Fear, and loathing, but mostly fear, in America

Dallas Police respond after shots were fired at a Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Dallas on Thursday, July 7. (Smiley N. Pool / The Dallas Morning News)

Dallas Police respond after shots were fired at a Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Dallas on Thursday, July 7. (Smiley N. Pool / The Dallas Morning News)

It’s all wrong. It’s all awful. All of it.

It’s awful that Philando Castile was shot dead by a police officer while sitting in his car during a routine traffic stop in Minnesota. Although the circumstances are foggier in the case of Alton Sterling, who was killed by police in Louisiana as they were attempting to arrest him, it’s awful that both law enforcement and the accused find themselves in such tense, high-stakes situations constantly in this country. It’s awful that five police officers were killed and seven wounded in Dallas last night during a march to protest those two deaths, at the hands of four snipers who killed shot coldly while civilians and police were trying to, in Rodney King’s famous phrase, just get along. (Note: It’s now unclear how many shooters there were.)

Taking a step back, placing these three incidents in the context of so much else that has happened in recent months and years, one thing is apparent. America today is a seething cauldron of fear, bubbling over frequently into anger and violence.

Specifically, it’s fear in the black community that they are more likely than other Americans to be killed during encounters with police. It’s fear among police that they are more likely than in the past to become victims themselves during encounters with civilians. It’s fear that exercising our right to peaceably assemble will result in violence at the hands of opportunistic criminals.

But there’s a more basic and general fear at play here. It’s a fear that we are no longer one people — E pluribus unum — but a series of atomized tribes who live near each other but not with each other, and certainly not for each other.

That manifests itself in police brutality, riots and, apparently now, even sniper shootings on peaceful marchers; but also in economic anxiety, clashes based on class and race and ethnicity, homegrown terrorism, and more. We have built, or allowed the development of, a fearful society — not all of it irrational fear by any means, because we have also committed, or idly watched, acts of injustice and lawlessness and hard-heartedness and division.

This is not mostly a political problem, although our politics tends to exacerbate rather than ameliorate it. Ask yourself: Who in America today is championing the politics of consensus and growth and unity, rather than that of pitting a group, or coalition of groups, against others in a race toward some notion of purity? Whatever you might identify as an issue on one side has an unhelpful analogue on the other.

Ultimately, though, our politics only reflects what’s wrong with us socially and culturally. If anything, we have chosen a doomed path by trying to deal with these problems in the political sphere, where the incentives tend toward a vicious cycle.

Reversing the decades of advance by fear, and its bases, is not a job we can outsource. We have forgotten a bit of wisdom given us from the start by Benjamin Franklin, and we are slowly hanging separately.

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182 comments
lvg
lvg

Friday in Brooklyn an off duty police officer shot and killed a Black man who in a fit of road rage approached the officer in his car and like Michael Brown, reached in and punched the officer. The Black man left a girlfriend and her children who watched from his car. 

Should the officer have used his gun to protect himself?

Protesters in NYC claimed this was another senseless killing.

What should the policy be?

MarkVV
MarkVV

@lvg To use non-lethal force unless absolutely necessary to kill.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

We must begin the process of moving again from The Greed Society to The Great Society, and finally solve our original sin in America of not fully addressing man's inhumanity to man.

lvg
lvg

Intown neighborhoods have been plagued by car break ins and resultant damage. When someone is caught , they are always Black. An Atlanta police officer was terminated in all this turmoil last week for killing a 22 year old Black  man caught breaking into a car in an apartment garage. Officer violated rule to not shoot into a car unless suspect displays a weapon even if disobeying police order to stop.Perp was not trying to run down the officer.GBI took over investigation due to officer shooting.


So if thugs want to break  into cars, go unarmed with a vehicle.

 Atlanta police will wave and smile as you flee.

Or is there some other policy????

atlcarl
atlcarl

@lvg So why aren't you saying anything about the white cop near Charleston, S.C. the birthplace of the Civil War, who murdered Walter Scott in Cold blood with 8 shots to the HUMAN Being's back WHILE he was running for his life from a coward socio-pathic killer with a badge ?  That killer cop has been charged with murder !  Clear cut case of a rogue cop. But not a mumbling word from you about that example. Therefore You seem to enjoy demonizing black men , and evidently have a deep hatred of " others " who don't look exactly like you .  Your brand of blind  tribal hatred is exactly what the writer is describing .

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

In today's AJC.  Paul Krugman, invariably, gets to the deeper truth.  Like a wound that will not heal, until we dig deep to the source of it, we will continue to have social/economic problems in America.  Worth your reading time and your consideration:


http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/08/opinion/all-the-nominees-enablers.html?rref=collection/column/paul-krugman&action=click&contentCollection=opinion®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=collection&_r=0

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Albert Einstein, 1946, Excerpt from his "The Negro Question."


"In the United States everyone feels assured of his worth as an individual. No one humbles himself before another person or class. Even the great difference in wealth, the superior power of a few, cannot undermine this healthy self-confidence and natural respect for the dignity of one's fellow-man.

There is, however, a somber point in the social outlook of Americans. Their sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins. Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious; but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the "Whites" toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes. The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.

Many a sincere person will answer: "Our attitude towards Negroes is the result of unfavorable experiences which we have had by living side by side with Negroes in this country. They are not our equals in intelligence, sense of responsibility, reliability."

I am firmly convinced that whoever believes this suffers from a fatal misconception. Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man's quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition.

The ancient Greeks also had slaves. They were not Negroes but white men who had been taken captive in war. There could be no talk of racial differences. And yet Aristotle, one of the great Greek philosophers, declared slaves inferior beings who were justly subdued and deprived of their liberty. It is clear that he was enmeshed in a traditional prejudice from which, despite his extraordinary intellect, he could not free himself.

A large part of our attitude toward things is conditioned by opinions and emotions which we unconsciously absorb as children from our environment. In other words, it is tradition—besides inherited aptitudes and qualities—which makes us what we are. We but rarely reflect how relatively small as compared with the powerful influence of tradition is the influence of our conscious thought upon our conduct and convictions.

It would be foolish to despise tradition. But with our growing self-consciousness and increasing intelligence we must begin to control tradition and assume a critical attitude toward it, if human relations are ever to change for the better. We must try to recognize what in our accepted tradition is damaging to our fate and dignity—and shape our lives accordingly.

I believe that whoever tries to think things through honestly will soon recognize how unworthy and even fatal is the traditional bias against Negroes.

What, however, can the man of good will do to combat this deeply rooted prejudice? He must have the courage to set an example by word and deed, and must watch lest his children become influenced by this racial bias.

I do not believe there is a way in which this deeply entrenched evil can be quickly healed. But until this goal is reached there is no greater satisfaction for a just and well-meaning person than the knowledge that he has devoted his best energies to the service of the good cause."


Ja Steel
Ja Steel

@DebbieDoRight stop pretending like you are smart or something you are liberal, the two terms are mutually exclusive

DebbieDoRight
DebbieDoRight

"Ultimately, though, our politics only reflects what’s wrong with us socially and culturally. If anything, we have chosen a doomed path by trying to deal with these problems in the political sphere, where the incentives tend toward a vicious cycle."

Great post Kyle, great post.  

almmanduane75
almmanduane75

The Obama administration has had almost 8 years to correct the problems they said the Republicans created.


They haven't gotten it done.

MarkVV
MarkVV

Kyle has written a good column, but his arguments should not be taken outside the bounds of his complaint. Diversity is the strength, not weakness of this country. I do not know what he meant by “atomized tribes,” but there is nothing wrong with identification as Irish American, Polish American, African American, Native American, etc, to be proud of the heritage, to associate with a “tribe.”

There is nothing wrong with Black Entertainment Television, Black Entertainment Awards, NAACP, African-American, Jet Magazine, Ebony Magazine, etc., just as there is nothing wrong with Women’s Wear Daily. Would you want “Unisex Wear Daily?” It is only when the relationship between groups turns to loathing and fear, to use Kyle’s words, when things get terribly wrong. And when they do, we should look for causes of the loathing and fear, not just at the facts of existence of tribes, and for solutions.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Simply stating facts will never bring people together. Only wisdom and love can do that. One can cherry pick 'facts' at will, especially facts regarding a person’s character and beat them to death, incorrectly, by either limited, or devious, interpretation. Too little value is placed on wisdom and love today.  Winning has become everything in America.  We think we can ‘win’ by spouting facts as we can ‘win’ by shooting bullets. This path only leads to cynicism and death, if not of the body, then certainly of the spirit.


We must return to valuing love for all and wisdom to understand, not simply to blame.

foo2u
foo2u

Good stuff Kyle.

44F 3FCE0C 11A2
44F 3FCE0C 11A2

I knew some time ago that we were heading towards black people shooting back. I thought it would be ordinary people being shot (as some isolated incidents of aggression after the George Zimmerman acquittal showed). I should have known it would be going after cops on a wide scale. 


Every time I saw a Luckovich cartoon of a certain stripe; every time I heard the Tea Party condemned as racist simply because the media would allow it to flower as an accusation; every time I heard talk about white privilege (which at its core is nothing more than fans of the losing team saying the refs are out to get them)--well, I thought no good would come of it. And none has. An entire people think another set of people want nothing more to do than put hands on their throats, when the truth is we just a.) don't like your party or policies, and b.) have a problem with abandoning standards that we hold ourselves to. 


I am delighted the divine man-God President has decreed today that no one is really trying to turn back the clock (something that is probably no longer true, though nothing will come of it). Mighty white of him. Wish he had said it when his vice-president was saying we just want to put y'all in chains, but you got to do what you got to do to win votes, I guess.  



foo2u
foo2u

"I knew some time ago that we were heading towards black people shooting back."

I know right? They shouldn't be all uppity like that and keep to thier place...

Kim Rippere
Kim Rippere

Police are too militarized and racist, the GOP and their followers deny factual reality, too much anti-intellectualism, income inequality...this goes on...

lvg
lvg

I learned from Hannity tonight that Obama responsible for Dallas police killings due to Obama  encouraging BLM folks to go out and kill cops. Great way to calm people down.

Caius
Caius

@lvg I would have thought that Hannity would have said: "... the shooter was simply exercising his 2nd Amendment rights and was protecting his community from further intrusions by the government.  That's why we are armed is it not? That's why we have guns, to keep the government from coming in and taking our guns away from us!"


James Bold
James Bold

You state "But there’s a more basic and general fear at play here. It’s a fear that we are no longer one people — E pluribus unum — but a series of atomized tribes who live near each other but not with each other, and certainly not for each other."

Black Entertainment Television, Black Entertainment Awards, NAACP, African-American, Jet Magazine, Ebony Magazine, etc etc 

And you wonder why we are no longer one people and a series of atomized tribes?

SEC > BigTen
SEC > BigTen

@James Bold You nailed it Jimbo; black-oriented media outlets are the reason cops are slaughtering people during routine traffic stops.  It all makes sense now!

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

Tribes.  A part of long-ago American history that we tend to purposefully glance over is when hundreds of native American Indian tribes ruled their own little pieces of the North American continent. Yes. I know that the modern day view of the noble native Americans, vainly fighting to keep their lands from being stolen by white European settlers and nations is a beautiful and inspiring thing. And something that should cause every white descendant of those thieving European invaders shame, guilt, and disgrace. 


But the reality is that wars between the pre-European exploration and then settlement,the native American Indian tribes regularly and methodically, and reliably murdered and warred against one another just about as fast and as often as they could do that. The Idea of them banding together to stop the European invasion would have been preposterous to them. It was not until the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876 (won by Lakota Sioux and Cheynne warriors) that it finally dawned on them that banding together, about 200 years earlier, would have been a pretty good idea. 


So, perhaps the real lesson here is the innate danger of tribes and tribalism, and how the ongoing and continuing enthusiasm of America's citizenry to be come part of a tribe is tearing this nation apart.  


As we continually slice and dice ourselves into tribes - by our own volition and with the encouragement of politicians - on all sides of the political spectrum to join a tribe -  this kind of awful thing will continue to occur, and as we are seeing, more and more frequently. 


Politically, it is now all about how the people in this tribe or that tribe are having it over, taking advantage of, cheating, taking advantage, and taking power from someone's own tribe. Politicians of all stripes thrive on this and feed the beast. Gender. Age. Race. Religion, Nationality. Immigration. Rich. Middle Class, Lower Class. Poor. Employed. Unemployed. Straight. Gay. Transgender . . . . slice and dice . . . slice and dice. 


If you think about it, events like this are not really that surprising based on where we have been the last few decades. And if we don't figure out that banding together is better than remaining in our own tribes, we will end up just like native American Indians. 

Bruno2
Bruno2

@Ficklefan Nice essay, Ficklefan.  I've been preaching the dangers of tribalism for many years.  Unfortunately, liberal philosophy is predicated upon assigning group membership to each and every individual, so I don't see things getting better any time soon.

foo2u
foo2u

Like 47% ers? "Makers" and "takers"? The "real America""?

You mean likr that?

332-206
332-206

From the Tampa Bay Times:

"Gunmakers' shares surged on Friday. Smith & Wesson Holdings Co. shares climbed 2.8 percent to $29.07, while shares in Sturm Ruger & Co. closed up 4.9 percent at $67.65."

MarkVV
MarkVV

Kyle has described the issue well. What is missing – and I do not blame Kyle for that – is a solution to the problem.

Liberals will agree that among the root causes are income and wealth disparity, racism and guns. All three are very complicated problems, but there is a clear first step for the first two – to elect Hillary Clinton rather than Donald Trump in November.

The problem of guns may be less complicated to deal with, at least, again, regarding a first step. The measures traditionally proposed by the Democrats may be laudable, but likely to have a small effect compared with the overall size of the problem. I believe the more effective step would be to make punishments for the unlawful use of a gun much more severe (and decriminalize the use of marijuana to reduce the prison population.)

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@MarkVV


Changing consciousness is a solution, imo.  Seeing others in relation to ourselves as either "winners" or "losers" is limited consciousness.  We must begin to see that blaming is fruitless and that understanding enlightens, especially as related to mental health.

Native-Atlantan
Native-Atlantan

Kyle: I don't always read or agree with you, but today I am in 100% agreement. Thank you for a very insightful column.

lvg
lvg

Since Kyle, Limbaugh and Hannity all  thought it would be helpful today to blame the President  and Hillary for the Dallas shootings, I thought it might be helpful to remember four police officers shot down in cold blood by a convict who was paroled early by Governor Mike Huckabee after the convict claimed he "found religion":


        "The shooting deaths Sunday of four police officers near Tacoma, Wash., and the ensuing manhunt for the suspect have renewed scrutiny of the pardon record of former Governor Mike Huckabee, who commuted the suspect's prison term nine years ago, leading to his release.

Huckabee is one of the Republican Party's most popular figures, but he has been dogged by questions over the more than 1,000 commutations and pardons he issued -- more than his three predecessors combined -- during his 10-year tenure.

In his 2008 presidential campaign, he faced similar questions over the release from prison of convicted rapist Wayne DuMond, who was convicted of another rape and a murder.""


Washington Post December 1, 2009

lvg
lvg

@brushback69 @lvg "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun."

"Punish (your) enemies."

"They gonna put y'all back in chains."


Dog whistles from Kyle to show how even handed he is in seeking common ground,

brushback69
brushback69

@lvg so then you choose to play the same political blame game.  How does that make you any better?

This is the very reason why politics in America sucks and why "Americans working together" is becoming a thing of the past...

eik1ove
eik1ove

1. there has to be an honest discussion abt race.. none of the fluff. the true root cause.. which in my belief is 1. white people stop being cowards abt race like eric holder said. admit there is a racial and white privilege problem in american since the beginning of time.


2. there is no BSing black people... they have been observing white people since slavery days and before then... You would think white people would know that by now.  


3. Without black people, some whites would not have survival skills. They taught white people abt babies, food, and now we even know JACK DANIELS.......lol whiskey...


4. White people will be your friend until they can't control you anymore.


5. White people cause pain and destruction wherever they go.

crusades,holocaust, alcohol, cigarettes...They hardly ever create for good. it mostly bad and for profit. 


so this is it... so no more fluff "can  we all get along" .... until the root cause is solved and hearts and minds change.. this will always be.


this is peculiar to america. the chickkkeeens have come home to roost and now reality is hitting most white people in the face, and don't know how to handle it. it was always like the relative in the closet.......never acknowlege but know its there..


the end:) 




brushback69
brushback69

@eik1ove you are a disgrace to America and a blatant racist who hates whites.  You are the problem...

foo2u
foo2u

Since we're being brutally honest... you seem to have left the "thug culture" and "hiphop culture" off your list of things that contribute to the division of the races.

Starik
Starik

@eik1ove The founding fathers should have outlawed slavery when they had the chance.  We'd have a much better country. 

Al Bum
Al Bum

@eik1ove next time pulled over by the police...please resist.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Excellent column Kyle.  Another incident of ambushing officers in Valdosta today, sad, really sad.


Officers are all different, but most often overwhelmingly calm and well trained, but it seems in this environment, there needs to be more training in deescalating some of these situations.  Like in Baton Rouge, there seems that there would have been better ways to approach this individual rather than going in head and attitude first.


Some leader is going to have to step forward and try to organize some extensive efforts to heal this divide between police and blacks.  Both sides seem fed up with the preaching from on high. 

Waverly
Waverly

@RafeHollister The individual in Baton Rouge was a member of the Bloods and had been arrested several times on misdemeanor and felony charges.  He was also a convicted pedophile.  As he was a convicted felon, that handgun he had on him was there illegally.  He was a criminal and he was committing another felony by being in possession of the handgun.  He then saw fit to compound the situation by resisting arrest, thus the need for the taser.  And, oh by the way, he was black.  The world is now a better place because he is no longer in it, regardless of his color.

Waverly
Waverly

@RoadScholar @Waverly @RafeHollister Not when he pulled the gun that he was carrying illegally.  Want to get shot by a cop?  Pull a gun on them.  I promise you that they will not acre what color you are.

foo2u
foo2u

So they pressed thier service weapon to his chest and pulled the trigger...

They could've reached over and shot the arm he was allegedly pulling a gun with. Or reached down and shot him in the leg. But they didn't. They went for a kill shot. Execution plain and simple.

Al Bum
Al Bum

@foo2u are you friggin kidding us with that idiotic remark. They could have reached over? Or reached down? Yeah, that is how it works, obviously you have never been in a fight. How about this, the thug punk could have complied....oh yeah that type don't comply. Glad he is on a cold slab and not another officer.


TheBrewer
TheBrewer

"Most cops are racist and hate black people." - Jesse Jackson.

Starik
Starik

@TheBrewer Nowadays, a large percentage of police are black people.

TheBrewer
TheBrewer

You gotta love left wingers brining up the Iraq War when their own parties nominee voted for that war. 

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@TheBrewer Just watched Frontline concerning ISIS. Please watch. Cheney should be in jail.