After the Boston Marathon, we are just like the rest of the world

A few years ago my best friend ran the Boston Marathon. She came back glowing, proud that she’d qualified, amazed by the crowds and energized by the feeling of community. Never once did she think that she could have died from a bomb exploding at the finish line.

America seems to be facing tragedy after tragedy. From the Aurora shootings, to Sandy Hook Elementary, to the Boston Marathon bombings, each time our leaders raise their voices to shout valiantly from the rooftops: “We are Americans! We will get to the bottom of this! Someone has to pay!”

After the trumpet fare, the media shark fest, the cry to bear arms, the harassment of those who suffer most in exchange for hype, the advocacy groups jumping onto their soapboxes, and a general roar for someone to do something … nothing seems to get done.

More money gets spent. More anger and bitterness follows. More arms are waved in the air, more mouths are opened, more fragmentation and fear characterize the fabric of our society, laced with the abject terror of stepping outside our front doors to say hello to our neighbors. We hide behind our shuttered windows. We barricade our doors and teach our children to be afraid.

We believe down to our very core that the answer to our problems is to punish our way out of them.

As a backdrop to the real-life tragedy that’s playing out again and again before our eyes, our leaders still shout from the mountain tops. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth.

Einstein once said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again, expecting a different result.”

Are we as Americans, addicted to being insane?

My heart goes out to those who were killed or hurt today. But unfortunately, I suspect America has more tragedies of this sort to face in the near future. A shooting here. A bombing there. Another loved one dies. Another person pays our price.

As we spin into a globalized future that’s filled with increasing violence as an almost commonplace event and not the relatively rare occurrences Americans are used to, the question isn’t so much anymore how we’re going to stop this from happening.

The question is more like this. How are we going to accept that we are exactly the same as the rest of the world, and have nothing more to hide behind?

Natasha Deonarain is the founder of The Health Conscious Movement. She is the author of The 7 Principles of Health and can be reached on Twitter @HealthMovement.

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  • Caitlin Peebles

    “As we spin into a globalized future that’s filled with increasing violence…”

    Violent crime in America has been on the decrease for the past couple of decades.

    And no, America is NOT “just like the rest of the world”. Had a look at how many tens of thousands of foreigners are trying to get IN to the place? The number of entries (crossed fingers; whispered prayers) into each year’s Green Card lottery?

    Don’t let that stop your over-wrought posturing, though. You’ve obviously got a narrative to push and mere facts shouldn’t stand in your way.

  • James

    Yup bomb blows up in Boston a multi-ethnic multi-cultural city that was a founding city in one of the longest standing continuous republics in history, and now we are all just like Syria and North Korea. What drivel.

  • http://www.health-conscious.org/ Natasha Deonarain, MD, MBA

    The point of the article was to demonstrate how Americans
    seem to be caught in a cyclical somewhat infantile emotional trap of anger,blame, denial, shock and bargaining, without progressing to a moment of real introspection based on the whole viewpoint, depending on the ‘event’ which happens. While we all get caught up in the emotional nature of these things, it is uncanny that America has had 3 significant events within 6 or so months of each other. But it’s not so much the tragic event that we need to start focusing on for the future. It’s our RE-action to these recurrent events.

    As can be seen in this blog and many other blogs, we RE-act
    in a cyclical manner. We get angry, outraged, shocked, and want to blame and insult. We even want to ‘blame’ those who point out the cyclical nature of our reactions, such as blame towards me as the author of this drivel.

    But after we’ve gone through the emotional turmoil of these
    tragedies, we all have opportunities to introspect, reflect, and develop a more PRO-active viewpoint from which to operate. Unfortunately, America has had several opportunities to reflect upon its tragedies, but it never seems to learn from them. When we reflect about things instead of RE-acting to them, and see the big picture, we can put things together using
    more whole-brained thinking, which is what I believe Einstein was talking about.

    The ability to see things as a whole, not just a sequence of
    individual random acts, are what can determine a different outcome – - by using a different way of thinking instead. In this case, the whole picture is the fact that we are human beings, just like Syrians and Iraqies. We ARE the same because we are RE-acting in the same way they do – - blame, anger, accusation,insult, condemnation – - albeit on a slightly different scale. We ARE the same because we continue to RE-act in the same way to tragedies, again and again, and somehow expect a different result. And we ARE stuck in the minutia, because we fail to see the biggest picture possible.

    The biggest picture for America is the deconstruction of a
    society that’s on the brink of serious tipping points with our heightened anxiety and stress, and without the emotional maturity or spiritual tools to work through its reactions and come up with solutions.

    The vehement proclamation that “WE ARE DIFFERENT BECAUSE WE ARE AMERICAN!” is blind. And it is this blind belief that will make sure that America is deconstructed in these painfully tragic ways, unfortunately, because we fail to understand that by breaking apart the whole, looking at things in their fragmented parts and continuing to incessantly argue about those parts just as we have done in healthcare, just as you are doing in this blog and on other blogs, only serves to distract ourselves from the biggest picture possible.

    I think we all know it, but don’t really want to say it. The days of the American empire are over because we refuse to change the way we think about the problem.

    But what do I know? Given that this is all drivel, let’s go
    back to the way we were before and act surprised and outraged when something happens to us again, and again, and again conveniently missing the point so we don’t have to deal with ourselves and the reality of who and what we are…..the SAME as everyone else on this great planet, and I believe, on a crash course to self-destruction.

    • James

      “We even want to ‘blame’ those who point out the cyclical nature of our reactions, such as blame towards me as the author of this drivel.”

      I don’t blame you for anything, I just think you are wrong and are making little coherent sense. Drivel.

      “The biggest picture for America is the deconstruction of a
      society that’s on the brink of serious tipping points with our heightened anxiety and stress, and without the emotional maturity or spiritual tools to work through its reactions and come up with solutions.”

      Perhaps drivel was a poor choice of words. Psycho-babble is probably more apt.

      “I think we all know it, but don’t really want to say it. The days of the American empire are over because we refuse to change the way we think about the problem”

      The American empire is coming to an end because everyone wants someone else to pay for what they have/want. Our government (and populance) can’t stop spending more money than we take in. People don’t take responsibilty for their own choices (why should anyone have to pay more for insurance because they are obese and drink big gulps everyday). We remove that responsibilty and then use government to control what people do (Just ask Bloomberg). And lastly because we still feel it is our responsibilty to police the world. America in it’s current state of decline doesn’t make your writing any more relevant.

  • http://www.health-conscious.org/ Natasha Deonarain, MD, MBA

    James – I’m not sure if you understood what you did, but by trying to insult me, you then went on to whole-heartedly agree with my point of view! Thanks for the pscho-babble!

    • James

      I have at no point up until this post been been attacking you. I don’t blame you for anything either. If you can’t handle criticisim of your writing without interpreting it as a personal attack then perhaps you shouldn’t be posting articles on the internet (you could credibly perceive this is an attack now). I will tell you I love you as a citizen of the world if it makes you happy, but doesn’t change my low opinion of your writing (not an attack on you but of your writing). Regardless of any agreement that you and I may share about the decline of America, it doesn’t change that your article sounds like a summary of a UN security council meeting (again not a personal attack should you get the wrong idea). Perhaps we should pass a non-binding resolution to ban the detonation of explosives in downtown Boston (sarcasm in case you quote me later). The bomb explosion does not make the US like every other country in the world. Most of the world lives in abject poverty. America has it’s problems but a bombing in Boston does not make it like the rest of the world. In fact regardless of whether this is a domestic or international incident, it likely occurred because America is different than the rest of the world.

      • http://www.health-conscious.org/ Natasha Deonarain, MD, MBA

        You are correct, James – didn’t take it as a personal attack, just a ‘low opinion of my writing’ which is okay. And thank you for your insights (I won’t need to quote your sarcasm, don’t worry!). It’s too hard to pick up all the nuances, attitudes, tone of a long conversation through the type-written word, isn’t it? That given, I will pick up one part – the rest of the world lives in abject poverty. While America is overall a very wealthy country, there are many areas geographically who live in abject poverty and don’t have access to healthcare, food, clean water, but we keep turning our eyes to the 40% of the wealth in the country, as shining examples of how well we are doing. In any case, it’s a long, long conversation, and not for blogging or this article, so I’d be happy to have you call my office at 480-855-7585 if you’re up to continuing…you can email directly at info@7poh.com to make sure I’m in that day.It would be interesting to understand where you’re coming from…

      • http://www.health-conscious.org/ Natasha Deonarain, MD, MBA

        James. It’s been 24 hours and you still haven’t called to discuss your insights. I will leave my number here again for you 480-855-7585. I am very fascinated by your point of view and would like the chance to hear from you further.

      • http://www.health-conscious.org/ Natasha Deonarain, MD, MBA

        The anonymous tip-tap behind a keyboard in today’s society, without the courage to see beyond the screen, and connect in significant, meaningful ways to other human beings, is what allows us to perpetuate this myth that “We are AMERICANS! We are separate from the rest of the world.” And in this strident belief, we only serve to harm ourselves. A different way of thinking, speaking, acting, believing IS required for America to stop this ‘terror’ from happening, and it begins with each one of us through every thought, action and belief we hold. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/cyber.2012.0130 You have my number James. And I have yours. I hope that one day you will have the courage to make a REAL different in someone’s life before you die. Acceptance is the key. And this was the point of the article. The door is always open. The choice is exclusively yours, isn’t it?

  • Caitlin Peebles

    Your undergraduate doom-mongering, though currently en vogue, is misplaced. Your thesis that things used to be so much better, but that now the world is spiraling into some new age of violence and doom, so we must be Very Bad People™ who are Doing It Wrong™, is simply not empirically correct.

    I don’t know whether we’re allowed to submit links in comments to this blog, but I highly recommend watching Steven Pinker’s 2007 TED talk, “The Surprising Decline in Violence”, for a bit of perspective.

    There’s also a relevant piece in the Harvard Crimson October 4, 2011), an excerpt of which reads:

    - – - – - – - – - -
    In a world where headlines are dominated by stories of ethnic conflict, gang violence, and acts of terrorism, Harvard Psychology Professor Steven A. Pinker remains optimistic. His latest book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,” argues that the last few decades have been the most peaceful in human history and examines this development from a psychological perspective.

    While this idea may strike many as counter-intuitive, Pinker presents a wealth of statistical evidence demonstrating that the rate of violent deaths has fallen over the course of history.

    “There’s a misleading impression if you don’t look at the denominator of the expression—the number of people who are not murdered,” Pinker said. “Only studies that track violence over time give you an accurate impression.”

    Twentieth century homicide rates in Europe, for example, show a 10- to 50-fold decrease in homicide rates during the late Middle Ages. Within the last decade, the rate of documented deaths from war, terrorism, genocide, and other political violence has been a fraction of a percentage point.
    - – - – - – - – - -

    And looking to recent history in America specifically, FBI figures show that your likelihood of falling victim to a violent crime including homicide has been falling since the early 90s.

    Your thesis is just wrong. People pointing that out are not doing it to be mean to you — you’re taking their criticism far too personally. It’s just that the whole concept your post is based on — that the world (and America specifically) are going to hell in a handbasket of violence (and we probably deserve it to boot!) is just not correct. Settle down.

    • http://www.health-conscious.org/ Natasha Deonarain, MD, MBA

      Thank you for your comments and research. I’ll definitely check into those stats further.

      • Caitlin Peebles

        Good :)
        We really are living, historically, in a time of almost unprecedented global health, longevity, prosperity, and safety from violence. There’s still a LOT that needs improving upon, and we can’t take it for granted that we’ll keep going on as well as we are, but things — especially for those of us lucky enough to live in America — are just not objectively as awful as you make them out to be.

        And as long as I have your attention, allow me to also recommend Indur M. Goklany’s 2007 book, “The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet”. It’s a good tonic against the doom-and-gloom miasma saturating so much of the airwaves as well. Cheers!

      • Caitlin Peebles

        Good :)
        We really are living, historically, in a time of almost unprecedented global health, longevity, prosperity, and safety from violence. There’s still a LOT that needs improving upon, and we can’t take it for granted that we’ll keep going on as well as we are, but things — especially for those of us lucky enough to live in America — are just not objectively as awful as you make them out to be.

        And as long as I have your attention, allow me to also recommend Indur M. Goklany’s 2007 book, “The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet”. It’s a good tonic against the doom-and-gloom miasma saturating so much of the airwaves as well. Cheers!

  • http://www.health-conscious.org/ Natasha Deonarain, MD, MBA

    Here is an interesting article and comment thread in my Linkedin that says it well: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130411130418-14634910-americans-can-t-handle-the-truth?goback=%2Egde_138801_member_232887877 – check out James Goldberg’s comments. It seems I’m not alone when thinking that American’s can’t handle the truth…even when he says this: “I brace myself each morning when I turn on the news to discover yet another expression of violence. These incidences are too frequent to be considered random. To my way of thinking, the expressions of a planet in agony: the role of the US in precipitating this can and should not be discounted.”

    • M.K. Caloundra

      “the role of the US in precipitating this can and should not be discounted.”

      Blame the victim? I didn’t think we played that game anymore. “She must have done something to DESERVE it!” “She was just ASKING for it!” “If he hadn’t been so UPPITY…”

      Oi.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Simpson/100001631757606 Jason Simpson

    The United States has more immigrants trying to get in than all other nations on earth, combined.

    Yes, the USA is exactly like Bangladesh. LMAO

  • Cris

    If the perpetrator turns out to be a white right-wing extremist are you still going to be making excuses for him and saying that we brought it on ourselves, that it’s our own fault, that we probably deserved it anyway because we’re so hatey and mean?

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