Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

How strong, really, is America?

By Frida Ghitis, Special to CNN
updated 8:25 AM EDT, Wed April 24, 2013
Bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, followed by a manhunt kept the Boston area reeling until the surviving suspect was captured on Friday, April 19. Pictured, the second explosion goes off near the marathon finish line on Monday while smoke from the first bomb still hangs in the air. Here's a look at how the week unfolded: Bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, followed by a manhunt kept the Boston area reeling until the surviving suspect was captured on Friday, April 19. Pictured, the second explosion goes off near the marathon finish line on Monday while smoke from the first bomb still hangs in the air. Here's a look at how the week unfolded:
HIDE CAPTION
Boston bombings: A week in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
The week in Boston in photos
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Frida Ghitis: Boston Marathon aftermath shows vast resources, reach of America
  • Ghitis: Yet, the country cannot pass a measure that can keep guns out of potential criminals
  • She says America cannot seem to solve its bigger problems through its political process
  • Ghitis: If America were strong, it would find ways to stop the gun violence and fix its debt

Editor's note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer and correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television." Follow her on Twitter: @FridaGColumns.

(CNN) -- You cannot mess with America. The moment the Boston Marathon came under attack, the country pulled together and rallied. The FBI vowed to pursue the bombers "to the ends of the earth." They meant it, and everyone knew it.

If you launch a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, America's vast resources will spring into action and the country will spare no effort to catch you. Within three days of the marathon blasts investigators had identified the suspects and released their pictures to the public. By the end of the week, one of the suspects was dead, the other in custody. Bostonians poured into the streets in joyous celebration.

But how strong, really, is America?

Frida Ghitis
Frida Ghitis

Americans are dying by the thousands at the hands of other Americans and the country can't figure out what to do about it.

Many at home and abroad scratched their heads when in the midst of the bombing investigation, with all hands on deck to crack the case, the U.S. Senate could not manage to approve a minuscule improvement to the country's efforts to keep weapons out of the hands of potential criminals, including possible terrorists even though polls show most of the public support it.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



How strong, really, is America?

No other nation has even a small portion of America's military power or a fraction of its reach. The country's enemies know they have nowhere to hide. America's unmanned drones will find you and kill you in the most remote corners of the earth.

Americans are patriotic and resilient. The population responded with determination, kindness and courage after the Boston bombing. Police, military and intelligence personnel are skilled and brave. They have kept terrorist attacks to a minimum in the years since 9/11. And when terrorists attack, or try to, investigators solve the case with a quickness and ingenuity that rivals fictional television detectives, even as we're constantly warned it is unrealistic to expect such dramatic results.

America's might is something to behold. Except when it isn't.

More than 30,000 people in the United States are killed every year by someone brandishing a gun.

It is a staggering number, no matter what you believe about the right to bear arms. A problem that causes so many people to die every year is one that requires urgent attention.

Boston bombings case one week later
How background checks failed to pass
Healing the Boston community

And yet America simply cannot find a way to stop it. How strong is that?

It is as if a house stood protected as a fortress, with a high fence around it, with guard towers and alarm systems to keep intruders out, while inside the residents were slaughtering one another.

When you travel abroad, people ask what it is about Americans and their guns. As much as we hear from hunters, the issue goes much deeper than that. From the founding days of the nation, freedom lay at its core, and freedom has been viewed as protection from an overreaching government. The Second Amendment to the Constitution, adopted in 1791, states that the people have a right to "bear arms," but it also prefaces it with what sounds like a caveat, that this is because "a well regulated militia" is "necessary to the security of a free state."

Still, Americans have had a romantic relationship with their arms. Think back to the cowboys and their six-shooters and Colt rifles.

The romance and the freedom, it's all part of America's character and history. Americans will never look at guns the way, say, the Dutch look at them. In some respects, that is part of America's strength. The people feel a very personal stake, a direct responsibility for the country's freedom.

And yet, not even the most ardent gun lovers would argue that it is acceptable for young men filled with hatred, dangerously disturbed or with a track record of violence, to have free access to weapons.

The greatest defenders of freedom agree that the massacre of children in school or of moviegoers in a theater constitute a grave affront to the security of the country. It has become a crisis that demands a response.

If America were really strong, it would find a way to stop the killings, to staunch the bleeding.

But no, America has become weak. The nation has become incapable of solving problems through normal legislative channels.

How strong is that?

The country's political system has fallen into a muddy, sticky, foul-smelling quagmire.

Problems whose gravity is enough to produce near consensus among the population cannot seem to find a solution in Congress.

If it's a pure security issue, authorities can order everyone to stay at home in Boston for an entire day. They can ask everyone to send in their iPhone pictures of the marathon to try to solve the case together.

If the problem is national debt, however, the mighty nation produces a travesty like the "sequester," creating hundreds of flight delays for no reason at all other than the incompetence of its politicians.

Or if the problem is regulatory oversight, how strong is a country where parts of a town are destroyed by the explosion of a fertilizer plant that had not had an inspection in more than two decades?

America is in possession of more power than any country on Earth. And yet, its people are not secure. They are dying in large numbers from problems that a better functioning government could do much to prevent.

To make America truly strong and its people safe, fixing this broken system deserves at least as much urgent attention as catching the perpetrators of terrorist attacks.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Frida Ghitis.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 6:48 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 4:49 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT