A Deep Social Malaise

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Prayers in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: http://www.abcnew.go.com

What is it like to be an American in America, land of the free and the brave?

A militarized police, which is meant to protect its citizens, can be confrontational and deadly. We’ve seen too many examples of that these past months, though it’s nothing new to our black – and other ethnic minority – citizens. And now we mourn the death of nine more human beings. It’s too easy to write off the killer’s actions as purely racist. Other social and cultural forces are at play.

“Mass killings are a social, not individual, phenomenon, and must be understood as manifestations of a social malaise: the deepening contradictions of American capitalism, and, above all, the increasing resort to violence on the part of the American government at all levels…A quarter-century of war has polluted American politics, culture and the media with the glorification of military violence, incessant fear mongering, and the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment.” (Source: World Socialist Web Site, American militarism and the Charleston killings, June 20, 2015)

We’ve had decades to heal our nation and embrace the humanity of all races. But we haven’t gotten very far along that healing path. Perhaps it’s because our government and our capitalist system have created a culture of violence rather than benevolence. Diplomacy and compromise seem to have blown away with the wind. Peace seems an impossibility. African Americans are disproportionately incarcerated. And we incarcerate too many, destroying lives, families and communities. We teach children to fear and diminish their potential and future as a result. We teach adults to fear, too; many of us are afraid of speaking out against authority and speaking up for our rights and the rights of others. And we take away the hope of leading a life of peace, safety, love and opportunity.

Jon Stewart of the Daily Show put the jokes aside to focus on the tragedy of the shooting. Poignantly, he points out the disproportionate response by the U.S. government of a faraway threat from ISIS, where we spend billions and thousands of American and native lives, and the realities of threats at home, where we do little or nothing to change our fundamental culture.

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Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: qz.com

This is wrong. Very, very wrong. What’s it going to take?