Is America Crazy?

Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.

Mass shootings, economic inequality, a racist president: have we grown dangerously accustomed to a country gone mad?

Foreign Policy In Focus - August 12, 2019

The United States witnessed three mass shootings in one week recently in California, Texas, and Ohio. There have been more than 250 mass shootings so far in 2019, more than one a day. This year in America, more than 33,000 shooting incidents have killed more than 8,700 people.

America is the richest country in the world, but it has more than half a million homeless and 28 million people without health insurance – out of a population of around 325 million. The U.S. infant mortality rate places it 33rd out of wealthiest 36 nations.

In the White House, meanwhile, the current president lies nonstop, uses racist rhetoric against members of Congress, and badmouths American cities. He has refused to cooperate with congressional investigations, ridiculed the press, and used his office to enrich himself, his family, and his friends. His understanding of foreign affairs is poor to non-existent. To put it bluntly, Americans voted to put their country into the hands of a belligerent idiot.

People from other industrialized countries must think that the United States has simply gone insane. It is a nation of terrible extremes: grotesque wealth and horrific poverty, brilliant minds and widespread ignorance, high rates of volunteerism and endemic violence. America seems to be suffering from some kind of bipolar disorder with pockets of manic energy and large areas of deep depression.

It would be tempting to argue that America is only suffering from a bout of temporary insanity. But mass shootings, gross economic inequality, and corruption didn’t begin when Donald Trump became president. He has made matters worse, to be sure. But these trends are longstanding.

So, why do Americans put up with such violence, economic inequality, and political nonsense?

Of course, many Americans realize that this craziness must stop. Most Americans favor stronger gun control laws. According to a February public opinion poll, “69 percent of Americans, including 85 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans, want strong or moderate restrictions placed on firearms.” According to a March poll, seven in 10 Americans want the government to spend more on health care, education, and assistance to the poor. And a Gallup poll from last month indicates that 45 percent of Americans want Donald Trump impeached.

But it’s the persistence of these trends of violence, economic injustice, and political malfeasance that explains why so many Americans reflexively believe that they live in the best of all possible countries. Most Americans have become accustomed to the country’s decaying infrastructure, the endemic crisis of drug addiction, and the structural racism of the society. ...
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