issue in the first place.

  9. 9
    sunny

    I agree, I am not sure what the fuss is all about. Can’t he be given a Bin Laden type burial?

    I recently read that there is a Dzhokhar Tsarnaev fan club online; mostly teenage girls with a crush on him. Perhaps they will be happy to take care of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body.

  10. 10
    Trebuchet

    Meanwhile the local sheriff says that he did not know about the act and went and checked the paperwork to see if it was in order. It was, so he is dropping the matter.

    Good thing the cemetery wasn’t in Maricopa County, AZ.

  11. 11
    Mano Singham

    Wow, that’s pretty macabre. What was that about the good old days?

  12. 12
    twosheds1

    Surely Boston has a cemetery where indigents are buried. Why wasn’t he buried there?

  13. 13
    Mano Singham

    You still need to get permission and no one was willing to give permission to be buried locally or even within the state.

  14. 14
    Doug Little

    This is awesome, In a B grade horror movie kind of way.

  15. 15
    atheist

    Terrorism has gone from an emotional issue into a mythological issue. The folks refusing to let him be buried seem afraid that he will become a revenant feeding on the living, or that his body will somehow contaminate the very soil.

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