As cliché as the phrase, “that awkward moment when..” has become — there’s never been a more apt descriptor for the current state of American culture, and its obvious remedy:
That awkward moment when America MUST heed the message from a 27 year old Michael Jackson song.
Though we’re separated by untold cyber-miles, I can see you (enthusiastically) analyzing “the current state of American culture.” The endless military engagements.. the violence.. the polarization.. the twerking.. the “poop cruise”.. Congress.. Honey Boo Boo.. It’s all there. A rich tapestry of “Bad.” Which leads you seamlessly to an analysis of your inborn knowledge of Michael Jackson’s discography. It’s been nearly three decades since the album “Bad” hit the airwaves — and while songs like “Smooth Criminal,” “Dirty Diana,” and “Leave Me Alone” all hint at relevance to our plight as a nation — the aforementioned “remedy” is only to be found in the epic ballad “Man in the Mirror.” “Remedy for what,” you politely ask? Our collective, blatant hypocrisy regarding violence.
This past week, tragedy once again struck the National Football League. The league’s premier running back, Adrian Peterson, suffered the loss of his two year old son; the result of a brutal, inhuman act of violence perpetrated by the 27 year old boyfriend of the child’s mother. The act was swiftly and universally condemned by all familiarized with the heartbreaking story. Fans of the NFL, seemingly pained and perplexed by the concept of mercilessly inflicting injury on an innocent child, offered genuine messages of condolence to the anguished football star. Less than 24 hours later, thousands of these humans would find themselves savagely cheering the prospect of an injured, under-performing, home-team football star who lay wincing in agony on a Houston football field. While the fatal beating of a 2 year old child is conclusively, indisputably worse than an injury incurred in a voluntary, violent game — we’re nonetheless confronted with the dreaded, ubiquitous “either-or fallacy.”
As the majority of spectators in Reliant Stadium raucously celebrated the injury of Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, I was struck with a disheartening realization:
Despite protestations, condemnations and tears.. Americans really don’t mind violence. Worse still, some of us love it!
The in-your-face hypocrisy of the celebration of violence (injury) recently showcased in a televised, gladiatorial contest PALES in comparison to that which our nation has celebrated in recent years. I speak not of boxing, or cage-fighting. Following our condemnation of the senseless, violent terrorist attacks on 9/11, and the loss of 3,000 innocent lives, we cheered the bombing/occupation of two countries that had little to ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the attacks — resulting in the slaughter of over 100,000 innocent civilians. I recall standing amongst a fervent crowd before a television in a bar as a noose was slung around the neck of Saddam Hussein, a man the United States government once aided in chemically attacking people in Iran. I recall the jubilant hordes and the unceasing USA chants when “we got him” (Osama bin Laden). Certainly, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were ruthless, contemptible people, but does wishing for and vigorously applauding their death speak to sincerity with which we condemn their crimes? Can you genuinely oppose murder, AND dance joyfully in the streets for murder?
It’s probably safe to assume that you oppose the beastly, cowardly act of rape. Now, consider how often and casually the concept of prison rape is bandied about in American culture. You may have even laughed at or made a prison rape joke yourself! Ask yourself how you can at once oppose rape, laugh at rape, AND find it an acceptable punishment/reality in the US prison system? It’s time to check our premises.
If you have access to a television, radio, computer, workplace water-cooler or functioning ears, you’re well aware of the violence which exists in our nation. From mass shootings in movie theaters, malls, military bases and elementary schools — to terror attacks from Boston to Benghazi.. Americans are being bombarded with violence which requires expeditious, earnest condemnation. Aided by the sound-byte spewing stooges we call the “media,” we’ve mastered the “expeditious” part. There’s ALWAYS a ready-made “solution” for the problem of violence, be it a legislative proposal, or a bombing proposal. What’s sorely lacking is the “earnest” part. In order to earnestly condemn violence, we must ask ourselves tough questions. Questions like, “Can I genuinely oppose the brutal beating of Adrian Peterson’s 2 year old son AND support my government drone bombing innocent two year old children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen?”
In “Man in the Mirror,” Michael Jackson astutely recognizes that it’s not enough for one to merely pay lip-service to a cause. The protagonist in the song could no longer blindly walk beyond the freezing, hungry children in the streets. He resolved to go within, to the root of his hypocrisy, and face “the man in the mirror.” If we truly, genuinely wish to curb senseless violence in our world, we too must go within and confront the violence we tolerate, tacitly endorse, and enjoy.
“If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change!”