OPINION: Is America in danger of turning into the Middle East?
The world has been in dire straits for as long as most of us can remember, with various cultural groups trying to dominate one another. Some regions seem particularly prone to war, such as the Middle East, or even America, both within itself and as an ally to other countries. Our twenty-first century has made some progress in terms of global awareness, but there are still too many instances of calamity and a regression to past times of strife. Financial, gender and race inequality, the perpetuation of violent armed conflict under the umbrella of national interest and the pollution of the environment are all symptoms of this tension.
So when we hear in recent news of the war between Israel and Palestine, or yet another young, unarmed black man being shot dead in America by police, we cringe…and yet we are not all that surprised. The core issue always seems to be about true freedom — not the galvanized idea of “allowing” a suppressed group to be independent, and then setting perimeters on that supposed freedom, pushing the oppressed beyond what they can bear. The religious groups, the corporations, consumption trends and the media all have vested interests that represent obstacles on our way towards a culturally aligned international future.
Since 1967, Israel has isolated the Palestinians, treating residents of Gaza as if they were citizens of a foreign country, without freedom of movement, employment or commerce. It’s another act of granting liberation and then insisting on restrictive boundaries. This oppression has driven Palestinians to seek total independence from Israel as a separate state. With that said, the two-state solution has never succeeded because Israelis and Palestinians have such a deeply religious, emotional and historical attachment to the land that neither side will embrace permanent amputation.
A union guaranteeing permanent peace and prosperity for Jews and Palestinians would be a federation that ensures a Jewish state and a Palestinian state with security, equality and respect for all citizens regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or gender. And yet, they cannot come to terms, and people continue to die.
As a parallel, racial discrimination in the United States has been an undying issue ever since the slave era. African Americans are often told to “get over it,” and yet they are the ones who seem to suffer the most random abject violence in our modern Western world. In fact, legally sanctioned privileges and rights for Caucasian Americans are not granted to African Americans, Natives, Asians or Latin Americans. European Americans have always been privileged by law in matters of immigration, land acquisition, education, voting and criminal procedure, from the 17th century to the 1960s.
America has always proclaimed itself “the home of the free and the brave” and yet we are just as quick to pull the trigger as those in countries we consider to be “war torn”. There are still far too many instances of police brutality and needless deaths — and we are aware of these because nowadays a police beating or shooting is likely to be filmed, either by a security camera or a smartphone.
Protests continue following the Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer, but this outrage goes far deeper than a reaction to a single incident. The severe beating of Rodney King in 1991 was one of the first video introductions to police brutality, and led to the L.A. Riots and 53 deaths. These are only a couple of examples of cops going too far.
A recent Washington Post op-ed written by an officer told readers, “[I]f you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you…Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?”
But this level of hasty violence doesn’t feel all that different from Israel’s invasion of the Palestinian territory of Gaza after 10 days of air strikes that killed at least 235 Palestinians, many of them civilians, or the militant Palestinian group Hamas firing rockets into Israel. The conflict is heightened because of the long, bitter, violent history between these two peoples. It’s about race, land and religion.
Violence has become the norm, and leaders on both sides seem to believe that managing crises is preferable to taking firm preventative action, while the Israeli and Palestinian publics show less and less interest in pressuring their leaders to take risks for peace.
So what’s the solution? Laws need to be changed so that America doesn’t turn into a military state. Some are calling for a requirement that law enforcers wear cameras to avoid police misconduct and maintain a higher level of accountability. There needs to be consequences for shooting a gun without a valid reason. We need stronger leadership, starting with President Obama’s taking “Yes, we can” to a new level that supports fairness and compassion towards all Americans.
Charles A. Archer is a Brooklyn-based CEO and author.
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