Is the World Really Flat?

The recent bombings in Boston haven’t just rattled that city; it has once again put America on high alert. After over a decade since the 9/11 attacks we find ourselves as targets once again—and what’s worse, we don’t know yet who is targeting us. Fear has re-entered our hearts and our streets—as if it had ever really left. As a country we have been on high alert ever since that fateful day in September 2011 and nothing has ever really felt right since.

Some say that through grief, great connections are formed. So, will the devastation we experienced this week bring us closer to each other and the suffering of our international brethren? This was the question posed in an op-ed I read recently. Author Juan Cole writes, “terrorism has no nation or religion. But likewise its victims are human beings, precious human beings, who must be the objects of compassion for us all”.

In countries around the world like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the like, our Boston attack is an everyday occurrence. There in the Middle East, there are countless 8 year-olds who one minute are cheering, playing, soaking up life, and the next are taken violently from this Earth. Does this realization minimize our pain, no. However, Cole suggests that the recognition that we are not alone in our pain should help to turn our anger into empathy.

Our world seems more connected than ever, yet we are light years away from understanding the emotional toll these acts of violence take on those who experience it daily on separate continents from us. It’s important in these (thankfully still) rare moments in the U.S. that we not only pause to experience our own grief and fear that this tragedy provoked, but also remember those whose names will never grace a headline and whose stories remain untold.

In a recent post at the Center for American Progress, my friend, Sam Fulwood explains the American news appetite in a nutshell:

“As someone who spent the bulk of his professional life in U.S. newsrooms, I can add with authority that editors and publishers are in lockstep with consumer demands. If valued readers and viewers aren’t interested in learning more about international affairs—or even parts of their own communities—then the purveyors aren’t going to spend dwindling resources serving unwanted fare”.

His comments while unfortunate are true. In America we believe we are at the center of the Universe and the rest of the world just orbits around us—until of course something “out of our norm” occurs and jars us back to reality.

Headlines from around the world came pouring in after the Boston attack—calling for justice and standing in solidarity with us. How often do we do that for others? How often do we stand with the tens of thousands of civilians in the Middle East and parts of Africa who are going about their days just like us until terror strikes?

We need to whet our news appetites beyond our U.S.-centric focus and link arms with our global compatriots—because in the 21st century we don’t just share tweets, we share pain and progress as well.

During these times of tragedy and loss we need to lean on each other more than ever and recognize while Boston as horrible as it is still a rarity in the U.S. and no amount of finger pointing or racial profiling will ease our pain. For better or for worse, right now, we are just like everyone else in the world—doing the best we can to pick up the pieces and move forward.