The Boston Marathon bomb attacks have gripped the entire nation. Setting aside horrible personal tragedies, it is informative to consider the controversies that have emanated from this event. The following are eight issues that are pitting Americans against each other, in spite of the fact that virtually every American decries the actions of the bombers:
1. Gun Control:
All of the progress made by Congress to enact new laws to protect Americans against improper use of firearms has been lost. Our lawmakers were on the cusp of agreeing to provisions that could have prevented some mentally disturbed people from obtaining weapons; no more. Congress is back to square one, as Americans want the option to protect themselves against criminal activity. The multi-day manhunt during, which the city of Boston was shut down and people were urged to stay at home, had an effect. Not unexpectedly, conservative members of Congress have used the bombings to derail gun control negotiations.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and the "Gang of Eight" senators were similarly on the verge of making history. A reformed immigration policy was close to a vote in Congress. The perpetrators of the bombings are immigrants from an Islamic region in western Asia. Their actions were allegedly based upon their radical religious beliefs. Many are asking how these men were able to obtain permission to come to the U.S. In fact, many Americans are now asking why immigration officials are allowing any Arab students in the country, as they have been a prime source of terrorist activity in the past. Further, some among us are curious as to why any spots in American universities are being ceded to foreigners at the expense of American children. Most colleges attempt to create a diversified student body, their justification for accepting foreign students.
3. FBI Missteps:
Is this episode yet another 9/11 screw-up by the authorities? Did the FBI have information about the older brother that it didn't pursue? Congress will likely delve into whether the FBI is even capable of processing the amount of potentially devastating information it receives each day.
4. Police Actions:
Did authorities handle the pre-marathon security appropriately? Was there enough manpower dedicated to the event to deter such an attack? Did they handle the situation properly after the bombs exploded? A major city was shut down because of two rogue men. Commerce came to a halt and significant money was lost. Did the authorities overact as they hunted down the young boys?
5. Civil Liberties:
Once again, the American people are going to have to make choices between security and civil liberties. The use of drones, surveillance cameras, inspection of personal belongings in public places, and even racial profiling are back on the table. And, the use of smart phone pictures and videos was extensive. Witch-hunts ensued and some people were wrongly accused. Have Americans become a large vigilante group spying on one other?
6. Social Media:
Whenever a crisis occurs, Americans start shooting their smart phones. The resultant pictures and videos can often lead to opposing interpretations of what happened and who was involved. It is possible that law enforcement may change markedly if private citizens are able to impact the actions of authorities with information from their high tech devises.
7. Arab Relations:
It is inconceivable that American tolerance of Arabs in general will not deteriorate. Arab radicals have been responsible for many of the terrorist acts around the world in recent years. It is troubling that many Americans now believe that religious Arabs are targeting the U.S. and other non-Islamic nations for terrorist insurgency. Some say that radicals comprise only a small percentage of the total population so it is unfair to indict the entire group. But, conservative groups are suggesting that most young Arabs are being taught to hate westerners by clerics and families alike. And, Arabs are inundated by terrorist propaganda that suggests killing "non-believers" will please Allah. It is curious that Arab leaders have not overwhelmingly and publicly denounced Arab terrorist activities.
8. Media Coverage:
To say the least, the round-the-clock coverage of the Boston attacks has caused most Americans to be engaged. The media is influencing public opinion by the way it reports. If there is an unfortunate backlash against foreigners or Arabs, the press must assume some culpability. Their hunger to scoop the competition leads them to make false and/or misleading comments and supersedes all else including a civilized and well-thought out response to terrorist activity.
Like 9/11, the debates about the Boston bombings will be in the news for many weeks and months as everyone concerned does an after-action assessment. The controversies that emanate from this sordid affair could have a serious impact on our society, our security, and our country’s global reputation.