|Ahmad Rahami & Dzhokhar Tsarnaev|
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
--Langston HughesWe expect our terrorists to come from overseas. They are not American, they can't be.
(We forget about Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph and we call Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and Dylann Roof and James Holmes by different labels entirely. )
They are not American, they can't be.
Which is why our leaders say these (brown and Muslim) killers don't deserve their constitutional rights. The right to remain silent, the right to a lawyer and a fair trial, the right to not be tortured-- these are rights of Americans--the murderers and rapists and thieves among us. But they are not American, these (brown and Muslim) killers. They can't be.
They came here like so many of our (white, not Muslim) grandparents and great grandparents did, escaping places with no constitutional rights to become citizens of the United States. They became mechanics, opened hair salons. They were high school wrestling captains and Olympic hopefuls. They were restaurant owners and obsessed with auto racing.
Except they weren't like us.
The Tsarnaev family was a neighborhood nuisance, said Rinat Harel, a longtime neighbor. She and other neighbors called police five years ago when the two brothers would hold loud parties and drink late into the night in the courtyard.
The brothers were “just obnoxious teenage boys,” Harel said, but the father, a short, beefy fellow, was a constant irritant who regularly threw his trash in neighbors’ recycling bins despite being asked to stop, filled precious spaces in this parking-starved city with cars he was working on, and claimed a 10-minute loading zone as his all-day storage space.Except they weren't like us.
The Rahami family’s chicken restaurant had its own tense relationship with the community, though it drew a horde of loyal patrons who appreciated their cheese fries and friendly service.
At first, the restaurant was open 24 hours a day and became a local nuisance, said J. Christian Bollwage, the mayor of Elizabeth and a neighbor. Rowdy crowds appeared after midnight. Dean McDermott, who lives nearby and is a news videographer, complained, as did others. Often Mr. McDermott discovered patrons loitering in his yard and urinating in his driveway, and he called the police.Except they weren't like us.
Even as members of their extended family found their piece of the American dream, the Cambridge Tsarnaevs’ experience in their new land curdled. Money grew scarce, and the family went on welfare. Zubeidat was accused of stealing from a department store. Anzor’s business, never prosperous, faded.Except they weren't like us.
In response to the persistent complaints, the mayor said that the Elizabeth City Council passed an ordinance compelling the chicken restaurant to close at 10 p.m. But the Rahamis flouted the order and neighbors continued to summon the police. Mr. McDermott said that once when officers responded, one of Mr. Rahami’s older brothers got into a fight with a police officer and was arrested. Before the case was resolved, Mr. McDermott said the brother fled to Afghanistan.
Mr. McDermott said a fragile truce was reached, whereby the restaurant would close at midnight or 1 a.m. A few months ago, however, a for-sale sign appeared on the front.Except they weren't like us.
The mother found solace in a deepening religiosity, the father, icy to such devotion and ill with cancer, went home to Dagestan, a place that was never really home to start with. And the boys underwent transformations so dramatic that some friends could barely recognize them.Except they weren't like us.
Mr. McDermott said that in the lawsuit the elder Mr. Rahimi claimed that he had been discriminated against because of his race and ethnicity. The mayor said: “It was neighbor complaints; it had nothing to do with his ethnicity or religion."It had nothing to do with his ethnicity or religion (brown, Muslim). It was neighbor complaints.
A neighborhood nuisance. Loud parties and drink late into the night. Obnoxious. A constant irritant. Tense relationship. A local nuisance. Rowdy crowds appeared after midnight. Loitering. Urinating.
Money grew scarce, and the family went on welfare. Accused of stealing.
Got into a fight with a police officer and was arrested. A few months ago, however, a for-sale sign appeared on the front.
"It was neighbor complaints; it had nothing to do with his ethnicity or religion."
Is it only coincidence then? Two families from overseas (we expect our terrorists to come from overseas), pursuing the American dream, like so many of our grandparents and great grandparents did (except they weren't like us), becoming citizens, becoming our neighbors, only to find they weren't citizens, they weren't our neighbors. They were "neighborhood complaints."
They weren't Americans. That could never be.
They went back to the places their families had escaped from. They found solace in a deepening religiosity. Underwent transformations so dramatic that some friends could barely recognize them. Then they returned. Were they who we expected all along? Or did something happen along the way? Did we ever treat them like a neighbor, not a neighborhood complaint?
What happens to a dream deferred?