Braggadocio and tough talking make America a paranoid bully, not a trustworthy leader.
America is a nation that is setting a new standard in apathy. Gun violence has become so commonplace that people have become completely inured to it. After each incident, like clockwork, social media lights up with prayers for the victims and their families. President Barack Obama, a gun control proponent, makes a somber speech. Opinions on gun control and the defense of the Second Amendment quickly follow. After the heat of the moment, things die down until the next shooting, and then the cycle repeats itself.
Over here, the death of 20 young children at the hands of a 20-year-old with easy access to a gun is considered perfectly acceptable. The death of a 2-year-old at the hands of her 5-year-old brother handling a 0.22 caliber rifle gets brushed aside as an unfortunate accident. Sure, this is disturbing and troubling to a small segment of society, but as a nation, the majority is unwilling to make any change to remove guns from it.
In less than three years since the Sandy Hook shooting, killing 26 people, there have been 144 school shootings in America. On average, that is one per week. In 2013, 69.5% of homicides were done using firearms, and 51% of suicides were done using firearms. If the tragic loss of 20 innocent lives cannot tug the nation’s conscience, it is no wonder that the killing of ten black parishioners by an armed white supremacist did not lead to any change whatsoever to that apathy. And the fact that 75,000 American lives have been lost to gun violence since the ill-fated Sandy Hook elementary school shooting has become just another statistic.
Whether people want to believe it or not, institutional racism is a way of life in America. Data from an Office for Civil Rights study points out that even though African American students represent only 18% of preschool enrolment, they receive 48% of the one-day suspensions. These are just 4-year-old black children. The same study finds that across all age groups, black students are suspended and expelled three times more than white students.
The prejudiced racial treatment meted out to preschool black students follows them throughout life. In Ferguson, Missouri, an unarmed black male, Michael Brown, was shot dead by Officer Darren Wilson in 2014. Wilson pumped 12 bullets into Brown and he was not even indicted. In New York, another black man, Eric Garner, lost his life to the chokehold he was subjected to by Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was also not indicted. In Texas, Eric Casebolt, a McKinney Police Department officer, rough handled a 14-year-old black girl in a swim party and eventually resigned due to public pressure. In 2012, black teenager Trayvon Martin was shot dead by vigilante George Zimmerman. After nearly getting away with it, Zimmerman ended up facing murder charges six weeks after the shooting, only to be acquitted by the legal system.
America is a nation that is gripped by paranoia and intolerance. When self-professed liberals like Bill Maher defend the arrest of a Muslim teenager in school for displaying creativity, one can only surmise that Islamophobia is at its peak. America’s Islamophobia reflects its Middle East foreign policy irrespective of the president’s party affiliation. Their internal politics and bickering notwithstanding, Democrats and Republicans come together only when it comes to war mongering in the guise of world leaders. If President George W. Bush led America into a wasteful war in search of non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, his successor President Obama outdoes him by killing scores of Muslims using drones.
America is a nation that is being torn asunder with gun violence, racial tension and intolerance ripping apart its very core. Is it possible to change the minds of the scores of Americans who unwaveringly stand by the Second Amendment and believe in their rights to bear arms even though guns need to play no part in a civilized society today? Is it possible for America to atone for its crimes against blacks and seek their forgiveness as a nation? How can America of today become tolerant of the world around it, whether it is Muslims or blacks who stoke their paranoia and hatred? Can America stop all this madness and heal itself?
Stop Being a Bully
Acknowledging problems and their root causes is the first step. It is no surprise that today, America is not respected internationally. Far from being leaders, the world sees the country for what it is: a bully.
Chest thumping and angry screaming are behaviors appropriate to animals, not humans. Yet that is what is celebrated in every sport this nation has engineered. Trash talking and ruthless killing of competition are not attributes of true leaders. Yet that is what even successful leaders resort to doing here. Only last month did the talented Elon Musk demean himself when he referred to Apple as Tesla’s graveyard—in the context of Apple hiring Tesla engineers. Braggadocio and tough talking define the American way be it in sports, politics or the corporate world. Unfortunately, America has to learn that bullying is not leadership.
A bigger issue lies in America’s multibillion dollar gun economy. This is an industry with blood in its hands and a $42 billion impact on the US economy. The gun industry kindles and stokes the basic animal instincts in human beings, the only animal that kills for sport. Not only does America shamelessly profit from the wars it has created in the Middle East, but the country’s irrational love for guns has made it a huge importer of firearms in spite of being the largest gun manufacturer in the world. America does not need gun control. America needs to replace the gun economy with something else that the whole country can fall in love with.
The sum of $42 billion may seem like a huge number. But that is insignificant when compared against America’s $18 trillion GDP. The 260,000 people employed by the gun industry may seem like a substantial number, but that is just a fraction of its $156 million labor force. If America wants, it can reinvent itself and replace the gun industry with something else. Even Colombia, a country ravaged by violence from drug cartels, changed its ways over the last decade to get its tourism industry humming. Surely, America can break free from the clutches of National Rifle Association and give up its irrational love for guns and war mongering.
America does not have to rewrite its moral fabric. It just needs to stop being a bully. As a nation, it needs to find a non-deadly sport to fall in love with and replace nationalistic jingoism with genuine care for human lives.
When it does this, the world will look to America for leadership without fear of being bullied. America will have no reason to be paranoid of the Muslim world. Who knows, in the whole process, America may even heal its racial wounds.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.