As an active observer who has watched with fascination and disgust the response of some communities to the recent incidences in Ferguson and New York City, I find myself searching for explanations, some basis to understand the protests and the riots. Certainly these incidents have ignited an emotional response in thousands of Americans all across our nation.
As a very conservative individual, it’s easy for me to explain away the notion that this uproar is certainly misplaced as a response to the thought that our country is racist, and that systemic racism exists within law enforcement specifically. Philosophically, I believe that while individuals can be racist, both as black and white Americans, our country has become over the last few decades, fair and open-minded to people of all races, colors and nationality. We really have bridged the gulf that existed prior to the Civil Rights Movement. How many Americans can watch a movie like Mississippi Burning and not see themselves marching in protest to the horrid injustices portrayed in that film?
Yet, there is still a nagging in the back of my mind that senses a gaping rift in our society. It’s easy for some to assume it is racial in nature, but the details don’t really prove that assumption to be correct. Like putting a round peg in a square hole, the round piece can be set into that square hole, but it does not really fit. So I am back to that nagging sensation, if it’s not a racial gulf, then what is it?
Like working on a jig saw puzzle, I return to the issue after every updated news frenzy, or every occasion to sneak in another news article, all of which hype the issue as our next existential threat. Can I suggest that the gap we are dealing with is cultural in nature? It’s not white versus black, or even rich versus poor. Rather, it may be independent versus dependent. Let me explain. Independents would represent all those in society that choose to live the premise that as an individual, I control and direct my destiny. I can choose to work hard, pursue education and learning, be responsible for my actions or inactions, and even begrudgingly take responsibility for my poorer choices, be they legal or otherwise. Allowing for good opportunities or random barriers of ill health, poor economies or just bad luck, the independent accepts blessings and challenges with equal appreciation as a normal part of life. As parents, the independents religiously teach their children how to apologize, how to accept responsibility, and to begin to be progressively responsible financially as they mature. Respect for authority would be a common trait with independents, as they understand that while not perfect, varying forms of government are necessary for the survival of our country. Questioning authority is healthy done appropriately, with respect for others and the rule of law. I could further define independents, but you get my drift.
So, dependents would represent all those who rely on some other entity to meet their needs in life. Included are those who are raised generationally to expect aide from their government for housing, healthcare, cell phones and groceries. This group could include many college students, who enjoy a form of independence while at college, yet are still almost completely dependent on parents, scholarships or grants and other sources for their support. Dependents, while having equal opportunity to vote and protest, have not experienced equal responsibility to get the bills paid all by their lonesome. They live in a perpetual state of expectation, that simply by their need, fulfillment is deserved and will be forthcoming. They may be young people who have suffered under the prevailing parentage model that vehemently protects their offspring from facing natural consequences. This growing dependent segment has never been instructed in the thought of personal responsibility, but rather schooled in the practices of excuse making, finger pointing and passing of the proverbial buck. A disregarding of authority would be common, from the grade school teacher who disciplines little Johnny for being unkind, to the football coach who won’t play Johnny oft enough. Authority is to be resisted as a norm, not an exception.
While any individual could display any combinations of the example traits listed above, these description serve as bold extremes of the spectrum which is dissected by this societal rift. Can we give the race issue a rest, and dig deeper into what may be the cultural problem? Both independents and dependents can represent people of any color, class, ethnicity or political party, for that matter. Can we have real honesty about this issue? Can we drop the race narrative and examine the multiple issues that factor into this discussion? We sure won’t get anywhere by costuming the problem as racial issue for political or financial gains.