Violence, Crime & Corruption In America
America leads the world in both the number and percentage of its citizens in prison, and it has one of the highest rates of violence in the world.
The causes of that are numerous, of course. However, the main reason why it has gotten so bad is not generally known, or acknowledged.
Crime and violence in a society are indicators of a failed government, and one of the indicators that a government is failing its people is when it refuses to establish fairness, equity and justice for all. Instead, a failed government simply establishes a more rigid and harsh criminal justice system, enlarges and strengthens its police forces, and builds bigger and more punitive prisons.
That's what America has done, particularly since 1982 and during the last 30 years, while at the same time enabling the wealthiest few to establish an even more unfair, more inequitable, and more unjust political and economic system.
The political economic ideology that made that possible was sold to the American people as being religious and patriotic, and they bought it because it was effectively sold by a very charming and apparently amiable man, Ronald Reagan.
Reagan had been well groomed for a partisan political career by top executives at the General Electric corporation. They made Reagan their television spokesman on G.E. Theater, recognizing that his greatest skill was as a television pitch man, and they also sent him around the country promoting pro-corporation and anti-union propaganda preparing him to run for political office.
Allied with the so-called "Religious Right" and "Christian Moral Majority" which later became the "Christian Coalition," the Reaganite New Right and Neo-Conservative Movement campaigned on a "patriotic and religious" platform to "restore Christian values and American pride." It was a very cunning strategy — and it worked very well, at least for the wealthiest few.
It not only put Ronald Reagan in the White House. It enabled the Reaganites to bring about what they call the "Reagan Revolution," and by 1984 the Reaganite ideology ushered in the era of "Big Brother" with regard to both foreign and domestic policies. And, to quell and discourage dissent and ostensibly to establish "law and order," in 1984 it produced the unforgiving and inflexible legislation known as the Comprehensive Crime Control Act.
That legislation established both procedural and substantive laws that are terribly unfair and continue to haunt the administration of federal criminal justice in America. It severely restricts the discretion of judges and results in terribly unfair prescribed minimum sentences. That’s why the prison population has quadrupled since 1980 and includes a disproportionate percentage of Black and Hispanic males. And, because Reagan’s drug enforcement bill to fund the "War on Drugs" called for mandatory minimum sentences for all drug related offenses as well, it's why there are so many people in prison who should not be there.
Focusing on control, law enforcement and punishment rather than on social justice issues or crime prevention and intervention, the Reaganites also began to funnel a whole lot of money to equip police forces not only with highly advanced weaponry and hardware, but also with armor plated vehicles and "riot control" gear, to deal with protesters.
Reagan’s 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act has also produced what many Americans are calling a Police State, especially since Bush’s Patriot Act was added to it and Obama has made it worse (or at least has done nothing to make it better). And the result of the two has produced a law enforcement system in which local police and federal agents of various agencies often get carried away with their power.
Examples of that are becoming more frequent all across the country. Police have been wounding and even killing people that should have been dealt with properly but were not. Mentally ill people have been arrested and even wounded and killed for the same reason. Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) agents have targeted and wound up terrorizing a young woman merely for buying sparkling water in cans (assuming from a distance that it was beer). And Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents have been performing no knock home invasions merely on the basis hearsay or rumors.
In fact, DEA agents have been arresting people who turned out to have done nothing wrong but were suspected of having illegal substances merely because of hearsay or rumors. And, to make it even more absurd and unfair, the police have confiscated money and property and are allowed to keep it, and they are not required to return it to the owners even after the “suspects” were proven innocent.
Granted, most law enforcement officials do a good job, but the number of overzealous officers is growing. They have developed a sense of entitlement that is not only at odds with the spirit of the U.S. Constitution, it is in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which clearly states that the people have a right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures ... but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
That Fourth Amendment standard has not changed. And while Police officers and federal agents must now have "reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause” to approach individuals suspected of violating a law, they cannot merely have reasonable suspicion. They must also have probable cause, and it must be “supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons of things to be seized.”
In spite of that, today’s law enforcement officials apparently have a new standard whereby all they need is suspicion, or a hunch, or hearsay.
Surely the worst trend, however, is that increasing numbers of incidents across the country make it very apparent that growing numbers of law-enforcement officials are resorting to the use of weapons unnecessarily. And perhaps the most ridiculous example or that was when a man in California was shot and killed as he was watering his neighbor's lawn because police driving by mistook his grip on the watering hose nozzle handle and assumed he was pointing a hand gun at someone.
An Analysis of How and Why We Got To This Point.
The Reaganite ideology and agenda has steadily aimed at dismantling President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs that were established in the 1930s. It even seeks to destroy even one of the last and greatest of them, Social Security (and Medicare and Medicaid, which were added to it in 1965). The Reaganite ideology favors corporations and has waged war on labor unions and worker’s rights. And it has aimed to not only prevent uprisings such as happened in the 1960s, but also to negate the successes progressives made during that period regarding civil rights, peaceful coexistence, women’s rights, worker’s rights, and civil liberties.
Unfortunately, most Americans haven't realized that yet because it was sold cloaked in religion and patriotism. But many Americans do realize it, and more and more experts have realized just how and why the Reaganite ideology has proven to be a counterproductive failure in most areas -- economically, socially, internationally, environmentally, and especially regarding the criminal justice system.
It has created more crime perpetrated by those wronged and treated unfairly by the criminal justice system, because Reaganism totally ignores the need for economic equity, fairness, and social justice.
But, thirty years ago the political winds were blowing to the right and people listened to Ronald Reagan. They agreed with him that the solution to crime was to firmly establish "law and order" with bigger, stronger and more powerful police forces, bigger prisons, and a very tough, inflexible and punitive criminal justice system.
America got all that, but the result is that its huge prisons are overcrowded and the rates of crime and violence are higher than ever.
Now the brightest minds know why that is, but politicians have either ignored or denied what the real problem is, and they don’t want to admit what the real solution is. In fact, both Republicans and Democrats still put Ronald Reagan on a pedestal because he waved the flag and said "God bless America," and they still do not realize or admit what his legacy has done to America.
Americans need to learn or recall that the Founding Fathers understood why the true purpose of government is to ensure our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and to establish justice, promote the general welfare, and ensure domestic tranquility.
The Found Fathers understood the true purpose of religion, to produce a peaceful and loving society by teaching people to abide by the Universal Divine Imperative: Treat all others as you would want to be treated if you were them. And while that is also known as the Golden Rule of Hillel the Elder and Jesus of Nazareth, it was essentially stated in other words also by the founders and builders of most other religions too.
Now most Americans are good and understand that. But hypocrites do not, and because they have been power-hungry and greedy they have been responsible for the U.S. Government failing the majority of the people, preferring to empower, enable and serve the interests of the wealthiest few.
The consequences of that are now very apparent, and painfully obvious to most people.
Crime and violence are commensurate with the amount of corruption and malfeasance (wrongdoing) by those holding high offices in both the private and public sectors. For crime, violence and corruption are indicators of the wrongdoing and/or failure of religious, corporate, political, executive, legislative and judicial leadership.
Granted, even with very good leadership there would still be some crime and violence. However, most of it today would not have occurred if there had been good leadership, and leadership has become corrupted by money.
It’s not difficult to see why. Money has always been the root of much evil and the cause of much greed and corruption, which inevitably leads to the abuse of power by the wealthiest few. It's been the problem with nobility and aristocracy throughout history.
Reaganism revived that elitist, aristocratic mind set, and it was able to do so because it rose up preaching the "Gospel of Prosperity." It had great appeal, obviously, but even though Reaganites and even some Democrats still regard Ronald Reagan as a great president, Americans need to learn that it is Reaganism we now suffer from.
Reaganism essentially revived the old Republican world view stated in 1898 as Congress was negotiating a treaty deciding on how to rule the Philippines, Cuba, Guam and Puerto Rico, which the U.S. had just taken from Spain during the Spanish-American War.
In 1898 Democrats argued that "This treaty will make us a vulgar, commonplace empire, controlling subject races and vassal states, in which one class must rule and other classes must obey."
But, the Republicans argued that "Providence has given the United States the duty of extending Christian civilization. We come as ministering angels, not despots."
The history of all the death and destruction of the following decades proved the Democrats right and the Republicans wrong, as is explained in the article on the history of Neo-Imperialism. But, politicians, and especially Republicans, have consistently ignored the lessons of history.
In the 1910s and 1920s Republicans ignored history again, and the consequence was the economic crash of 1929, the Great Depression, and widespread poverty, hunger, and homelessness.
During the last thirty years Republicans have simply ignored that lesson from history. And they have denied how President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal saved the country and made it great.
Republicans have simply repeated the same mistakes Republicans have made before. They have prevented government from fulfilling its duties, obligations and responsibilities, and the predictable and inevitable consequences of that have been yet another economic collapse and horrible recession, unemployment, and increases in poverty, hunger and homelessness.
That naturally brings rising crime rates, and to make things worse the Reaganite ideology ignores and denies the proven fact that for every dollar invested in prevention and intervention programs, four dollars is saved and doesn’t have to be spent on law enforcement and incarceration.
Because of Reaganism there has been an erosion of affirmative action; a drastic reduction in affordable housing programs; racial profiling; disproportionate targeting and unfair treatment by police; racially skewed charging and plea bargaining decisions of prosecutors; discriminatory sentencing practices; and terrible failure of judges, elected officials and other criminal justice policy-makers to redress the inequities.
The situation has grown steadily worse regarding Blacks and Hispanics since Reagan rendered the Civil Rights Commission impotent and ineffective, and virtually opened the doors wide open for institutionalized racism once again. And, not coincidentally, one of the terrible consequences of Nixon’s and Reagan’s folly was the rise of the African-American and Hispanic-American street gang culture in America.
More than one out of every hundred adults in the United States is now in jail or prison. That is an all-time high that is costing state governments nearly $50 billion a year and the federal government $5 billion more. And, with more than 2.3 million people behind bars (most of whom are Black or Hispanic), the U.S. leads the world in both the number and percentage of its citizens in prison, far more than China, which is a distant second, and far more than Russia.
One out of every nine black men ages 20 to 34 is behind bars, and rates for Latinos is nearly as high. Many of them, along with many white people are locked up for mandatory minimum sentences for victimless crimes, to the point where there is a lot of overcrowding in prisons. And it’s very costly, because over the past two decades, state spending on corrections (adjusted for inflation) increased 127 percent, as compared to spending on higher education which rose only 21 percent.
That is why during the last thirty years the causes of violence have become more and more numerous. It is why we have seen such enormous increases in violence caused by neighborhood gangs, the mentally ill, disgruntled workers, vengeful enraged students, enraged drivers, and the perpetrators of domestic violence. It has produced a society infected by anger, which comes out in a very wide variety of ways, including teenagers committing mass murder, and 13 year old children killing each other.
Now, Reaganites will protest and insist we cannot blame all that on Reaganism, and granted, we cannot. However, there is a reason why the rise of the National Rifle Association (NRA) coincided with the rise of Reaganism, the Reaganites and the "religious right," among whom are those who insist that the Second Amendment to the Constitutions gives them the right to own and sell any kind of weaponry they want -- even military weaponry with capability to kill large numbers of people and destroy buildings.
They need to know that James Madison wrote the Second Amendment of the Constitution to assure his constituents in Virginia, and the South in general, that Congress would not be able to use its new constitutional powers to disarm local militias — which plantation owners in the South relied upon for slave control. (And there is a great deal of historical evidence to support that conclusion, including debates held between James Madison and others at the Constitutional Ratifying Convention in Richmond, Virginia in mid-1788, and the First Congressional record.)
What is most relevant now, though, is that the Second Amendment clearly permits and authorizes “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” in order to establish and maintain a “well regulated militia necessary to the security of a free state.”
In fact, the exact wording is: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
The key, operative phrase is “well regulated militia.” That means an authorized militia regulated by the government – like a State Militia or State Units of a National Guard, or the National Guard. It does not refer to individual householders who are not regulated and organized by the states of the union.
Indeed, as the Second Amendment was developed, there was a very consistent thread in all the proposed versions because everyone concerned understood that "bearing arms" was synonymous with "military service" in an official organized citizens' militia to maintain state security. Furthermore, no proposed version mentioned anything about an individual’s right to own a gun for self-protection or to belong to an armed group or unofficial militia that was not state approved.
Of course, it is reasonable that individuals should be able to own hand guns as well as shot guns and rifles used for hunting, both for protection and sport. However, that American tradition carried over from England. It was not "authorized" by or even mentioned in the Second Amendment, and it was only somewhat officially approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 when five justices caved in to the NRA and granted limited individual right to own a gun for self-protection.
However, the Second Amendment certainly does not grant that. And it certainly does not give permission to individuals to own and use any kind of weapon they want — like military assault weapons, rocket launchers, hand grenades and other weapons made for killing large numbers of people and destroying, houses, buildings, structures, etc.
Anti-government zealots focus entirely on the little phrase about the people's "right to keep and bear arms," taking it out of context and simply ignoring the context in which it was written, and ignoring the real origin and intent of the Second Amendment. Instead, they insist it was designed to give the people the right to have full military capability to overthrow the government.
However, in spite of what anti-government zealots think, that is not what James Madison and the other Founders had in mind in the Second Amendment and the Constitution in general.
What the Founders had in mind was a government that promoted the general welfare, ensured justice and domestic tranquility, and provided the people freedom in their pursuit of happiness. And they stated very clearly that when government does not do that, the people have a right and the duty to alter and reform that government utilizing the Article 5 of the Constitution to revise or establish new amendments, not have to overthrow it by violence and force of arms as they had to during the American Revolution between 1775 and 1783.
The government has failed miserably to promote the general welfare, ensure justice and domestic tranquility, and provide the people freedom in their pursuit of happiness, of course, which is a big part of the reason there is so much anger and violence. That is part of the reason why it has become so very necessary to utilize Article 5 to alter and reform our government (as is suggested in The 21st Century Declaration of Independence).
Americans need to do that because all the violence, like all the crime and corruption, is, in large part, symptomatic of the main problem infecting our society. And that infection was caused by a very divisive, unfair and harmful partisan political ideology that favors the wealthiest few at the expense of the majority, at the expense of the environment, at the expense of the infrastructure, and especially at the expense of the working poor and the poor, and it produces sharp political conflict because it is foolish, self-serving, and simply wrong.
The Root of Reaganite Ideology
Of course, the essence of that ideology is not new. In the early 1800s Hamiltonian Federalists wanted America to be a "Christian Meritocracy." Thomas Jefferson saw through it and stopped it for awhile. But, because it favored and catered to the wealthiest few, it was adopted again by Republicans in the 1920s, and then again by Reaganite Republicans in the 1980s.
Reaganites were successful because they formulated a very clever strategy to paint their ideology as being both patriotic and religious, and based on a "Gospel of Prosperity." As is discussed in the article on Poverty In America, that idea was contributed by Jerry Falwell’s right-wing "Moral Majority" which morphed into the "Christian Coalition." It’s leaders were regular visitors to the Reagan White House.
Their Gospel of Prosperity is based on one sentence in the New Testament, and they used that to claim that their wealth is a reward from God, and that the poor deserve their lot because they are simply lazy and don’t have faith in God. And, even though that partisan political ideology simply ignores everything else Jesus of Nazareth said about the rich and the poor, it worked like a charm for the Reaganite Christian Right, and their strategy succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
It led to great prosperity for the wealthiest few, but at the expense of the majority and to the detriment of the working poor and the poor. And, because it established a very lax and permissive government that gave free rein and license to corporations, banks and financial institutions, it enabled the greedy and led to corruption and abuse of power.
The corruption of those infected with greed and self-interest began to be exposed in the 1990s when corporate scandals began to be revealed, but a Republican controlled Congress and a president who did what seemed politically expedient made only a few token efforts to clean up the problem. That is why all the political and corporate greed and corruption continued and finally led to near economic collapse in 2008.
What Americans now need to realize is that all the scandals and malfeasance that has been exposed in corporations, banks and financial institutions is merely like the tip of a huge iceberg of corruption. And Americans especially need to realize that it is the corruption and the greed of the wealthiest few who think they are entitled to rule that inevitably leads to revolt by the people.
Reaganites, of course, don’t see it that way. They think what has happened in Egypt, Syria, Libya and other Arab and Muslim countries is because of corruption unique to those countries. But they don’t see that most Americans, like people all over the world, realize the U.S. Government and the American political economic system are corrupt too.
Growing numbers of Americans are getting sick and tired of the injustice, unfairness and inequity caused by very rich, corrupt, greedy people who have been controlling politics and government in America, not only through the legal bribery of "lobbying," but in political campaigns -- especially since the U.S. Supreme Court enabled corporations and the wealthiest few to spend as much as they want on partisan political attack ads on television.
The Reaganites will dismiss this as an attempt to start "class warfare," because that is their typical response to critics who try to expose what is wrong. However, the truth is that class warfare has already been waged and won by the rich against the middle class, and especially against the working poor and the poor. Therefore, this judgment is to fix the problem, so that it does not continue and persist time after time after time. It is to help people learn the lessons of history, so we don’t keep repeating it.
Causes of the Consequences
When a society allows itself to be ruled by people who tend to be driven by greed, self-interest and selfishness, it inevitably and ultimately leads to corrupt inequity and unfairness, which inevitably and ultimately leads to the discontent, protest and rebellion of those exploited and oppressed. And that’s the same all over the world. It always has been.
All violent revolutions of the people against unjust government have been a result of that. But now it is time to stop the cycle. For partisan politics is just a less violent form of revolution, and while revolutions and partisan political elections have been won, none have produced lasting peace. None have produced true equality, justice, equity, and general prosperity and happiness, because they are waged by those who do not understand why those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword, nor do they understand why, or how, the humble, gentle and meek shall inherit the earth.
Revolutions, like partisan political campaigns and elections, produce winners, but they also produce losers who are usually sore losers.
The assassinations of President Abraham Lincoln, President John F. Kennedy and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. show us that partisan political opponents and sore losers can become deadly. Their sort assassinated the moderate Israeli President Rabin, and Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, and many other good people who were champions of the people. And why have so many good people been killed? For the same reasons that Jesus of Nazareth was killed. Those in power, who control the wealth and want more power and domain, hate those who dare to speak the truth.
The amazing thing, though, is that evil loves to masquerade as good. Self-serving leaders have usually found great success by "pulling the wool over people’s eyes," and resorting to flattery, demagoguery, and appealing to the pride and prejudices of their people.
That is what caused the American Civil War. Even though Abraham Lincoln stood up for the greater good and what was truly right, he was hated by wealthy Southern leaders who were able to convince their people that their cause was just and right. That is remarkable, considering the fact that their cause was not to benefit the majority of the people, but to benefit the land owners, plantation owners, slave owners, merchants and others of the wealthy few.
That is not to say that the North was much better in that regard, but at least the North was trying to preserve the union and abolish slavery. But in spite of the facts of the matter, most people in the South hated Lincoln. They could not put aside their pride and prejudices, and they did not realize what was truly the right thing to do.
Now, almost a hundred years later, some Americans hated President Kennedy for the same reasons. Of course, Soviet and Cuban communists and organized crime leaders obviously hated Kennedy too. But they were not the ones who killed Kennedy, because he was hated also by certain Republicans, Southern Democrats, and leaders of the U.S. Military Industrial Complex.
That is somewhat ironic, because in 1961 Republican President Eisenhower had warned America about allowing the Military Industrial Complex to get out of control when he left office. Kennedy listened to Eisenhower and not long before he was killed he had announced that he was going to order the withdrawal of American military advisers from Vietnam by 1965. And if Kennedy had lived, the active U.S. Military engagement in Vietnam would not have happened.
Unfortunately, Kennedy’s assassination opened the door for the Pentagon to plunge headlong into direct involvement in war in Vietnam. And while that made some U.S. military contractors very rich, it caused some terrible consequences.
All those events produced an air of suspicion, and protests ensued. That produced violent reactions by police against the mounting protests that were numerous — against war, against racism and racist apartheid, against sexism, and against suppression of free speech and dissent.
Things grew worse as authorities reacted with outrage at those who dared to question their authority. Southern police resorted to violence to suppress dissent, such as in Selma in 1965 against the Civil Rights Movement. It was stoked again with the assassination of Democrat candidate for president Robert F. Kennedy 1968, followed by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., also in 1968.
Then there were police riots in Chicago in 1968 against the Anti-War Movement that protested when the Democratic National Convention was high-jacked by the conservative wing of the party. That was followed by a brutally violent police crackdown in Berkeley in 1969, ordered by California Governor Ronald Reagan against the Free Speech Movement. That was followed by numerous confrontations of police against demonstrators in the Anti-War Movement, perhaps most notably at Kent State in 1970, where National Guard troops went so far as to kill some student demonstrators.
All this violent confrontation was, essentially, in reaction to brave people daring to speak truth to the power of wealth. It was brutal right-wing political reaction to the New Left, and in the 1960s the conflict was called "hawks" against the "doves."
For the most part, protesters began with peaceful demonstrations to demand equal rights, freedom, free speech, equity, justice, and peace. But, since those in power deeply resented it, dismissed protesters and demonstrators as "malcontents" and "bums," and reacted with outrage and violence, the police came to be called "Pigs." And that, of course, caused an even more violent reaction that came down like an iron fist and created very many bloody scenes.
Now, with hindsight, we can learn that lesson from history, and see the fruitlessness of all those actions. After all, while the great successes of the New Left in the 1960s did produce some positive changes, it didn’t take long for the Right to take firm control again.
Even though most of the people in America either identified with or at least sympathized with the Woodstock Generation and the Peace and Freedom Movement, from 1969 to 1974, the right-wing Republicans managed to start the political pendulum swinging back to the right from the left.
Richard Nixon was president during that time, and he gained power by claiming he spoke for "The Silent Majority," trying to make it seem that the Woodstock Generation and the Peace and Freedom Movement was really just a misguided radical minority, even though it had become very widespread, popular, and very influential. But, because the Democrats were deeply divided in 1968 and many Americans were sick of partisan politics, Nixon was able to get enough votes to be elected.
(Continued at Violence In America, Part 2)