Updated: Apr 10
October 5, 2020
By Rich Alvarez
I often wonder what God, or the rest of the world, think when they see the United States. We used to be such a pillar of virtue and great ideals that more people wanted to come here than any other nation on Earth. Other nations respected us for that. Many still do want to come here and are even willing to die trying, but the wave of immigrants has slowed considerably, partly due to our broken immigration system and policies, and partly because that shining light on the hill now seems to be flickering.
I’m not going to get into partisan politics, even though much of this is related to it, but I want to examine the U.S. from both a Christian perspective and as a former law enforcement officer and social worker in the area of reentry and prison ministry. America has a race problem. We are obsessed with race. We have an ugly history of slavery and racial discrimination, of that there is no doubt, but we had been making progress, albeit slower than most would want. Some people see no problems at all, while others see the boogeyman of times past around every corner. Neither of those is true, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the news today. Certain people thrive on racial discord and ugliness. What else would the Al Sharpton’s of the world have to do with their time if there were no racial injustice? He might actually have to go back to preaching. The media is another culprit. It’s influence is incredible and often misused. The media sells airtime or ads based on viewership or readership. They will stop at nothing to attract more customers, and the old adage of “if it bleeds, it leads,” has never been more true than today. There is very little of simply reporting the facts, but nearly every news outlet has become editorialized and an arm for some political viewpoint. They are reckless in what they report too, no longer bothering to check the facts in favor of rushing to the presses. This irresponsibility has led to the destruction of cities and neighborhoods, because passions are inflamed, and they are more than willing to fan the flames. It’s, frankly, disgusting to me. The media is even more powerful today than it was when I was a young man. Any story, anywhere in the world, is in the palm of your hand or on your computer or on your big screen within seconds of it happening. Of course, negative stories lead the charge, and then they are repeated over and over again during the 24-hour news cycle.
Not only does America have a race problem, it has a perception problem. What do I mean by that? Crime is actually lower by all measures today than it was when I was growing up. Check out the statistics for yourself. In fact, you’d have to go back to the 1950’s to find a time where crime was lower, but do we feel safer? Parents are afraid to even let their kids play outside without watching over them like a hawk. A few examples of illegal immigrants killing native born Americans has led to a perception that immigrants are dangerous, when crime statistics also show that they actually commit less crime. Now the media has seized upon one of it’s favorite stories, racism allegedly perpetrated by racist white cops against blacks, killing them wholesale and without consequence. Nothing could be further from the truth though. No statistical source bears this out in any way, yet a few terrible incidents that have even shocked cops, have led to an unwarranted and unreasonable backlash against them. There are undisputed facts such as African Americans making up about 13% of the population, and accounting for 20% of fatal police shootings. That’s a 7% difference, or about 70 people out of proportion of their racial representation in society. While every death is tragic, does that mean that cops are racially motivated in these 70 additional deaths? Even in the disgusting murder of George Floyd, which was condemned by most police officers, there was never an indication that the killing was racially motivated. No racial slurs were uttered. No racist social media was found. No history of racist activity was discovered. In fact, if there was any motivation, it likely stemmed from a personal beef from the club they both worked in. Yet, the drumbeat of racist cops continued to be sounded by the media. One fact that is never talked about is the violence problem within the black community. While only making up 13% of the population, blacks account for about 60% of all violent crime, and their victims are primarily other blacks. For a little perspective, they commit violent crime at a rate that is 47% higher than they should based on their population. I’ve heard the argument that they are policed more heavily, so that’s the reason. While you could make that argument for things like drugs and other “quality of life crimes”, and we could argue about the chicken and egg all day, you cannot make that argument with regard to violent crime. Violent crime will ensure a robust police response no matter where it happens or what race perpetrates it. In fact, many black communities complain that police don’t do enough to stop violent crime in their neighborhoods. Over-policing would not account for that kind of disparity anyway. It is clear that the black community has a violence problem. Is it unreasonable to presume that due to such high levels of violent crime, police presence would be more concentrated in order to attack the problem? If violent crime is to be prevented or rooted out, many of the investigative tools used to go after the gang members who perpetrate most of the crime will involve narcotics enforcement, stopping suspicious people, or doing traffic stops. Without those tools, cops become nothing more than glorified report takers who only respond to violent crimes. Perhaps, they catch a few running away or by forensic evidence, but the violence was never prevented in the first place. So, is it then not also reasonable to presume that an increased presence of armed police officers in areas with high rates of violent crime would lead to more deadly police encounters? Given the disparity of violent crime to population percentage, I’m actually shocked that the disparity of deaths is not higher than 7%. I think that shows incredible restraint, yet the media continues to drum away.
If we ignore the facts or justify them away, we will never get to the root of the problem. We can’t just pick the facts that are convenient to our political viewpoints. We must acknowledge that there is a history of racism and conflict between the African American community and the police, when they were used as the arm of the government to fight social change during the Civil Rights Era. To some of the older members of the community, violent encounters conjure up memories of that era. They have often passed those fears and anger down to the next generation. I’ll never forget getting “flipped off” by a young child while on patrol in an African American community. That’s a learned behavior. Someone had to teach him that. Police need to learn to be more sensitive to the reasons behind the mistrust and act in a way to gain that trust while still enforcing the law.
When you’re told something often enough, you will likely begin believing it. Americans seem to have an aversion to independent thought and research. We have grown lazy and complacent as a culture. It’s easier to be spoonfed than take the time to look something up and verify it’s voracity. People still believe that Michael Brown had his hands up and his back to Darren Wilson when he was shot, even though four investigations, including one by the FBI and one by a black, activist prosecutor, who wanted to prove that the previous investigations were wrong, could not find fault with Wilson’s actions. An entire movement was founded with the chant, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” based on a lie. Anyone can look these things up, but no one wants to take the time, especially if it doesn’t match their paradigm of the world. We’ve entered an age of postmodernism and moral and epistemological relativism, where anything can be justified and everyone lives their own “truth.” Under this ideology, subscribed to by so many of the millennial generation, there are really no facts, no truths, other than what they dream them to be. How do you think they can justify more than two genders, even though biological facts state otherwise? This is only one of countless examples, but it is a dangerous slope.
When you combine editorialized media, the 24-7 brainwashing news cycle pumping other people’s ideas into your head, laziness, a lack of belief in God (over 26% of Americans have no religion), flexible facts and morals, you end up with modern day America. An American so fractured that it appears that we are on the verge of a modern-day Civil War. Even if is never results in large-scale violent battles, we are already seeing the effects. Friend and families are divided over the extreme far left and far right ideologies that prevail. I know friends and family members who will no longer speak to one another. We allow for leaders with no moral compass on both sides of the aisle. It has become a sign of weakness to compromise. Where there were once healing racial wounds, they have been split open again. We ridicule others for their beliefs and humiliate and bully them in public on social media if they refuse to adopt our beliefs. Forgiveness is a virtual unknows today. I see people wishing death upon our President, and I see others celebrating the death of a Supreme Court Justice.
Why is no one stopping and asking, “Is this what Jesus would have wanted for us?” “Is this how we want to be viewed on the world stage?” I’m frankly disgusted by the behavior of the American people. I’m almost embarrassed to be an American. When did we lose our way like this? How did we become so bitter and resentful? What happened to common courtesy, any courtesy? We have become a nation of selfish, angry, depressed, rude, and Godless people who have no shame. We are a national embarrassment, and I have to think God and the rest of the world just look on in horror. Let’s hope things change soon. I just turned 50 this year, and I’m not sure I can take this nastiness for long. I don’t need the stress, but I love my country. I hope that I can contribute in some small way to healing it. Christ asked us to love our neighbors as ourselves. He asked us to forgive like we’ve been forgiven. He asked us to love our enemies and pray for our leaders. We aren’t doing any of those things. If we are to find a way back to healing, we need to turn back to the Bible for guidance. It is a roadmap for success. It’s rules are set up as guardrails to keep us from going over the edge, but as a nation, we are removing the guardrails. Let’s hope we can get them re-installed before we plummet off a cliff.