Is the Repellent Mockery of Others the New American Norm?
By Imani Michelle Scott
Is the Repellent Mockery of Others the New American Norm?
"Wisdom begins in Wonder" - Socrates
Why are most articles written with sentences in the declarative instead of the interrogative structure? Is it because people prefer to be told what to think instead of being asked to think? If yes, could this preference explain some of the seeming madness going on in America today? Could it be that Americans have gotten so accustomed to being told what is and what is not, that thinking about (seriously, giving deep and intense thought) to what they are being told is too substantial a task? Has an entire segment of the American population become a collection of sponge brains whose sole desire is to soak up assorted propaganda and falsehoods for some type of consolation -- with no consideration of yesterday's truths and no concerns about tomorrow's consequences?
As Americans prepare to elect our next "commander-in-chief", are we giving intelligent and critically informed discernment to what those who propose to be our leaders are telling and showing us? For example, does the discourse surrounding the American presidential race bother anyone who might be a parent? Or a teacher? Or, just an adult? Are there any among us who is genuinely concerned about the verbal and nonverbal messages that our leaders are sending our children? When America's leaders speak and act, do they care that our collective youth are not only listening and watching, but are also impacted by what they hear and see?
Why should the young people I teach to avoid fallacies in communicating their opinions take me seriously when those vying for the highest leadership role in our nation regularly use fallacies without caution? How can I demonstrate any reasonable necessity for my students to offer objective research and use credible evidence to support their positions when they see policy makers offer statements and back legislation based purely on their emotions or those of their constituents? Does it matter that I advocate the need for academic integrity when I know today's young scholars are regularly exposed to a social system that rewards the most brash and glorifies the most vulgar with prominent recognition and admiration? Is it sensible to teach values like honesty and decency and respectability when those possessing traits like arrogance and pride and conceit seem to garner more praise than those who are unpretentious and modest?
Who am I to tell anyone's child that she should not engage in name calling when the Governor of one of the most populated states in our country has a record of calling others names and recently received resounding applause for calling our own President Obama a series of appalling names? What makes a person who is elected to or vying for one of the highest offices in government become so disconnected from the humanity of others that name calling is acceptable? Will Americans ever ask that during "debates" our leaders adhere to the type of decorum observed by mere high school and college Forensic teams? Or is the acceptance of four-letter words and the repellent mockery of others the new American norm?
Aren't people who laugh at the use of foul language, insults, and "zingers", and who applaud the use of Ad Hominem simply encouraging and rewarding bullying behavior? Do we have a right to expect our children (or our co-workers and neighbors) to be respectful of us when many in leadership roles offer so little respect for each other?
And what about credibility? Does it no longer matter amongst our leadership? How can the repeated use of modifiers like: Great, Winning, Large, Tremendous, First, Big, Very Big, a Lot, and a Whole Lot - be sufficient evidence in an opinion leader's rhetoric to the degree that he persuades masses of people to follow his lead?
Do most of America's political leaders sleep peacefully at night? When they awake in the morning, do they look into the mirror and feel good about what they see? Do they ready themselves to go out each day and give this nation the best of their highest selves? Are they truly committed to the core values that some claim make America an exceptional nation?
When did American exceptionalism begin? Does it still exist? When some talk about "taking America back", are they planning to give it back to the original settlers, the Native Americans? Will Euro-Americans ever acknowledge that Native Americans are the only "true" Americans? Are they afraid that acknowledging this truth would be an admission of their immigrant status, thereby suggesting they may need to seek amnesty from the Native Americans? Do the moral and ethical values espoused in America's formative documents have any relevance today? Are we a nation which truly champions the causes of freedom, justice and equality for all? Or is that simply rhetoric, as some have conjectured? Is America a nation that truly enacts Christian values?
How can leaders of a nation which professes to be based on Christian values justify arguing against the support of good health and the provisions of a quality education for all of its citizens? Why do some -- many of whom have access to more healthcare and educational resources than they will ever use in this lifetime, spend millions of dollars and countless hours arguing against provisions which would support the wellbeing of others? As leaders of a "Christian" nation, would it not be more "Christ-like" to encourage all citizens to love others as they love themselves? From a purely political perspective, wouldn't it make for a more productive nation -- and for greater national security, if all citizens had access to the best available healthcare and education possible? What fear is there to be found in building up our nation's greatest resources - its people? And what about American fears of terrorism?
Why am I finding it difficult to empathize with the level of fear that many have about a potential terrorist attack by ISIL? Am I hardened to what seems to be a frantic, frenzied focus on vetting travelers, buying guns and engaging in "survival" training in case of an ISIL attack? If yes, is it possible that I have become desensitized to concerns about the potential for terrorism by ISIL based on my hyper-sensitivity to enduring acts of terrorism executed by Americans against Americans? Are there others like me, who are so hypervigilant about domestic acts of terrorism committed against African American men, women and children that we have insufficient space in our hearts and minds to be concerned about ISIL? Should not all terrorism be eradicated?
Why do some Americans have difficulty accepting that there have been drastically more American-based, gun-related mass shootings (ala terrorist attacks) carried out against innocent civilians by lone-wolf citizens with ties to Judeo-Christian beliefs than by non-citizens with ties to Islam? Is not death by one who lives within just as lethal as death by one who arrives from afar? Does it matter that the number of Americans killed by gun-related violence at the hands of other Americans in the last decade is over 1000 times higher than the number of Americans killed by terrorism committed by non-citizens?
How can anyone deny that violence begets violence more often than violence begets peace and safety? How can one morally and ethically justify closing his eyes and heart to the truths about the problem of gun violence in the U.S.? Why do some Americans believe that returning to a "wild, wild West" atmosphere where everyone is armed with a gun is safer than living in a nation where gun control is enforced? Can our Congressional leaders rationally defend using tax dollars to "protect against a war on Christmas," when they refuse to invest their time and our dollars to protect innocent men, women and children against the daily consequences of gun violence?
Are Americans as smart as we suggest to the world that we are? Should it concern anyone when Vladimir Putin endorses the presidential candidate who actually happens to be the front runner in the Republican race? Will Americans see any parody in the Russian leader's endorsement? Will Kim Jong Un be the next world leader to chime in on who is an "absolute leader" in our nation? Does anyone think that the world is sitting back and laughing at the histrionics, hypocrisy and duplicity being played out daily in American politics? Does the childish name calling and do the countless insults and verbal attacks wielded by Americans against our own relieve outsiders from any need to do so? Or, are outsiders too busy to engage in (and too busy enjoying) America's political melodrama?
Can you see that the questions I've posed are less about issues relating to politics and more about issues of basic human decency and the value of human life? I am wondering for example, do people really understand the intrinsic value of each person's humanity? Do we realize that at the end of our journey how much money, power, and fame we secured in this life really won't matter? Can we accept that being mean-spirited, causing others pain, rejoicing in another's downfall and withholding our support (especially when our coffers are overflowing with resources) are the absolute worst things we can do to those with whom we are sharing this human journey? Is there any peace to be found in breaking another's spirit? What true and lasting joy is there in crushing someone's sense of self? Is the mere momentary sense of ego fulfillment that might be associated with winning, being first and claiming greatness worth stomping out the light in someone else's soul? At the end of this journey, won't we all be reduced to dust just like the one whose reputation we sullied and whose character we denigrated?
If it is true that we all "have a Cross to bear," which will you choose? Will you choose to bear the weight of the Cross of Cruelty earned through the hurt, grief and anguish you cause others? Or will you choose to bear the Cross of Grace granted for all of those you helped uplift, fortify and inspire along the way?
Have my questions prompted you to become defensive? Or have they prompted you to think? When he wrote the following words, was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. again, on point?
"Rarely do we find [persons] who willingly engage in hard solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Imani Michelle Scott, Ph.D. is a Professor, Consultant, Author