What I really wanted to say in the title is that motive only matters to those who need some closure.why someone commits acts of attrocity. I suppose that it has to do with our insatiable need to know the meaning of everything. I even found myself wondering why the Tsarnaev brothers did what they did, and it was my hope that they be captured alive that we might know their motives.
Humans, for some reason, always want to know
But the motive only matters in a limited sense. As I see it, there are three distinct reasons to why we are so insistent on discovering a motive.
First, and foremost, is the feeling in those who were directly affected by the incident. Their lives have changed abruptly, violently, and they want to know why someone would do something like this. It's a comfort thing, but not "comfort" in the sense that it brings any inner peace. The acts of violence that seem to sting the most are the ones that we characterize as "senseless."
When a man kills another human being for the sheer thrill of ending a life, we call that senseless, and it gives us an uneasy feeling. No one wants to think that death at the hands of a psychopath can be just around the corner, and what's more, we want our loved ones to have died for some purpose. We don't want to feel as though they were merely meatbags to slaughter for the pleasure of some psychopath. So knowing that their death was brought on by some sort of external motive gives meaning to the tragedy.
The second reason is for people like me: sheer curiosity. I have an obsession, of sorts, with understanding human action. I want to know why simply because I want to understand why he did it. My blogger friend, Freethinke, hinted at this the other day. We need to be empathetic if we are to understand the person's motives. For me, even if these men did this for sheer pleasure, discovering that and pondering the implications of it is fascinating to me. For me, even "senseless," violence is meaningful because it still says something about humanity.
I just want to know.
And then there's that third feeling: blame. Many people want to know because--perhaps subconsciously--they need someone to blame. They need someone or something to blame because that makes their world feel more manageable. "This could have been prevented if only . . ."--and you can imagine the myriad of words that fill in the blank.
"Deport all foreign born Muslims," they cry. "It's Islam! That's the problem," they assert. For some odd reason, we often try to place the blame on people and institutions other than the perpetrators themselves. If only Islam didn't exist, this would have never happened! Well guess what: it doesn't matter.
Why? Because it takes focus off of the fact that ultimately, the Tsarnaev brothers made the choice. No idea, no set of beliefs, can actually force a person to do something against their will. And there is the key: against their will. These men willed these actions to transpire. Sure, we can sit back and say that it's all Islam's fault because it somehow bended their will to violence, but anyone with a brain would know that's not true.
Consider this: there are currently 1.6 billion (with a "B") Muslims in the world. Of those 1.6 billion, less than .0000000000001% of them choose to do violence against others in the name of Allah. So if Islam is so evil, and if it apparently turns its adherents into violent assholes, then why is it that there are billions of Muslims out there who have never committed and will never commit violence against others in the name of God?
The answer is simple. The blame lies in those who commit violence. It doesn't really matter what their motives are, because motive is only incidental. The motive only gives the killers that little extra push to do what they were already mentally prepared to do.
Studies showed that of the American men who served in combat situations during WWII, only 20% of them actually fired their weapon with the intent to kill. About 80% of the participants in the study said that when they fired, they hoped that they didn't kill anyone--many of them missing on purpose. Even men with the conviction of righteousness--and of all the wars ever fought, few have a more just cause than that of the Allies in WWII--most men still cannot bring themselves to take a life.
You either have it in you, or you don't. To murder someone, even if you feel it's justified, will harm the psyche of a normal human being. If you can take a life and feel okay with it, then the motive is arbitrary. The Tsarnaev brothers were killers, and their motives simply gave them outlet for their bloodlust and justification so that they could sleep at night.
So as you hopefully see, it doesn't really matter why they did it.