It must be terrible to suffer the horrors of life in prison, awaiting execution, convicted of a crime you did not commit. Last month, I would have said there could be nothing worse in the spectrum of human experience.
This month, I know better.
It is hard to consider, but the new day-to-day reality for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is this: having no choice but to suffer the horrors of life in total solitary confinement, imprisoned in silence, awaiting execution, convicted of a crime that never even happened… and those who put him there did it for money.
I can’t get my mind around it.
How did people knowingly take the stand in front of him and tearfully and/or defiantly express outrage at him, knowing every sentence they spoke describing what he had taken from them was a lie, knowing as they did that the injuries they lamented were old, knowing the amputations that were real enough had occurred long before the bombing of the Boston Marathon. The anger that wells up in me when I picture the day of sentencing and that sad procession of frauds speaking before him makes me want to crawl out of my skin.
I can’t imagine what that poor boy is suffering right now. I can’t imagine what he is thinking and feeling… However, one who faithfully reads this blog, Cheryl Dean, was able to imagine it and she shared with me a powerful, poignant letter she wrote as if Dzhokhar was the author, writing to his sisters. I share it with you now in its entirety. Cheryl has created what, in my mind, amounts to a victim impact statement that might have been spoken by Dzhokhar (the only real victim to appear in Judge O’Toole’s courtroom) instead of the nonsense he was forced to say.
And why did Cheryl take this action? I can explain that; we who love Dzhokhar and know he is innocent, convicted of a crime that never even happened, feel pain and helplessness at times. And in those excruciating moments, we have discovered that writing can make the feelings bearable, allowing us to once again take courage and wait as patiently as possible for the Lord to reveal and carry out His unstoppable plan to exonerate and free Dzhokhar.
That is why I and others still blog about this case, three years after and will continue to do so.
Here now is the beautiful writing of Cheryl Dean:
To my dear sisters,
I’m so grateful and happy that I am allowed to write to you. It seems a small thing, but here in my tiny cement world, it’s everything. I get to write some of my words on paper, words that fill my entire body, words that I am mostly never allowed to say or express. Sometimes I feel I will burst from all that I must contain within me.
It’s not normal, it’s not humane or realistic to expect a person to be so much less than they are. Sometimes I don’t feel human anymore. Who or what am I now? I am alive because my heart continues to beat, but I am not living. I am but a shell of a person -more like a zombie – even worse than Zombie Apocalypse! At least they could walk around and see people.
I am not my own person anymore. Someone else owns me; I am lower than a slave. It’s as if I were someone’s car, just an object. They can wash and polish me if they want to, or take me for drives, or to run errands, or they can neglect me and put me in the windowless garage for years, never to see the daylight again.
It’s like a dog that lives his entire life chained to a dilapidated doghouse. He looks and barks like a dog, but does nothing that other dogs do: never runs free, never receives love, never plays or fights with other dogs, never buries a bone… can you still call him a dog? I don’t think so.
I have no say over my own mere existence. They have taken my dignity, my character, my personality, my intelligence, my rights, my loved ones, my friends and every other single thing they could possibly take from me.
The aching and longing for life never subsides. I wonder if it ever will.
So many lives have been ruined – for nothing.
I am thinking of not going outside anymore. What is the difference if I sit in this cage or if I stand in a cage outside? I can’t see anything there. At least inside I don’t have to worry about the wannabe soldier guards with their high-powered guns pointing at my head.
I often fear that I will suddenly trip while being taken outside or sneeze really hard. If I did, would they be so startled that they would shoot me in the head? Would they kill me for sneezing or tripping? They could, saying they feared for their safety. And let’s face it; their safety is the only safety that matters – certainly not mine.
I don’t even want to take a shower anymore. It’s the same procedure and it’s not worth it. I can wash in my cell just as well. The showers are usually cold and only last for a minute so it would be no loss to me. It would be a disappointment to the guards and FBI though if they had one less person to humiliate and take all dignity from – for that is the sum of their daily job here.
I lie in my cell day after day and wonder “What is the purpose of this?” Why keep people barely existing, barely alive? Is it for the sick pleasure of those in charge? Does it make them feel like big strong men – patriots? I think that must be it. It certainly isn’t to protect anyone.
I’ve never hurt a fly in my entire life and I never would.
When I think of those who run the country and this prison – all prisons – I become physically nauseous. What an evil, sick world we live in – a world that God created for all of us to live in freely, as good people. But the powerful have desecrated it. God must weep day and night…
I’m sorry if my letter makes you sad but I had to relieve a bit of the dam of words in my head or go crazy. And I can never write such thoughts to mamulya and papa; they are already in such great pain.
I wonder when I will see you again.
Even when I do, we cannot talk about anything. You’ll sit across from me and look into my eyes, trying to see how I am, how I am feeling. You’ll try to see if my bones are sticking out anywhere. You’ll ask what I eat and how much. You’ll smile at my out-of-control hair, which I’ve come to love.
I’ll look at your faces and try to convey my brotherly love, to ease your worry over me, but it won’t work will it? None of this is fair and I cry at the thought of how my family and friends have suffered and continue to suffer. I don’t believe it can ever be undone.
My life here is already over; it has already been taken from me; it serves no purpose – for me or anyone else. Maybe God will quietly take me one day. I wouldn’t mind. What great joy it would be to see Tam and our other relatives in heaven.
If that ever does happen, please don’t be sad. You can rejoice knowing I am safe and in the arms of God and loved ones. I can’t wait to hug them and be hugged again.
I’ve never wanted anything so badly in my life as a simple hug…
Your loving bro,
I chose to add the video below not only for the appropriateness of the song, but for the story of the young man singing it. Be sure not to skip ahead to the song or you will miss some of the significance that makes it perfect for this post today. Even Simon Cowell cries… remember the last line of the letter above. When a very tearful judge asks the singer if she can give him a hug after he finishes and he shyly answers how he would love a hug, well… have tissues ready.
I could easily see Dzhokhar dedicating this song to his friends to say he’s aware of and jealous of the way they’re able to be happy without him. And knowing what I do of his compassionate nature and self-sacrificing ways, I can see him willing to forgive those who know him and can still think he is guilty of such a terrible crime. “There’s nothing to forgive… I wish you the best of all this world can give…”
After his release, which I am sure is coming one day, I can see him, unsure of himself in the spotlight… Smiling shyly as thousands hear him tell his story, cheering with joy afterwards as they celebrate all the ways God helped him endure and overcome and all the while Dzhokhar stands quiet and humble…
That is why I added this particular video to the post. I hope it touches your heart the way it does mine each and every time I watch it. And I hope you never forget Dzhokhar. I know I never will.