We have allowed ourselves to become raw and exposed as a country. Weak. We’ve spent all of our energy humanizing our enemies abroad, looking for those that we can connect to. Those that are different from us, with less relatable upbringings, who are still pure at heart. We have a habit of putting our brains in the bodies of others and assuming that logic will win out. Our logic. But our logic does not apply to every country or culture. Our logic applies to western life. American life.
And American life hasn’t been that pleasant lately. It’s been quite scary, actually.
This country has never been safe for black people. Very scarcely has it accommodated that subculture, which has been positioned at such a disadvantage. What you’ve seen over the past week, the past months, and last couple of years has been a deserved and long-coming protest against the police and their specific treatment of those with dark skin.
Now, in spite of the brutality, America is currently the least racist it has ever been. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t racist. There are ripples of America’s sordid past lingering in the brains of white police officers who are acting more severe among black perpetrators, either consciously or subconsciously. And now everyone is seeing that – on Facebook, on Twitter, on YouTube… It’s an unavoidable truth. As a result, the #BlackLivesMatter movement formed and more people have been quick to point out the potentially racist behavior of whites – specifically white cops.
This has naturally furthered a division. You have the black community on one end with liberal progressives alongside them and then on the other, you have, well, racists and the people who just don’t get it. The ironic thing is, actual genuine racists make up less than 5% of that branch. It’s really just a bunch of white people who are feeling personally attacked, don’t know how to express themselves, and are afraid of being wrong or having their feelings invalidated. Kind of like those who just didn’t find the Ghostbusters (2016) trailers funny and wound up getting lumped in with trolling, misogynistic YouTube commenters. Except, unlike those rebelling against those who are fed up with the police, the anti-Ghostbusters group has a leg to stand on.
Some of those on the side of #BlackLivesMatter and the left – they get that it’s not necessarily coming from a place of hate. However most are just too pissed off and don’t want to explain to so and so’s blue collar uncle on Facebook why he’s wrong to feel the way he does. He should just know. (Which perhaps he should – but we’re all poorly made.) So they paint that collective as bigots. It’s easier. What does that do? That enforces the shallow, one-sided perspective of their opposition and creates an ‘Us versus Them’ mentality.
One person shouts “Black Lives Matter”, another “Blue Lives Matter”, a third “All Live Matters.” It gets things jumbled rather quickly. What you’re left with is an assorted bowl of M&Ms that all hate one another.
When the murders start to calm, we go back to doing the things we do best: ranting, tweeting, complaining about the news. We scatter and return to whatever it was we were pissed off and concerned about before. But there’s something new in everyone’s brain, and its being fed by clickbait from leftwing websites like Vox and Mic and rightwing political commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Steven Crowder. The division grows and remolds itself from Death v. Life to Black v. White to Men v. Women to Democrat v. Republican to Gun Control v. Gun Rights.
We view ourselves as our own worst enemy. Which, as a nation, is accurate — but not in the proper sense. As we lend forgiving eyes to radical mainstream thinking abroad, in countries where women are treated like punching bags, where gays are thrown off of buildings, and the west is stared back at with intolerable eyes, we’ve begun to demonize our neighbors over lesser squabbles. There is a lack of genuine communication and it has enforced tribal behavior without self-analysis. Selective evidence is brought to the table by both sides to state their cases for any piece of news, arguments ensue, nobody learns a thing, rinse and repeat.
And so when the murders start again, and they have — this time against black civilians and the police — we start to notice an escalation as a result of this lack of progress. There is a building tension and rage among each ‘team’ that has not been satisfied. While our leaders stand back and assure us that ‘the culprits will be brought to justice’, we play the waiting game until it’s time to fight again.
Like clockwork, President Barack Obama offers a hollow speech with empty words like any other time something like this — or any mass shooting — has occurred. “Anyone involved in the senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done.” Just like we heard before. The stubborn commander-in-chief, unwilling to find new solutions to old problems in the face of adversity, is here to comfort and not solve. He’ll sit back in his final year as president and blame Republicans for his lack of progress after trying to will the same gun control measures time after time, never stopping to think of a new tactic. The only thing that has changed is how we’ve chosen to execute our criminals. The Dallas shooting ushered in a new milestone for our country. Finally, a drone has been used to end a life on American soil. The beginning of a frightening trajectory if there ever was one.
On every level we have weakened ourselves. Americans look at their country and feel a sense of shame. Shame for the past, for the present. We don’t see a viable future. The land would, perhaps, be most fittingly reshaped as an ouroboros.
The police cannot be trusted to not abuse their power. Our elected officials at be are failing to protect us. And we refuse to communicate with one another and genuinely listen to our social and political opposition in a reasonable manner. There is a lack of recognition that those same opponents, with their ideas that seem so base or disagreeable, are also just Americans. That they had an upbringing vaguely similar to yours. That their life, no matter how different — good or bad, is more relatable to you than you think or want to think.
The internet, while educating many, has also enforced pigheadedness. Nobody is willing to be wrong anymore. They knowingly pander to their audiences with a fear that branching out may be met with rejection, and instead strengthen their army of dunces. America cannot and will not improve until we stop demonizing each other and force an honest discourse with open minds.
Jayme Karales is the author of DISORDERLY, the director of WIZARD, and the producer of TRUANT. His work has been published by Thought Catalog, The Rebel, Underground Books, and many others.