Historian Morris Berman brings all the analyses of America’s decline and decay in a violent and cruel culture of greed and selfishness to a “question of values.” Most liberals and leftists are rightly critical of American institutions – the avarice of corporations, the corruption of government, the ruthlessness of the Pentagon, and the idiocy of the media.
The detached abstraction of American dysfunction is how most critics also explained the Michael Brown and Eric Garner killings, and the subsequent release of the officers responsible without charges or trials. Everyone blamed “the system”, as if the system is a giant computer.
What most critics ignored is that in both cases, and many similar cases, grand juries of twelve Americans review the evidence, and coldly release the killers. The criminal justice system is structurally racist, but the system is powered by people. The values of the majority of the American people are dangerous. The sane minority protests in the street, while the silent majority of Nixon’s delight sits comfortably in their living rooms. The same silent majority supports war, approves of torture, and applauds the cutting of social services.
Those that do not actively promote the cruelty and violence of the status quo are disengaged and disinterested. According to a study from Newsweek, 70 percent of Americans cannot name a single part of the Bill of Rights.
It is the battle of the sane minority and the silent majority that is the subject of my new essay for AlterNet.
In my new essay for Salon, I react to the reaction my essay on America’s idolatry of the military. I expand on America’s indifference to the rape epidemic within the military. I describe my own personal connection with veterans (my grandfather, my father, and former students), and I analyze the meaning of the death threats and hateful campaign my article provoked. The poison of propaganda from Fox News and right wing media became clear, as did the hideousness of the social media sewer.
Most importantly, I write about the moving story of Fred John Boenig, and his son, Austin, who committed suicide while serving in the Air Force in Afghanistan. Fred and I spoke at length on the phone after the publication of my original essay on the military. His kindness and honesty moved me profoundly, and the journey of his son is worthy of mourning, but also examination from all Americans.
Read the essay at Salon.
Any Twitter feed with my name on it or associated with me, including the recently taken down, David_Masciotra, is fake. I am not on Twitter.
Among the modern Presidents, Jimmy Carter is the most admirable, accomplished, intelligent, and impressive. It isn’t surprising, then, that he is also the most vilified President in American culture.
In my new essay for the Daily Beast, I review Carter’s new book on women’s rights around the world, A Call To Action, and evaluate his misunderstood Presidency and legacy.
In my latest column for the Indianapolis Star, I praise the President of Ball State University for giving a cease and desist order to an overly zealous and biased physics profssor who, during classroom lectures, sold his students the theory of “intelligent design.”
Some people believe they are sufficiently sneaky to smuggle creationism through customs in a container they call “intelligent design,” but the defenders of real science, knowledge, and argument typically, and luckily, win the battle. Examples in Dover, Pennsylvania and Muncie, Indiana (home of Ball State) should give encouragement to intelligent people who want to design a society of reason and logic that separates church and state and religion and science.
Read it here.
The massacre in Newtown was one of the most heartbreaking turn of events in recent American history. It was also one of the most evil – even prisoners possess a strong hatred for people who target children for violence.
The shooting should have provoked a wide ranging conversation on political, social, and cultural issues. Instead, the media and President Obama have overwhelmed the fallout with a single minded focus and emphasis on gun control.
More gun control would have done little or nothing to prevent Adam Lanza from killing 27 people on December 14, 2012. Lanza could not legally purchase a gun. He knew that, and he stole guns legally purchased by his mother – all of which were legal when the assault weapons ban existed. The gun, however, is an easy target for discussion because it allows Americans to exercise the futile and fatal conceit of control. Let’s “do something” is the chorus call, and what is the easiest thing to do? Pass more gun laws. Nevermind that gun laws were more lenient in the 1970s, but there were fewer school shootings in that decade or that violent crime, overall, has declined consistently over the past twenty years.
As I make clear in my new essay for the always wonderful Front Porch Republic – “The Culture of Guns? What About the Culture of Narcissism?”, we should have a national discussion on the aspects of our culture that encourage selfishness – what Christopher Lasch called “the culture of narcissism”, our comfort with violence when it suits our interests – how many children have been killed in the drone strike campaign, and our ignorance when it comes to mental illness.
Adam Lanza deserves the blame for the murders he committed. It also seems fair and reasonable to ask serious questions about his parents – Why didn’t his father speak to him for several years? Was this abandonment? Why did his mother train him to shoot guns? Why did she leave him unaccompanied and unsupervised for days at time so that she could vacation?
Obsessing over the gun not only allows Americans to grasp at the easiest of answers and solutions, but it reinforces their fixation on technology.
I address all of these issues in greater depth in my new essay, “The Culture of Guns? What About the Culture of Narcissism?”