Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

How strong, really, is America?

By Frida Ghitis, Special to CNN
April 24, 2013 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
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
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1119 GMT (1919 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1212 GMT (2012 HKT)
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1619 GMT (0019 HKT)
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2235 GMT (0635 HKT)
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
The Swedes will find sitting on the fence to be increasingly uncomfortable with Putin as next door neighbor, writes Gary Schmitt
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
The Ottawa shooting pre-empted Malala's appearances in Canada, but her message to young people needs to be spread, writes Frida Ghitis
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 0148 GMT (0948 HKT)
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT