Are we really the united states?

  • By Bob Franken
  • Wednesday, July 13, 2016 9:17am
  • Opinion

The answer is obvious: The United States needs to unite. The question is whether we can. Frankly, it’s not at all certain that we’re even capable. In the wake of the sniper attack in Dallas, where a crazed gunman went on a homicidal rampage against cops, and still more killings by police of people of color, many are only talking a good game.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — would you believe — made similar points. “Our country needs more love and kindness,” Hillary told an AME church congregation. “I know it’s not something presidential candidates usually say, but we have to find ways to repair these wounds and close these divides.” Even Trump was temporarily subdued. “Our nation has become too divided,” Trump said. “This is a time, perhaps more than ever, for strong leadership, love and compassion.”

The delicate part is bridging the gaping divide between those who blame officers for brutalizing people of color and those who angrily defend law enforcement in spite of all the evidence. “I’d like all sides to listen to each other,” said President Barack Obama. Obviously things are spiraling more out of control. There have been new shooting attacks against police even after Dallas. One of our go-to prominent police officials, Charles Ramsey, said our nation is “a powder keg.”

For a few moments, our leaders were offering the right platitudes: Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, usually bitter adversaries in the House of Representatives, arranged a colloquy. Ryan, the Republican: “Let’s not lose sight of the values that unite us … our common humanity.” Then the Democrat Pelosi: “I agree with the speaker that episodes like this must not harden our divisions, but should unify us as a country.”

Let’s face it: We are not unified. Race relations are a raw wound that fleetingly seemed to be healing when we elected a black president. In fact, we sadly realize that the infection has gotten worse, particularly given the hatred from bigots who refuse to accept that Barack Obama is the country’s leader. He speaks of coming together, but his enemies insist on slamming him for the slightest hint of even-handed talk about the antagonism between minorities and police. William Johnson, who heads the National Association of Police Organizations, went on Fox News (where else?) to accuse the president of creating a deadly, dangerous climate. “It’s a war on cops,” he charged, “and the Obama administration is the Neville Chamberlain of this war.” His remarks were typical of those who either have no interest in dialogue, as opposed to their angry monologues, or have decided that further whipping up a frenzy better serves their ambitions.

They have ample reason to believe that. America is bitterly divided. There are those who compare our fracture to the violent 1960s. But as dangerous as those times were, we didn’t have the Internet back then. Now anybody has access to a worldwide audience. They can spew their ignorant hatred and fan the flames, which only encourages those who running for office to incite the mobs to fever pitch.

While it may seem obvious that we somehow need to come together, that would require everyone to step out from behind the barricades and constructively inspire a coming together. We’d all have to abandon our usual distrust. One has to wonder whether the conciliatory statements from the politicians are little more than cynical campaign tactics.

The optimist might suggest that once we get past the nastiness of the election, the time for banding together may be ripe. The problem is, we have a never-ending campaign. Besides, things are going crazy so fast that November may be too late for rescuing our nation from its accumulated antagonisms and increasing violence.

Ramsey compared our situation to “handling nitroglycerin.” It’s imperative that we find some way defuse this highly explosive situation. Immediately.




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