ONE EPIDEMIC LEADS TO ANOTHER?

I often find that things happening out in the world will trigger a writer’s plotlines and characters. But sometimes they just get me to wondering.

For instance, I recently read that this country is suffering from an “epidemic of violence”. Well, I thought, that’s kind of silly — this has always been a violent country. Just read our novels and watch our movies. People in other places have long been appalled by our love affair with guns, our enjoyment of fisticuffs, our loud, oftentimes bloody political arguments.

It occurs to me that we do not now have an epidemic of violence. What we have here is an epidemic of arrogance.

Since the Revolutionary War Americans have taken pride in being citizens under a government where we can express opposition publicly without fear of reprisals. We’ve had heated elections and then accepted the results and moved on. Now and then we’ve had episodes of violence that made us shudder. We wrote them off as aberrations.

But what we have now is everyday arrogance.

We have the arrogance of people who use their personal unhappiness with an election as an excuse to mob our Senate Building, frightening those inside, even harming some, and then taking souvenirs and selfies in order to boast of it.

We have the arrogance of a teenager taking an AR-15 into another state to “protect” a demonstration that had nothing to do with him.

We have the arrogance of white citizens “arresting” and then killing a black man for daring to run through their neighborhood, and then insisting it was self-defense.

The arrogance of a policeman ignoring a screaming, pleading crowd while kneeling on a young man’s neck until he suffocates.

The arrogance of people who think nothing of using a vehicle as a weapon against a crowd of strangers. Or hunting down an errant spouse like a frightened deer or turning a gun on a neighbor.

We’ve always been a proud people and yes, at times an angry people. But when did pride and anger turn to arrogance?

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