Nov 28, 2010

Personal responsibility

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now but kept putting it off for reasons that will be obvious as you read on. Events in recent days have brought my thoughts back to the fore and I would like to have my say.

On Friday evening, the FBI captured a would-be bomber in downtown Portland. The suspect is a 19 year old Somali-American intent on detonating a van full of explosives during an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony attended by thousands of local residents (and visitors).

I live outside of Portland. I shop in that area, and have attended the ceremony, so this is a little close for comfort.

Details are emerging about the young man, Mohamed Osman Mohamud and his quest to perform violent jihad. We’ll inevitably hear accounts about how disaffected he was, how he felt left out in school and so forth. And the usual recriminations about how America failed him and others like him will become part of the narrative.

I don’t discount some of the difficulties immigrants face living in the U.S. and other countries, and how this can negatively impact their experiences but where is the responsibility on US (the immigrants)? For the parents raising children in countries other than your own, what are you doing to ensure your children are well adjusted and making the most of their lives? Where are you when your 14 year-old starts talking about his wish to perform Jihad to punish the infidels? When do you pull your head out of the sand and address issues before they become critical?

It seems that every time stories like this hit the news, we hear about how so and so didn’t feel connected in this new country he/she was living in, and how that anger simmered for years until finally spilling over. If only the schools had paid more attention or if the larger community at hand had been more inviting and welcoming, etc.

Granted, some of these arguments are valid but when did personal responsibility end? I find it quite irritating when people make excuses for their inability to make it when they stack the odds against themselves. What do you gain from living in your own insulated community, refusing to speak anything but your native tongue all at the same time pointing fingers at your host nation for not doing enough to make you welcome?

It’s a give and take relationship, my brothers and sisters. We need to assume responsibility for our own happiness, successes and failures and not fall into negative mindsets that keep us trapped. What are you doing to ensure your survival and that of your family? Are you making efforts to understand the culture and customs of the new land you now call your own? You were courageous enough to seek a new life outside your home country for whatever reason, why throw it all away by inattention or the lack of will? Nobody owes you anything no matter how much you pay yearly in taxes.

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