Deteriorations in Domestic Peace

We’re going to look back on this as a profoundly dark time in American history. The Institute for Economics and Peace just published its 2016 Global Peace Index report. The United States is charted alongside Saudi Arabia and Peru. (As the world’s largest producer of cocaine, Peru actually sees more homicides related to environmental activism than to its drug trade.)

These numbers are from data collected in 2015, so they don’t include the most recent surge of civil discord and public executions/assassinations.

People in my own hometown, who have never marched for anything, are holding a March for Solidarity tonight in response to the rash of shootings across the country. I’m actually afraid to go.

I was afraid at the G8 summit in 2012, when Chicago police stood alongside the protest route with their batons at the ready, held out in front of them so, together, they formed a human barricade. I made it through that, anxiety disorder and all, but then I got to the portion where the state police forced the route to narrow significantly so that protesters were all squished in together like sardines with nowhere to go. Nope, nope, nope. Staties are huge and reek of sadism. I walked over a mile out of the way to get to the end of the march rather than go through that.

Photos of officers clashing with protestors ran on every front page the next day. The press especially liked one of a local officer raising his baton amid a brawl, just about to bring it down, with an expression that appeared to be one of maniacal glee.

This one is my favorite. Look at this officer going to his happy place. Photo by Nina Berman

My fear of police is relatively benign. I fear them as I feared playground bullies. I’m aware that they could kill me but am almost positive they’ll restrain themselves before it gets to that point.

But maybe they won’t. There’s no recess monitor. There’s no one to be the voice of reason and pull the kids apart. There’s no reason for restraint and no consequence for indulgence.

The smallest misunderstanding could be the first sign of violence, and in a society so filled with misunderstanding – and misinformation and misguidance and misplaced rage – I fear entering a large crowd like the one that will be at the March for Solidarity.

Why? Because a childhood friend’s teenage sister was shot to death recently. A few days later, police arrested a couple of suspects, one of whom was 14 years old. A 14-year-old had a handgun. It’s alarming, but no one seems to be truly and deeply shocked by this. I’m not even that shocked, if I’m honest with myself.

In a society where a 14-year-old owns and uses a handgun, killing an innocent child, and no one is astonished, it is reasonable to fear one’s fellow humans regardless of who they appear to be.

A March of Solidarity should be a peaceful affair. But I have every reason to believe that it won’t be. I have every reason to believe that it could turn into a deadly event.

The Global Peace Index report is 127 pages long. It gives the impression that while homicides and crime rates in the United States remain relatively stable, militarization increases are some of the greatest in the world. The Institute for Economics and Peace points out that this leads to decreased internal and external peace, as well as an increase in perceived criminality and domestic terror organizations. In short, we’re fueling a deep-seated cultural mistrust of our government (both local and federal) and of each other.

The Institute’s projections for future global violence are not encouraging. Deaths caused by terrorism have more than doubled in the past eight years. If you look at the Institute’s map, it looks just like one tracking an epidemic. We’re wandering right into the middle of that epidemic and we’re not protecting ourselves at all.

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