A Nation Ripped Apart

A Nation Ripped Apart


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

As if David Brooks’ observations were not poignant enough in his column in Friday’s New York Times, the tragic events in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio underscored his concern about what is happening to the culture and fabric of American society.  As he observed, leaving aside all the political shenanigans and policy differences, America’s values and norms are being severely challenged by the debasing of America.

America is now a nation where two indiscriminate mass murders in a matter of approximately fourteen hours have become normative. The conventional offers of sympathy to the bereaved and the prayers for the injured are once again being uttered with no willingness to admit what might underlie the nation’s ability to tolerate such abhorrent behavior.

Over the past few weeks there has been a torrent of hate, racial attacks, and polarizing utterances, therefore, tragedies like this weekend should surprise no one. Platitudes and vacuous statements of concern are offered. No one wants to risk stating and demanding the obvious: violence in America today is a result of unrestricted and ineffective gun laws and a blatant unwillingness to admit that there is a new racial reality in the United States.  America today is becoming a minority white country. Many White people cannot accept that inevitability. They wish the killers were people of color so they could prove that non-Whites are violent and dangerous. These people actually believe that by restricting immigration and permitting the public to brandish guns, American values—as they believe them to be–will be perpetuated.

There is a fundamental contradiction in all discussions about how to address this problem. With respect to gun violence, the pro-NRA people speak about the need to educate people to use guns appropriately and to prevent mentally challenged citizens from obtaining them. The racist voices assert that eliminating racial hostility and prejudice can only be achieved by recognizing the legitimacy of the protestors. There is no condemnation of racist speech. Those rallying behind free speech as preached by the white Nationalist community oppose those who are using their free speech rights to attack racism.

President Trump does not seek to protect First Amendment rights. His entire discussion of fake news and mis-speak is Orwellian. It is being used by the President and the right when it suits their fancy and condemned when it does not.

Those on the left, as well, are guilty of not condemning and attacking racist speech wherever it occurs. Whether it is anti-Semitism or homophobia, or sexism those on the left are making politics in their repudiation of such attacks.

America as a nation is being undermined. Those in the leadership of the country, beginning with the President, do not want American democracy to naturally evolve; they hate the new demographic map. They want White people to remain in power and when President Trump attacks people of color he re-enforces the prejudices among his minions.

This weekend’s violence appears to have been perpetrated by right-wing, ultra-nationalist, opponents of immigration. When anti-immigrant hatred is spewed from the White House and racist slurs are tweeted by the President, unstable individuals who are already predisposed to violence move into action. Gun violence is the response of many—not all—White supremacist who opt to use their weapons to follow the leader.

Managing this epidemic can be addressed through speech, education, and leadership; but also, through laws. There are specific actions which leaders could enact statutorily or by executive order to reduce the ease with which assault weapons and high-powered guns are available to a public that seeks to express their racist outrage by mass killings. Such weapons even when legally purchased are not pleasure guns or hunting weapons or collectors’ items. Concealed weapons run counter to the very spirit for which the guns allegedly are being purchased; to proudly show them off or display them. People who harbor unbridled hatred must not be able to gain access to weapons.

The fundamental culture of this country is being destroyed. Hatred is being encouraged and re-enforced. Citizens were killed on Saturday and the President will issue a statement on Monday! How many religious leaders in their churches, synagogues, and mosques prayed for the victims and then continued to their scripture or sermon. Rest assured if the perpetrators had been a person of color the outrage would have been insufferable.


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