Modern American Society

Modern American Society has been both praised and attacked. Both sides have validity, but exactly what is wrong (and right) with our society? The most common critique is that we are, well, fat. With obesity affecting 1 in 3 Americans, this is a valid assessment. However our weight is not our most important issue. If you’ve read George Orwell’s 1984, it is easy to see the many similarities between us and Oceana. The more surveillance technology advances, the more it can feel like Big Brother is watching.

Just about everybody is familiar with the Zimmerman trial, and while that has been going on the Manning trial has also been underway. However, unless you’re a member of Anonymous or spend as much time on the internet as I do, you more-than-likely are not familiar with this trial. Bradley Manning released the “Collateral Murder” video and a few other pieces of information and is supposedly the primary informant of Wiki-leaks. He has been charged with countless felonies, the most highest offense being aiding the enemy. This charge was recently dropped, but he is still in court for multiple other charges, some of which he confessed too. The information he leaked said a lot about what really goes on in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a very interesting case and definitely as controversial as the infamous Zimmerman trial, but the media has barely covered it, if at all. Why is this? It is obvious that some stories get prevalence over others, but the Manning trial has been almost kept entirely quiet. Is it possible that the Zimmerman trial has been getting such extensive media coverage to take away from the Manning case? It would make sense, because the information he leaked would be brought up and that information would cause a lot of questions. The video he released certainly would. On July 12th, 2007, two Apache helicopters with cannon fire killed about a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. Also, among the injured were two children. Among the dead were two Reuters news employees.  In the video, some of the men appear to possibly have been armed, but the general tone of the scene is relaxed and innocent. In the video, you here the people in the helicopter talking, and can even make out a chuckle as they kill. The video, along with the information he leaked would shed great light on what is really going on overseas. In 1984, the government alters the truth to suit it’s purposes. Now, modern America hasn’t gotten to that point yet, but it is obvious that certain information is not readily presented to the public, while other information is almost forced on them. Similar story goes for the Snowden trial. The media views him as a villain, but is he really? He leaked information about government surveillance that the average citizens previously had no knowledge of. I don’t know about you, but I like to know how much information my government has access to.

If you’ve seen Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine, you are at least familiar with the concept of fear and consumption. In 1990, there were 23,438 cases of murder/non-negligent manslaughter. In 2010, there were 14,013. The crime rate has gone down. However, although the crime rate has gone down,  the fear of crime has gone up. And through watching the news, I have noticed that murders and other crimes take priority opposed to a school winning an award, or other positive things like that. We hear all about things like Y2k or the Africanized bees, and school shooting always get one-hour specials, but if someone donates exorbitant amounts to charity, or does something heroic, they might get two minutes on the news. From this information, it’s easy to see that if you want to get famous fast, it’s better to kill a person (or many people) than to do something positive. This philosophy was applied to Harris and Klebold in Bowling for Columbine, and can be applied to other mass shootings that have happened since then. There is a reason for this trend, however. News channels have corporate sponsors. Let’s say, for example, that ADT sponsored a station. If this station covered numerous stories about home-invasion, murder or theft, this would help generate fear which might make people paranoid enough to buy one of these home-security systems, like ADT.  Or, for example, a channel was sponsored by a car insurance company like All-State or Amika. If this channel mentioned car accidents or robberies, it might make people think about their car insurance. Or, if they are sponsored by a discount store such as Target or Walmart, or even a bank advertising savings accounts, a good story about the economy would definitely make people think about their spending. Get the picture? Fear is one  of our most powerful emotions, and we are biologically programmed to avoid pain and seek pleasure.  American capitalism has used this to the advantage of corporations everywhere and the side effect is mass paranoia. The crime rate has been going down over the years, but gun sales on the other hand have been going up, and surveys show that most people (about 67%) have these guns for personal protection. In addition, home security system sales have been on the rise. The constant coverage of all the negative things in our world have turned us into a culture of fear, consumption and paranoia. A lot of people theorize that it is nice to know what type of crime is going on down the street, and it is understandable that people want to protect themselves to some degree. However, how many lives have been lost to ease our paranoia? If you look back to the Zimmerman trial, Trey Von Martin was killed because a middle-aged, large white guy was terrified of a scrawny black teenager who had no weapons. Trey Von Martin wasn’t killed “in self defense”; he was killed because of fear. The other side-effect is that serial killers become superstars over night. Thousands were outraged when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Boston Bombing suspect) appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, but is this outrage realistic? James Holmes got an hour long special for the movie theater shooting, and Charles Manson appeared on Time Magazine along with countless other famous killers. People try to say that “he shouldn’t be portrayed like a rock star like that”, but really they are in denial at our culture of glorifying killers. Even looking back to Columbine, America’s first school shooting, Harris and Klebold were on the covers on numerous magazines and had TV specials and even documentaries devoted to analyzing their motives. They got as much coverage as any one-hit-wonder would on old school MTV. Why is it any different from Tsarnaev on Rolling Stone? Anyone who stares engrossed in the news, hearing about people like Adam Lanza, James Holmes or the Tsarnaev brothers have no right to be upset when such people are shown as the rock stars we treat them as.

When tragedies such as Columbine, Newtown, or the Boston Bombings occur, we cry over the television specials and feel overwhelming sympathy for everyone involved. But why? The day of Columbine, President Bush fired more bombs overseas than any other point during the war. However, none of us shed a tear for those our people killed overseas that day. When the Tsarnaev brothers bombed the Boston Marathon, people cried and sympathized with every news report. However, when the president sends drone attacks overseas, if we even hear about it, most of us shrug it off. Overseas, drones attack schools, playgrounds and suburbia, and we never give it a thought if we even hear of it. However if any of those places were hit in America, the medial snake right in, capturing every teardrop so the masses can feel sympathy for the poor victims. Obama received his Nobel Prize in 2009, however he has killed and injured more men, women and children overseas then Manson, Tsarnaev, Lanza and Holmes did in this country combined. Why are the lives he took worth less? Now of course some of these people were “enemy troops” and probably did intend to do bad things. However is getting rid of them worth all the innocent lives lost? If Obama can get a peace prize for leading our country in constant war, then 1984 gets truer by the second with the philosophy “War is peace”. A lot of Americans can name at least one person injured in the Boston Bombings, but how many people have heard of the little girl Shakira? She was one year old when Obama received his Nobel prize, and later that year he ordered the drone attack that left her permanently disfigured. Or what about Muhammad Tariq? He was a 16-year old Pakistani anti-war protester, who was killed by a drone strike in late October, 2011. Is it really right that we only feel bad for people killed within us, and not those killed by us? Some see it even as arrogant that we must see our lives as worth more than those outside our borders. However, it is likely not the case. We don’t hear about the death count racked up by our troops, because if we did, maybe we wouldn’t be so ready to go into war.

It is easy to speculate just what is wrong with our country, but if you talk to protesters of our system, they usually can’t specify what a perfect America would be. In reality, is there really such thing as a “perfect” society? Is it truly possible to have security, liberty, complete freedom and peace? We can’t actually have it all. In books like The Giver or Fahrenheit 451, they attempt to create a perfect society by giving up freedom. However, it became evident that freedom is worth the security it may cost. America was founded on freedom, but we still find flaws in our system every day. Many Americans look towards places like Canada or England as examples of a better system, but people in those places have complaints too. While some find us inferior to places such as those, we are surely a better place to live than Iraq, Iran, or any other nation as such. While we are not the best country in the world (as some claim) we are by far not the worst as some make us out to be. Groups that oppose our society are constantly pointing out our problems, but never offering a true solution. They often think small, with things like gay marriage and marijuana. It is true that our society would be improved by the legalization of these things, but they would not fix our major problems. If we got rid of national surveillance, there would always be a group complaining about how we’d have no security. If we stopped media violence, or at least took murder off the news, people may get bored and corporations might complain. In a society, it is impossible to make everybody happy; so while America clearly could do better, it could also clearly do worse. modern america