America is…the World’s Reality TV Show.

Hunting Season is Open

    I was intending to move on from the “America is…” theme and began to tackle the minor topic of human morality, but then the clouds parted, the pandemic was declared over and U.S. citizens got back to killin’. Perhaps this country was better off being ravaged by a fictional virus. Pandemic deniers might argue that the recent spate of mass shootings including those in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, Texas claimed more lives than the “fake” Covid-19 virus did. Whether you believe in the reality of Covid or not, the country has moved on from the lockdowns and health safety restrictions and has returned to its normal staple of homicides. I’ve already tackled this topic in a previous post so I’ll spare the regurgitation. This much is still true about the way our country handles gun violence:

  • Politicians are craven to private/corporate interest and will only do as they are instructed by lobbyists who fund their election campaigns. This will not result in any form of restrictions to interpretations of the 2nd Amendment.
  • The United States is the country with the highest per capita household ownership of firearms.
  • Shooting incidents are back on the rise in the last few years after seeing a slight decline.
  • The majority of mass shooting perpetrators are acting solely and have expressed intent along with motives on some form of social media. This has occurred weeks or even months before they carried out the offenses.
  • The majority of American citizens now favor more strict laws concerning firearm regulation. 
  • Firearm restrictions and bans have been instituted by many other countries with large populations of gun owners, and they have been shown to be effective in reducing homicides.

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

-Gettysburg Address

No matter who wields political power in the halls of Washington D.C. the opposition will always have a strategy to regain their lost authority. This has remained the “balance” of political power from the dawn of partisan political systems. The United States is a unique example, however, because of its historical mix of progressivism and tradition. This has made for an entertaining mix of give and take through the decades as our young country has tackled the growing pains of interpreting the document that set its entire existence in motion: the Constitution. Granted that for its first 100 years things stayed largely the course of the politics of America’s predecessors. The government was busy putting down uprisings from indigenous peoples and seditious immigrants, handling the situations with calculated, authoritarian exercise of power. No questions asked and few exceptions made. Then in the mid 1800’s the first great divide challenged the republic to reassess the treatment of all of its “citizens”. The U.S. was falling behind in a world that was quickly condemning slavery and needed to decide which direction to take. 

We know how that ended: those in favor of upholding the system of slavery to extract free labor to run the great agricultural market of the South lost. However the repercussions of this conflict between north and south, abolitionists and slave owners, have reverberated through American history to this very day. Although the Constitution was amended to formally forbid slavery, it did not forbid racial discrimination. Truth be told, the Civil War was the first time that the country was forced to reckon with some of its discriminatory practices on a political level and attempt to mitigate the damages that had been practiced for decades if not centuries. Even before the dust had settled, southern representatives had devised their own strategies for retaining some of the domination it had held over black slaves who now found themselves “free”. Jim Crow laws enacted on a state-to-state basis initially enforced many of the same labor practices that kept blacks in bondage. As time passed, many of these laws were struck down but the stark differences between whites and blacks remained and in many places an overt discrimination existed. It seemed as if the Bill of Rights was not enough to guarantee all U.S. citizens the same privileges and additional amendments were required to secure these freedoms. 

The world watched for the next century following the Civil War as blacks struggled for acceptance. The Emancipation Proclamation had made them free but not equal citizens. Whites still enjoyed superior access to resources such as housing, education, employment and entertainment. Following the two World Wars, blacks returned home from abroad to be treated as less than their white counterparts. Many blacks were relegated to segregated units and limited in the responsibilities their platoons were assigned to. The sore of inequality festered until by the 1950’s it was ready to erupt again. This was the initiation of America’s passive revolution in the form of the Civil Rights Movement. Coinciding with America’s most unpopular war to date, non-violent blacks and whites protested and marched to ensure that all public places become truly inclusive and non-discriminatory. By this time, the invention of television allowed viewers worldwide to watch protesters hosed by police and firemen while having dogs set upon them. They also got to see coverage of church bombings, the assassination of MLK Jr. and events such as the 1968 Democratic National Convention riots. The Civil Rights Movement was effective in that it brought to the forefront the continuing Jim Crow practices of many institutions and resulted in the end of state endorsed segregation. However, no matter how effective a protest can appear, it does not erase the prejudices ingrained into the society that adopted these practices as normalization. Racism has been codified into American society and will not be removed by the mere laws that forbid it or the recurrence of social movements that bring it into everyone’s attention. The protests that took place in 2020 are proof that America has determined its future but is yet to address and take responsibility for its past. 

Roe vs Wade: Dead in the Water

To say that politics in America or any country for that matter is a touchy issue is a drastic understatement. Every republic in history has had its share of political disagreement, in many cases when this disagreement became unresolvable then the said sovereignty might have moved to conflict or even collapsed as a result if the matter were serious enough. While this has happened to the U.S. none of these disputes was strong enough to topple the republic. There are definitely points in history where we have come closer that many would like to admit. This having been said, The United States is a more progressive country than most and for the first half of the 20th century it was a hallmark for addressing issues of race, gender and other social issues that it had ignored or swept under the rug. One of these important issues dealt with how women dealt with the issue of unwanted pregnancy and their alternatives to carry a fetus full-term: abortion. The 1973 ruling on Roe vs Wade was one of the most progressive Supreme Court decisions ever handed down and changed the course for future generations of women for decades. It was also a decision that was despised by the conservative and highly religious right that has been challenged ever since.

Fast forward to the present, after nearly 50 years of legalized abortion being the accepted legal precedent in this country, the Supreme Court is poised to reverse the decision and take the legal right away. This will effectively result in states being able to criminalize most types of abortion and remove a personal right that has been established for nearly half a century. Have you ever taken anything away from a child? Even though that is a poor analogy, it is a comparison of the fight that is about to ensue in not only our courts but on the streets of this country. In the decades that followed the Roe decision opponents responded with protests, state legislation and sometimes violent actions aimed at abortion clinics and doctors. The issue of abortion remained both highly contested and passionately supported by both sides. With a leaked memo purporting that the Supreme Court is prepared to reverse the decision, the issue will only get more complicated and unfortunately more deadly.

One of the concerns facing citizens is that if Roe vs Wade can be challenged and overturned, what else might also face this opposition? A new wave of conservative politics and influence has resulted in years of the changing tide of appointees to the Supreme Court. Not for half a century has the panel of judges seen so many new appointees as a result of older ones passing away. This has largely favored conservative administrations who have seen the majority of the openings occur during their terms. With this in mind, a reversal of the Wade verdict could be a harbinger for the recently passed ruling approving same-sex marriages in the United States. Although there are no indications that this will be an issue brought before the Judicial Branch in the immediate future, the mood across the country has been affected by many factors, including the effects of the pandemic. With the economy in recession, inflation on the rise and global conflict factoring into a collective stress level it does not seem like the time to expect tremendous movements of social progressivism. On the contrary, it is more likely that policies will draw down and return to the more conservative foundations that they perceive to be stable. 

Modern Guilt

    Everyone is tired, the pandemic has been mentally taxing for the past two years. No one is going back to lockdowns unless anything short of a zombie outbreak occurs. This also applies to attitudes towards vigilance relative to police violence, political activism, gun violence, racism, climate change, inflation, poverty, and even the war in Ukraine. People just want everything to “go back to normal” and be able to mind their own business without being bothered. But this will not happen, and it has never actually happened. When it did, the worst things took seed and led humanity to worse crises than it had believed it could be conceived. In past posts I have observed that at the beginning of the 20th century the world experienced a similar pandemic which was more deadly, this was followed by the first of the two great world wars. It would be impossible to not see this parallel of history repeating itself. The 21st century brings with it the threat of an even greater catastrophe in the form of climate change. Climate change is a threat that is more insidious than all others as it is formless yet strikes in many forms. Timeless and enduring, it cannot be predicted how long it will “last”, and, worst of all, it is the consequence of humanity’s own creation. Not unlike a war, there was plenty of evidence of its coming but little or nothing was done to prevent its incubation to maturity. We are now beginning to reap the punishment for our apathy. 

    As the leader of the industrialized world, America shoulders as much if not a lion’s share of the blame. Our consumption habits far eclipse that of all developing nations and are rivaled by only a handful of other nations such as Russia and China. The United States and its corporate/political “management” has stalled for as long as possible to deny and preclude taking action that could reduce carbon emissions and shift to more viable resources. The commitments they have made in light of recent developments are far less than what will be required to mitigate the climate disasters to come. 2022’s first tropical storm flooded Miami, Florida. Yellowstone National Park was forced to close for the first time in 30 years as a result of historic flooding. The last time the park took those measures was a result of catastrophic wildfires. The American west is in the worst megadrought in its history. Reservoirs and rivers run dry, communities who have depended on the water for decades find themselves faced with dire measures. Each year multiple states in the west are forced to declare a state of disaster and log in the books the worst wildfire season in its history, this year New Mexico is first to claim that honor. They will be joined of course by California who seems to set milestone after milestone of record fire years annually. 

    The United States of America used to be a beacon of hope and promise to the world, demonstrating that anyone who was an American citizen could accomplish anything. I’m not sure that this is true anymore. Citizens from other nations still flock to our shores and borders, many fleeing corrupt governments and rulers who the U.S. itself has either put into power or neglected to reign in. The U.S. itself has fallen in ranks of well-being and success, leading the developed world in categories such as mass incarceration, infant mortality, student debt, deaths by guns, drunken driving fatalities, opiate overdoses, and healthcare expenses. Many of these are reversals of statistics that a century ago either weren’t taken or the country did not rank highly in. In a country which still supports a democratic system of government election statistics concerning voter participation have steadily fallen. This comes at a time when leadership is crucial to reversing so many of these trends I have cited. Instead politicians have frequently done the opposite of what citizens appear to support and demand from their elected representatives. Recently the world was treated to an attempted and failed government coup incited by the outgoing President on live TV. He and his constituents have denied any wrongdoing, insisting that their actions were justified in light of a politically rigged system against his particular campaign and party. Although this claim has been proven unfounded on multiple occasions an alarmingly large population of voters remain accepting of this allegation. This includes a new party of extremists whose foundation for political philosophy often relies on strictly conjecture and conspiracy theory. The ensuing media circus demonstrates reality programming at its best (worst).

The Show Will Go On

The United States of America appears as a paradise to many whose countries suffer the worst of humanities sins. While its short duration has not allowed it the costly blunders and conflicts which have brought down so many of the previous world powers, this also serves as the caveat that youth goes hand in hand with ignorance. America is now in decline; its political institutions corrupted, infrastructure crumbling and social safety network almost a farce. Corporate greed and uncontrolled crony capitalism is as much to blame as are the typical symptoms of an empire that believes that it is too big to fail. History says otherwise, and for the first time the digital age brings all of the drama to the world’s favorite media streams and handheld devices in live time. It appears as if the revolution will be televised. 

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