Friday, December 18, 2015

A Nation of Shame

During an address at Southern Methodist University in January of 2013, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told his gathered audience that the United States Constitution is “dead, dead, dead,” rather than a “living document.” He’s the same Justice who, during oral arguments in early December this year over the legality of affirmative action in university admissions said “most of the black scientists in this country do not come from the most advanced schools,” that black students do better in a “slower track,” adding that students of color are being “pushed into schools that are too advanced for them” due to race conscious affirmative action policies. Racism? Pretty clearly. What’s going on here?
I’ve blogged about the statistical anomalies of police shootings of black suspects (or non-suspects as well), way above the killing of any other racial or ethnic group. We’ve watched a whole lot of push-back against the symbols of slavery and racism from a tragic south that I had thought had lost the Civil War. For whatever reason, Americans in varying numbers have always believed that they are free to ignore our government, void parts of the constitution they do not like, and even to bear arms against legal realities they find offensive.
The Ku Klux Clan felt completely justified in killing “uppity blacks,” – even whistling at a white woman got more than one black man lynched in the 20th century – militias are training to take down feds who might implement such “unpopular” policies, and millions and millions of Americans believe the NRA position that Americans should have access to military assault weapons as a part of their heritage to use those weapons against a government they believe is oppressing their views and perceived rights is justified under the constitution. It isn’t.
Part of our “history” is the result of being one of the oldest continuing democracies on earth with perhaps the most difficult constitution to amend among such documents the world over. Slavery was part of our legacy, constitutionally supported until the 13th Amendment passed in 1865. Jim Crow laws had the weight of law until the civil rights efforts that really began in the 1950s. And as the world conflict is increasingly the product of religious zealots with modern weapons and asymmetrical warfare capacities, as the American economic dream continues to slip-slide away and as white traditionalists are rapidly being replaced by a new American majority of minorities, these American internal struggles are most certainly not going away.
The problem is not only getting worse, but the reach for violence within our own nation to make a statement against what would seem to be American values is a bigger threat to the United States than any external threat. Add the economic and personal crush generated by climate change – resulting in flooding, storms, fires and drought like we have never seen before, and this polarization is about to rip our nation apart. I mean literally rip our nation apart. There are those who think Texas should secede or that California just doesn’t fit, but the probability of some kind of breaking apart of the “United” States of America in the foreseeable future has never been higher.
The Americans who support Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the U.S., even questioning the patriotism of Muslims who live here or the general refusal of 31 Republican governors against the tiny micro-trickle of 10,000 Syrian immigrants who faced slaughter from their masters in Damascus or their indigenous invaders (ISIS), believe that they are protecting themselves. In fact, they are justifying lone wolf attacks and ISIS massive global recruiting efforts in the face of what appears to be a rather literal and easily-illustrated “American war against Islam.” Not only are these Americans being played like puppets by ISIS that has bated their anti-Islamic bent to benefit their recruiting efforts, but even the Sunni Arab nations we need to battle against ISIS in the Middle East are as disinclined as ever to help accomplish anything that smacks of a pro-American effort. Would any of these misguided anti-Muslims believe that Canada, where PM Justin Trudeau told 25,000 such Syrian immigration “welcome home,” would probably have a whole lot lower risk of terrorism than the U.S.?
The evidence of this anti-Muslim effort goes beyond these political rantings. The measurements at the grassroots level are equally disheartening. As horrible and unacceptable as the recent San Bernardino shooting really is, the grassroots aftermath is equally scary. The New York Times (December 12th) has creating hated-oriented tracking that provides interesting insights to these issues.
“The top Google search in California with the word ‘Muslims’ in it was ‘kill Muslims.’ And the rest of America searched for the phrase ‘kill Muslims’ with about the same frequency that they searched for ‘martini recipe,’ ‘migraine symptoms’ and ‘Cowboys roster.’
“People often have vicious thoughts. Sometimes they share them on Google. Do these thoughts matter?... Yes. Using weekly data from 2004 to 2013, we found a direct correlation between anti-Muslim searches and anti-Muslim hate crimes.
“[The NY Times] measured Islamophobic sentiment by using common Google searches that imply hateful attitudes toward Muslims. A search for ‘are all Muslims terrorists?’ for example leaves little to the imagination about what the searcher really thinks. Searches for ‘I hate Muslims’ are even clearer.
“When Islamophobic searches are at their highest levels, such as during the controversy over the ‘ground zero mosque’ in 2010 or around the anniversary of 9/11, hate crimes tend to be at their highest levels, too… In 2014, according to the F.B.I., anti-Muslim hate crimes represented 16.3 percent of the total of 1,092 reported offenses. Anti-Semitism still led the way as a motive for hate crimes, at 58.2 percent.
“Hate crimes may seem chaotic and unpredictable, a consequence of random neurons that happen to fire in the brains of a few angry young men. But we can explain some of the rise and fall of anti-Muslim hate crimes just based on what people are Googling about Muslims… The frightening thing is this: If our model is right, Islamophobia and thus anti-Muslim hate crimes are currently higher than at any time since the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Although it will take awhile for the F.B.I. to collect and analyze the data before we know whether anti-Muslim hate crimes are in fact rising spectacularly now, Islamophobic searches in the United States were 10 times higher the week after the Paris attacks than the week before. They have been elevated since then and rose again after the San Bernardino attack… According to our model, when all the data is analyzed by the F.B.I., there will have been more than 200 anti-Muslim attacks in 2015, making it the worst year since 2001.”
There are severe consequences to nations that do not get their racism under control. Internal peace, safety and tranquility do not exist in a country seeking scapegoats or practicing serious racism or persecution of religious/ethnic minorities. We cannot expect a de-escalation in our own internal violence as long as we tell ourselves that more violence, more guns, actually represent a solution to this problem. No matter how hard proponents of gun rights protect, history has repeated proven that they are wrong… dead wrong.
I’m Peter Dekom, and until these Americans understand that these absurd hard line policies have never in history produced a peaceful and prosperous society, we are very likely going to continue on our path of self-destruction that history has never failed to impose. 

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