Our country isn’t better (than this)


In response to Chuck Smith’s June 16 letter to the editor “Our country is better than this:”

I agree that America is stewing in a host of immensely disconcerting issues, not limited to American imperialism, individualism, capitalism and a culture of consumption. Consumer culture promotes competitiveness, self-centeredness, ethnocentrism and the inability to set down a smart phone in our young as well as our old. Like a virus inefficiently treated, these ideals have diffused into even more complex and resistant evils, such as those represented by the wealth gap separating the have-everythings from the have-nothings; the militarization of police, resulting in the deaths of innocent people — a number too painful to count; hatred of Otherness; and the notion that any man — fallible as man is — can decide who is entitled to the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness promised to all American people.

We are not the entire world’s moral compass, nor should we be. The notion that America is better than other countries, and that Americans (read: white, straight, wealthy, Christian) are better than other people, is one ventricle in the heart of America’s problems.

I agree that Rachel Dolezal and Bruce Jenner, prominent in the media, are disconcerting figures.

Dolezal is problematic, not because she aspired to become a black woman, but because her ability to do so, coupled with her dishonesty, constitute a bizarre example of white privilege, a result of racism.

Bruce (or Caitlyn) is reprehensible not for gender transition, but for Jenner’s definition of womanhood. Jenner offended veteran feminists by transitioning into a sex object, reducing womanhood to painted nails, cleavage, long hair and an hourglass figure. It surprises none that a wealthy, influential, white conservative man delights in defining womanhood for women — having never suffered through menstrual periods, the ever-imminent threat of rape, or missed a birth control pill — and knows his decision to transition will go unquestioned. It is disturbing how maliciously that disillusioned feminists and trans-activists have defended Jenner, without recognizing his male privilege.

Smith declares that police officers are under undue fire from the president of the United States (a black man) and the “thugs (read: black people)” that loot, kill and burn. It is unfortunate that police officers have lost the trust and favor of the American people, but this distrust is not unwarranted. It is not because police officers uphold the law or keep us safe that the nation looks upon them unfavorably. Distrust and distaste for police have been born out of the countless recorded and publicized incidents of officers brutalizing black children, men, women, the elderly and anyone who doesn’t comply with direct orders (which isn’t illegal, I must add). The problems with police begin with racism, authoritarianism, militarized training and iniquitous treatment of human beings and result from a lack of education, empathy and regular psychological screenings.

While no one disagrees that ISIS and its intentions are destructive to those living in both the Middle East and the United States, the language Mr. Smith uses to describe these people reflects precisely the destructive attitude that many Americans hold. Reducing another people to “cut-throat merciless barbarians” is to discount their humanity, to play God, to deny that all men are created equal. To suggest that these people deserve death is to suggest that life or death can be decided for anyone by anyone. That destructive attitude is precisely the one held and propagated by ISIS leaders and supporters. An eye for an eye; we are all blind.

Finally, Smith cites the two men who recently escaped from a New York prison in support of the death penalty. Again, to suggest that any one person, entity, institution or nation has the right to declare another being undeserving of life is dangerous. As far as we know, the criminals have neither been found nor killed anyone. Apparently, it is easier for our officers to sit on teenage black girls at pool parties, than to locate two men convicted of murder.