A Deliberately Bankrupted America
Why are the cities burning? African Americans have been a part of our history since our nation’s founding -- they fought for independence. They are found on the Supreme Court, in military leadership, as prominent mayors, Members of Congress, academics, authors, cabinet secretaries, ambassadors, police chiefs, surgeons, business owners, entertainers, athletes, astronauts, and CEOs. A 75% white America even voted twice to choose an African American leader. If so much progress has been made, why are the nation’s cities -- some led by African American mayors, with a diverse police force often led by non-white police chiefs -- burning?
Could this be the end result of choices made over time by some of our leaders to bankrupt America and African-Americans economically, morally, educationally, and spiritually?
The Free Trade Agreements from ‘94 to ‘01, with NAFTA, and then with China, bankrupted the nation economically. The ‘sucking sound’ of factories closing and millions of jobs disappearing hit both sides of the border. Millions of Mexican family farmers could not compete with American agribusiness, lost their farms .and began the trek northward. Those men (in the words of the times) worked ‘twice as hard as black men, for half the pay’. Systemic unemployment enabled by free trade and open borders was made worse by floods of drugs brought by the Colombian and Mexican Cartels, and synthetic drugs manufactured in Chinese factories. Addicted men engaged in petty theft to support their habits or became part of the predatory gangs profiting off the addicts. The explosion in crime, starting with the crack wars of the late 80s, resulted in the imprisoning of many young African American men. In 1990, one of every three African-American men under 29 were in prison or on parole.
Already stressed family bonds broke under this strain. Currently 77% percent of African Americans are born into unmarried families. The family pictures of son, father, and grandson is almost unknown in our poorest communities. The anger and pain of sons abandoned by their fathers is a lifelong wound. The consequences of numerous short-term disposable relationships is abusive stepparents and the loss of positive male role models. When the patriarchy is smashed, there are no fathers to guide boys to manhood, and the masculinity that remains is too often toxic.
If the family is a broken reed, what of the schools? In our poorest schools, the lowest achieving students, mostly young men with attention and behavior problems, leave elementary school without learning to read or mastering arithmetic, only to fall behind further each year. In our nation’s capital, one-third of the adults cannot read. Our lowest-performing students learn from school that no matter how disruptively and disrespectfully you behave, no matter how little you work or how low your test scores, you will pass on to the next grade. When 2/3rds of students are not at grade level, maintaining standards is impossible without drastic reform.
Our schools and our culture do not support societal stability. They are creating a nation of moral and spiritual midgets. With the Biblical Ten Commandments ridiculed for a generation, looters of every background across the nation defy the unknown command “Thou Shalt Not Steal.” Rather than heed Jesus’ example of forgiveness, grievance is nurtured and encouraged. In expelling those old white men, the Greek philosophers, from our humanities, we do not teach Aristotle’s virtue of moderation in a democratic society. In schools today, the focus is not on the virtues or genius of our founding generation. There is little talk of innovators, entrepreneurs, explorers, soldiers, scientists, pioneers, architects, or engineers. Instead, a cartoon version of only protestors and oppressors becomes our national story. America is portrayed as a shameful, oppressive country, one that deserves little loyalty or protection from the mob. The social compact has been deliberately frayed.
For a generation, the complaint has been of wealth inequality -- some people are too rich. An entire race has been labeled with #Whiteprivilege. We have become a nation singularly focused on the color of our skin, while blindly ignoring the content of our individual character. Suddenly America is not the place where an African immigrant genius can lead our national return to space, but an oppressive land where the fabulously rich Elon Musk is just another rich white man benefiting from his privilege. The nuance and truths behind the theories of income inequality and white privilege are lost on the rioting mobs. Instead it is the sin of envy personified, and the theory of socialism in street talk: “I need the iPad in your store, so I’ll take it and beat you senseless if you object -- you privileged, rich, oppressive white.” Or as Karl Marx so eloquently put it: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
Our nation’s political class is deeply divided. Many Democrat politicians cannot bring themselves to openly side with law and order against their allies and so remain silent to the hijacking of legitimate protests. To a socialist ‘you didn’t build that’ -- what the entrepreneur spent a lifetime building up -- is actually the property of the voters, who have decided to redistribute the wealth. Thus, hundreds of Minneapolis police stood by, at the mayor’s command, while businesses were looted across the street. They were defending the police precinct -- government property. And even then, they were ordered to give that up to the mob. After all, the city can just take your money in taxes to rebuild after it’s over. In Minneapolis, under the leadership of Mayor Jacob Frey, the police are there to keep your nonessential business shut down because of COVID-19, but not to protect your life’s work from the anarchists. In Washington D.C., the mayor at first refused to use city police to protect the White House and our nation’s monuments. Arlington county withdrew its police from D.C., when they saw their officers help the President cross the street during the protests. To some, the real problem is the political opposition, not the rioting. After all, if Trump succeeds in bringing back American manufacturing, and if his actions raise American wages by lowering taxes and regulations while decreasing illegal immigration, then Democratic politicians might lose a few elections. Better to burn America down, than to MAGA.
And therein lies a clue to the problems of our deeply divided country. Our country is deeply divided and hurting economically, educationally, morally, and spiritually. But division is in the interests of some of our political leaders. Why unify, when division makes your supporters more passionate? Why build, when it is much easier to tear down? The key to our political paradox lies in the virtues expounded by the world’s first democrats, the Greeks: wisdom, justice, moderation, and courage. May we have the wisdom to sit in moderate dialogue with our fellow citizens, and the courage to seek liberty and justice for all.