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America’s broken society

Octavia Nasr

Published: Updated:

A horrific act of terror near the finish line of the Boston Marathon resulted in the death of three people and the maiming of hundreds. Just as with other tragedies that befall us, the voices of condemnation get loud after the fact, the blame games begin, speculations float around and become part of the air we breathe. In this case too, we could not wait for an investigation, we jumped to conclusions as we sought news to understand what was happening to our country.

In this day and age, we have become empowered, we all have opinions and we all feel the urge to share those opinions, we join a chorus, we oppose another. The world has become a playground of sorts, through the Internet and its social media. Within seconds we can be overloaded with information from the computer, the TV set, the radio and our mobile phones.

Playing the blame game

Soon after such an incident, the voices calm down and things get back to their normal pace. It seems that people find solace in identifying a suspect or placing the blame on a group or individual, pretending to find comfort in closure since the blame fell on an “outsider.” We act as observers who just stepped in to witness the tragedy but really have nothing to do with it beyond the urgent need to know if the suspect is being chased, is captured or killed and some foreign country receiving the blame. At that point, we condemn, expressing sorrow at the tragedy and the ensuing losses.

Well, America, at the end of the day, we got a white European Muslim terrorist who was raised by us and went to our schools and consumed our media, in addition to whatever influenced him from his Chechen heritage

Octavia Nasr

We belong to a truly well connected universe; but the big question is, does our interconnectedness make us better human beings and better citizens of this world?

The Boston tragedy could have ended even worse than it did. Consider a few other scenarios; a terror group could have been behind the attack. A cell could have been activated to carry out more attacks consecutively, adding more casualties and more terror. Consider the ramifications of such scenarios and the international repercussions they would have had.

Instead, the perpetrators turned out to be young immigrants, or sons of immigrants, who grew up in the United States. They went to the same schools as other Americans. They were exposed to the same exact culture all our children are exposed to. The younger brother, who was captured alive, spoke English without an accent, according to his schoolmates. He was described by everyone who knew him as nice, talented, and funny.

A broken society

This brings me to what I want us to consider; why would a 19-year-old commit such a heinous act of terror against innocent people in his own neighborhood? Why are we a broken society and what are we going to do about it? I’m talking about all of us: Parents, teachers, politicians, law enforcement officers, media executives, school boards, youth organizations, and business leaders. What ethics are we instilling in our children and what kind of future leaders are we preparing them to be?

What does it say about our culture when, to this day, racism runs amuck in the United States but not many are willing to admit it? What does it say about us when a Republican majority in the House of Representatives (Congress) does not permit a Democratic President to get anything of value done? What does it say about us as a nation when our Senate caves to the pressure of the Gun Lobby and blocks gun background check legislation that would have made us all safer? What does it say about our education system when people wanting to blame Chechnya for the terror of two criminal brothers, confused it with Serbia, Croatia and the Czech Republic? What does it say about our media when in the rush for a “scoop” an erroneous news source is quoted as saying a “dark-skin man” is in custody?

Well, America, at the end of the day, we got a white European Muslim terrorist who was raised by us and went to our schools and consumed our media, in addition to whatever influenced him from his Chechen heritage. The two criminal brothers are our problem as there are many similar problems festering in homes, schools, businesses, media organizations and high offices across the nation.

I ask with much love, compassion and concern over the future of my children and yours, isn’t it time to look inward and deal with what is broken?

This article was first published in the Lebanon-based Annahar on April 23, 2013.

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Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.