Life is getting better along almost all fronts. The overall rates of violence and gun deaths have been falling for decades. The poverty percentages are falling, and even the poorest in the US live at about the international median. Institutional racism and sexism are all but gone, and individual wrongs in both areas continue to decline even as the definition of what constitutes a wrong expand. With those things being true, what explains the continuing increase in both the number and rigorousness of protests?
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Life is getting better along almost all fronts. The overall rates of violence and gun deaths have been falling for decades. The poverty percentages are falling, and even the poorest in the US live at about the international median; 50% of the people in the world are worse off than our poorest. Institutional racism and sexism are all but gone, and individual wrongs in both areas continue to decline even as the definition of what constitutes a wrong expands. With those things being true, what explains the continuing increase in both the number and intensity of protests?
Let’s isolate the race issue as an example. America was founded on an astonishing principle; all men were created equal: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The most astonishing part is that this principled stand was indeed astonishing in 1776. The Declaration of Independence was an international game changer, written at a time that hereditary monarchs and dictators ruled most of the world, and concepts such as private property for all and rights given to people by a Creator were almost unthinkable. In the process, the Founders created the world’s oldest democracy; yes, that’s us–the world’s oldest democracy. The Constitution did allow slaves, and women were not allowed to vote. In 1789, only white, land-owning males were allowed to vote in most states. Had the abolitionists held out for no slavery from the beginning, there would have been no union, no America; the US would have been stillborn. But the Declaration was an all-important statement of direction. A direction we have been committed to and have been following ever since 1776.
Even prior to the Civil War (the ultimate oxymoron), the struggle between the North and South was fierce and continuing, with the South wanting more states to be slave states, and the North wanting to cap the number of slave-holding states. Over 600,000 Americans died in the war that liberated the slaves. That’s more deaths than in all of our other wars combined, including defeating the Nazis and Imperial Japan in WWII. Post the Civil War, the struggle continued as the South instituted the Black Codes as way of continuing to use blacks for free or near-free labor. It was not until 1948 that the US military was integrated. And it took until the mid-60s for black civil rights to rise to the top of the nation’s attention and be addressed.
The point not to be missed here is that 242 years ago, our nation set a new course, unique in the world at the time, a course toward civil and economic freedoms for all, and we have stayed with it. Through wars, through economic downturns, through a civil conflict that almost tore our nation apart, through evils like the KKK and the deep-seated thinking that made black children attending previously all-white schools so controversial that President Eisenhower had to call in the 101st Airborne to ensure that students could safely attend school, our nation persevered. Through it all, America persevered in its vision. And we triumphed. We fulfilled the promise made in the Declaration of Independence almost 250 years ago. Institutional racism has been eradicated. Examples of individual racism are being exposed and challenged. And as we as a nation work to push those examples of individual racism asymptotically toward zero, there will be pushback from, for example, the low percentage of law enforcement officers who think that authority always makes them right. Or the jerk on a barstool who spouts racist garbage while claiming that “some of my best friends are black.” But given how far we have come, we know that we can keep making real progress. Unless we sabotage ourselves. How and why would we do that?
So with everything looking up on all fronts in the area of economic and civil liberties, why the dramatic increase in confrontational protests? Are some people cranking up the protests, exaggerating the remaining issues, because they are afraid they won’t have access to the spotlight if they don’t? Hamas cearly does not want a 2-state Israel/Palestine solution; their place as the self-appointed saviors of Gaza, saving Gazans from a greatly exaggerated enemy, would melt away if a 2-state solution was adopted. They’d have to go get ordinary jobs. Do Antifa and BLM, along with their supporters and apologists, want changes leading to peace, or headlines and applause? What’s your answer?
It is not just the frequency and volume of the protests that warrants attention, it is the tone. Claims of “America is a racist nation.” and comparisons to Nazis and the Holocaust are not only wrong and grossly dilute the valuable memory of the horrors of both, but they wildly exaggerate what is going on today. Worse, they deepen the already dangerous divides in our country, making the needed coming together to continue to make progress all but impossible. Cries of “Armageddon” and “Millions will die” in response to certain policies and announcements, along with calls for public, aggressive confrontation with those with whom you disagree add much more heat than light to any public discussion. There was a more minor, but still divisive action very recently at Sam Adams Brewing. The CEO thanked the President for the tax cuts, and an immediate boycott was formed; Sam Adams shares fell the next day. There was obviously no attempt at a conversation; the boycotters immediately went for their guns, doing the most damage to the company they could as soon as possible. The people who support the tax cuts have no one to talk to on the other side and when a policy disagreement starts with what should, at best, be a last resort, confrontation pushed by both sides, leading to even more confrontation, is far more likely than cooperation leading to solutions.
And there are things that are getting worse, for example our public schools and homicide rates in certain concentrated geographic areas. Why is there no public outrage at these important and worsening areas? Why are the protests focused on areas where we have been making vast improvements over decades and centuries, and not in areas where we are losing the fight? Is it agenda? Are these simply examples of the triumph of agendas over truth and integrity? You tell me.
Let’s apply the two Results With Reason main tenets to today’s issues. The two main tenets that we believe in at Results With Reason are:
- Personal Responsibility; practice it, teach it and
- Be Your Brother’s Keeper.
Today’s application is straightforward:
- Personal Responsibility. Step up and add your voice to the public conversation about the important issues facing us today. Look for the common ground, and there will always be common ground, common goals, amongst people who actually want to solve a problem, search for pertinent facts, and apply non agenda-based logic to the facts to reach the common goals. Try it; this process works.
- Be your Brother’s Keeper. Be patient with each other; some will need help to tone it down; others will need to be encouraged to step up. Teach and encourage; don’t criticize and reject. Love and lead. Remember, we are all in this together.
Now it is time for our usual parting thought. For us at Results With Reason, it is not only change your thinking, change your life. It is change your thinking, change your actions, change the world. And if you can do it in love and enjoy the people around you at the same time, all the better. And if we, you and I, don’t do something, then the others who are doing something, will continue to run the show.
Remember: Knowledge by itself is the booby prize.
Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.