Updated: June 8, 2013 6:19AM
In 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was the most despised man in America, yet a Fort Worth cemetery still made room for his body.
Oswald, the man who assassinated President John F. Kennedy, was buried in a ceremony of quiet shame. There were so few mourners that reporters had to step in as pallbearers.
But he was buried, and the world moved on.
Contrast that with what’s going on today in Massachusetts, where a Worcester funeral home director can’t find a cemetery willing to take the remains of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the alleged Boston Marathon bomber. Protesters outside the funeral home Sunday held signs with sentiments like “Bury this terrorist on U.S. soil and we will unbury him.”
Well, that’s one way to fight the war on terror, but probably not the most effective way.
Mostly it just punishes Tsarnaev’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, a proud immigrant American who has condemned his nephew’s actions. Tsarni is trying to bury his nephew’s body as quietly as possible in accordance with Muslim traditions, which rule out cremation. This is what family does, whether the disgraced relative is Tamerlan Tsarnaev or John Wayne Gacy.
“No one wants to associate their names with such evil events,” Tsarni told the Associated Press. But “a dead person must be buried.”
A cemetery that decides whom to admit based on the sins of the deceased is treading on shaky ground. Is Al Capone OK but not Jeffrey Dahmer? Does Ted Bundy make the grade but not Timothy McVeigh? What about the Haymarket bombing defendants?
“I can’t control the circumstances of somebody’s death, or what they’ve done, or how they’ve died,” the funeral director, Peter Stefan, told reporters. “In this country, we bury the dead.”
As a practical matter, actually, we don’t always. The families of McVeigh, Bundy, Gacy and Dahmer all chose cremation instead of burial. Among their likely reasons for doing so, they did not want to create creepy tourist attractions. But the choice, as it should be, was theirs.