Peaceful, Rational America? Know ThySelf as a Nation of Violence and Fear

The "Rally to Restore Sanity" and videos of a Move-On supporter being stomped are prompting calls for rational political discussion and a restoration of peaceful intellectual exchange. Pundits endlessly describe America as becoming increasingly polarized with fiery rhetoric that is provoking violence and hatred. I say, America should heed the Oracle of Delphi's advice, "Know Thyself."

America has always been a nation of violence and fear. The nation was born out of a military struggle. Did we select one of the brilliant scholars who crafted the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence as our first president? No, we picked the commanding general. Was the American territory expanded through thoughtful discussion with the inhabitants? No, land was acquired by appropriation, threat, war and occasionally money. Would slavery in America have ended through rational discussion and intellectual exchange? America knows violence and fear. American responds to violence and fear.

America's 0.7% incarceration rate is nearly 10 times larger than France's and about 5 times larger than that of Spain, Portugal, Canada and the United Kingdom. But jailing all these people doesn't make us safer. America's homicide rate is about 3 times that of Canada, France, Portugal or the United Kingdom. We are a violent country.

The Bush 43 era was a golden time for threats rather than rational discussion. Those who didn't support sending troops to Iraq were cowards, afraid to defend America regardless of the fact that Iraq wasn't involved in September 11th, had no weapons of mass destruction and wasn't planning to attack the US. Once the fighting began, those who wanted to bring the soldiers home were unpatriotic.

More recently, only a short period of time passed between President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize and the scale-up of troops in Afghanistan. President Obama has quietly continued the legacy of Guantanamo Bay and targeted assassinations.

America's love of violence and fear is displayed in its military spending, which is nearly seven times more than any other country. In the last 30 years, America has been involved in violence and conflicts in many countries including: Iraq, Afghanistan, Croatia, Serbia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Libya, Macedonia, Sudan, Yemen and Pakistan. War and violence are big business in America.

Fear drives much of our economy and is pervasive in the American dialog. In the 1941 State of the Union Address, FDR expressed the desire for a world founded upon four essential human freedoms: Freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. America has not achieved this goal.

I would love to imagine a political dialog that was free from fear, violence and anger but alas, we are America. We have always been a nation of fear, violence and anger. A shift towards a civil discussion about what's best for our nation and our world would be a wonderful, real change. Perhaps people on all sides of the America political landscape can peacefully and rationally agree that real change is very, very difficult.