Decline Played Out Nightly

Science fairIn the USA that I remember the days after the July 4th celebrations were usually spent basking in the glow of the remembrance of fire work displays while cutting the grass, fighting off mosquitoes, and swearing never to consume so much beer, hot dogs and greasy hamburgers.  This year is different as the country and the world seem caught in a horrible, downward spiral.  Usually as I scroll through Facebook I ignore most of these posts, but the image to the left caught my eye.  Funny, but …

Anyway, this piece by by Mark Scheinbaum put a lot of what I’m feeling into words.

MIAMI (July 8)—Sociologists will try to explain why countries such as the United Kingdom and Iceland have virtually no people killed by police officers each year. Demographers will show how people walking around Uruguay, Germany or Costa Rica are less likely to be killed by police than in the USA.

Political Scientists will quote John Stuart Mill and explain that when one shoots a police officer, when one targets a law enforcement officer, that person endorses a “natural state” of mayhem and chaos without laws, without rules, and without humanity.

All of this means little to the families of law enforcement officers killed and wounded in Dallas this week, and Americans of color shot and killed in confusing and suspicious circumstances most recently in Baton Rouge, and St. Paul.

On social media and cable TV the amateur videos show constant video loops of police motionless in the gutter, suspects being wrestled and shot, or a traffic stop and shooting turning into a virtual “snuff video” of a victim dying. These first inform the public but then feed the flame of misinformation, knee-jerk calls for vengeance, and opportunistic rhetoric for those with their own special agendas. Most ironically and shamefully, if police abuse power within a culture of “them and us” racism and profiling and then people go gunning for cops “to get even” or for pure anarchy- those fueling the flames of both sides are not much different from Islamic “terrorists” killing thousands.

The terrorists who have struggled with their own twisted interpretations of religion and in some cases been manipulated either since youth, or since non-religious events in their lives gave them a pseudo-justification to kill, I suspect have found a “cause” to play out their goals often set from other variables. Of course as Northern Ireland, Nigeria, Cypress or North Korea have proven, there is no one religion, political philosophy or geographical area which has cornered the market on horrific violence and dehumanizing behavior.

But, in the United States of America there is a nostalgic love for the Wild West, for the John Wayne individualist, for the swagger and the six-shooter. In a planet of cross border environmental poisoning, cross-border communication and trade, and cross-border sharing of intellectual and artistic ideas, the nostalgia is neither cute, productive, nor predictive of continued success and prosperity for the USA.

Whether shedding a tear for the Stars and Bars of a Confederate flag outside a building where the great-great grandchildren of former slaves go to work each day, or using the Second Amendment as an excuse for hunters and target shooters to buy 30-round clips for their firearms, the civilized world is leaving the USA in the dust.

GREAT AGAIN?

hatIf “restoring” America to its past “glory” or making it “great again” means reinforcing a role of global policeman, well, millions of folks in other countries shake their heads, feel sad for the USA, or simply laugh. As with Greece, Rome, the British Empire, the Spanish Armada. Kodak, Blockbuster Video. or Oldsmobile—all empires both political and commercial are liable to decline. Some decline faster than others.

If “love it or leave it” is your answer to those who criticize a decline in parental control (often with lack of a father or disciplinary figure in a family), or who decry a growing gap between working poor and super rich, don’t worry, millions of Americans have done just that. Perhaps you also know Gringos in Puerto Vallarta, or London, or Nassau, Montreal, Panama, or Poland who have felt that the American standard of living, cost of living, and social deterioration gives them a better quality of life elsewhere.

NO SHORTCUTS

Finally, there are no real shortcuts to justice. People who repeatedly survive in patterns of bad behavior, dangerous behavior, or in some cases criminal behavior, are putting innocent people around them at risk at all times. Shopkeepers, postal workers, delivery truck drivers, home care nurses, or police officers of good will trying to work in these environments are in harm’s way at all time. Similarly, cities and states and agencies which recruit those with physical and psychological injuries for law enforcement jobs—often paying them less than someone who strings a wire or points a light at a rock star on stage, invite tragedy and disgrace.

The macro solutions and significance of all of this escapes me. As they used to say on Saturday Night Live, “talk among yourselves.”

Former UPI Newsman Mark Scheinbaum is a political scientist and frequent contributor to Newsroom and other publications. He lived and worked in Panama for many years

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