Monthly Archives: February 2013

Beneath the Lie

Once too often, I’ve heard pundits claim that America is ‘the most violent country in the world.’ Weak on facts, some of them claim that cowboy ‘Westerns’ have contributed to what they regard as our ‘violent culture.’  Irrationally, they elevate murder to the status of a national characteristic. Absent from murder statistics, are meaningful comparisons to violence in dozens of nations throughout the world. There, murder is either government sponsored or committed by mega gangs, often euphemistically referred to as cartels.

If we seek statistics for violence at the national level, we might better search for it elsewhere—Syria, Somali, and Myanmar for starters. Their peoples don’t watch Westerns, but they experience live violence at a national level 24/7. The same is true in most of the Middle East, much of Africa, and Asia. In North America, Mexican drug gangs savagely torture, maim, and kill family members, including children. It doesn’t take a professional statistician to know that dozens of nations easily outrank America in the category of violence.

Surely the daily television news broadcasts demonstrate that America doesn’t have a monopoly on violence. If America were as violent as many people claim it to be, we’d be dodging bullets on our trips to supermarkets and, in light of terrorism, in supermarkets. Despite isolated incidences of violence in a nation of over three hundred million people, violence clearly is not an American national characteristic.

The current national ‘dialogue’ about the Second Amendment includes genuine concerns about armed criminal violence on the one hand and armed citizen defense against criminals on the other during on-the-spot encounters. On the surface, the two ‘camps’ are believed to be Republicans and Democrats. But partisans are incapable of rational debate. Party lines and truth are a contradiction in terms. The significant divide of any debate is between those who discuss issues rationally and those who discuss them irrationally. The latter are in the overwhelming majority. They are also among those who insidiously declare that ours is the most violent of nations as though that accusation were axiomatic. It is their prerogative to cite facts and their interpretation of them to support their position on the Second Amendment, but arbitrarily declaring that America is ‘the most violent nation in the world’ is disingenuous.

Direct criticism is healthy. Oblique criticism is not. Under the guise of a discussion on gun violence, that blatantly unsubstantiated statement is one of many strategies to bash America. What concerns me most about that ploy, is that so few Americans are aware of the distinction between jingoism and appreciation for a special nation.

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Fatal Instinct

On Tuesday, January 29, 2013, Bill O’Reilly’s interview with General Colin Powell was shown on television. Early in the interview, the general stated that Republican officials and senators “look down” on minorities. He was no match to Bill O’Reilly in the debate that followed. Being an excellent military man does not necessarily guarantee excellence in debating skills. The general lost this battle.

But the general’s debating skills are not at issue here. What is at issue is the foggy attitudes of most pundits, commentators, and talk-show guests that place ‘feelings’ above reason. Sometime prior to the interview, the general had criticized a Republican senator’s use of the word ‘lazy’ to describe President Obama’s performance at the first presidential debate. Yet, the general fully agreed with Bill O’Reilly’s comment that there was no question whatever about the senator’s total freedom from prejudice.  Given many opportunities to rectify this fundamental contradiction, the general continued to fumble through an overwhelmingly one-sided debate. It saddened me to see a look of confusion on his face when he could not provide Bill O’Reilly with a reasonable response to his questions about the general’s allegation of prejudice. He didn’t grasp this contradiction at all. He didn’t even claim that the senator’s alleged prejudice might at least be subconscious, which would have been a lame excuse for his unsubstantiated allegation. The distinguished general was unable to recognize the difference between a white senator who properly used the word ‘lazy’ and anyone else who might have used the word as a ‘code.’   

Racial prejudice is still experienced by Jewish-Americans, African-Americans, Native- Americans, and White-Americans, especially Old White-Americans. Some of those who are anti-Old-White-Americans are themselves Old-White-Americans. Their attitudes parallel those who are prejudiced Native-, African-, and Hispanic-Americans. They include much of my generation. Most are still frozen in the 1960s when the long overdue, inspired struggle for civil rights greatly enhanced the American Way. Unfortunately,  they are still apologizing for the worst of all human sins, the ownership of slaves.

But my grandfather was stomping olives in Italy during that shameful period of America’s history. And even if my great-grandfather had been an American slave owner and a multi-generational American, I cannot (and should not) bear my ancestors’ sins. I can only regret my own sins, none of which has been societal. As an individual American, I neither owe nor expect apologies from anyone for anything that happened before I was born.

The root of political prejudice is a consequence of the lethal concept that individuals are interchangeable and should be so! The distinguished general has allowed himself to plummet into the essence of political prejudice by stereotyping Republicans. The interview is of little importance, but the common but false attitude that Republicans are non-feeling people, is as superficial as the color of one’s skin. My lifetime experience with Republicans and Democrats categorically rejects the notion that one party or the other attracts better human beings.

We are not born to hate; we are cultivated to do so. There is great danger in adopting the myth that there are ‘feeling’ people on one side of the aisle, and ‘non-feeling’ people on the other. The same is true of honesty and genuine love for a special nation: no group has a monopoly on those fundamental and individual characteristics.

Globally, the primordial herd is instinctively stampeding toward a monolith society. If we are to survive as free individuals we must rid ourselves of political prejudices; ironically, they are similar to and as destructive as racial prejudices. The interview glaringly demonstrated that.

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