In recent days, it has seemed that the United States of America is scarcely united. As a matter of fact, we’ve had the secession of city blocks in Seattle with the formation of CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone). What are the problems that we face? How did we get to have these problems? And how can we fix them? All important questions. I’ll try to answer them.
So, what are the problems we have today? That is the easiest question. Obviously, there is some racial division. That is proved by the nature of the riots that have racked the nation in recent weeks. But I think the problem is more cultural than racial. As I have been saying in recent weeks, the bigger difference is in culture, whether it comes from the educated and the uneducated, the rural and the urban, or from different cultural backgrounds, such as is the case with many recent illegal and legal immigrants. Some of these cultural differences are intertwined with the racial issues, but I don’t think that racism is a pandemic in America. Sure, there might be a few bad apples, but there are bound to be among 300 million people. These differences are not new. They have existed throughout time. If we look back in time to the sixties, we will see two competing leaders of the civil rights movement. There was Martin Luther King, Jr., who advocated that whites stop being racist, and that we should all work together to make a better country. Then there was Malcolm X, who, on his complicated journey, seemed to advocate violence and African nationalism. For many years the nation has followed Dr. King. The election of former President Obama was an excellent example of that. I think that today the riots are indicative of a return to the thoughts of Malcolm X.
As I said last week, I think the riots are more economic than racial in nature. There is some racial background, however, and the longer this continues, the closer to the forefront this will get. The media has been very sympathetic to the riots, and has made the racial aspects of it the biggest part. We are facing a powerful dilemma. Either we can crack down on the rioters, or we can let them go free. If we crack down on the rioters, then there will be outcry from all over the nation for alleged racism, and there will also be a terrible human cost. If we let them go free, then we send the message to our own nation and to nations abroad that America allows buildings burned in our streets. That can not end well. So, how do we get out of the dilemma? Both options seem to be leading to trouble. I would suggest that we are currently following the second option, as Minneapolis voted through a resolution to abolish the police department.
As a solution, I would offer up this. I think we need to let people integrate into society again. The Internet echo, where you can go to Twitter and find any opinion you want, was bad before people were locked inside. Now, people are quickly radicalized to whatever viewpoint they leaned towards before, as they spend their time with people who agree with them. People need to go back to work, meet their co-workers, and realize they are not vicious monsters. I still think the economy is the centerpiece.
So, how did we get to this menagerie of different cultures and ideas in one country? America has always been a “nation of immigrants.” This didn’t stop America from growing at an amazing pace from 1865-1965. For that century, no country grew at a faster rate than America did. What changed? During the original wave of immigration, when people came here, they left despotic monarchies in Europe. America was a place where anyone could succeed if they were smart and could be useful, because the U.S. had the lowest government involvement in the economy of any western nation. This encouraged the immigrants, already from similar cultures in Europe, to adopt an American identity. This was the pattern of success, combined with a skyrocketing population, from both immigrants and natural growth. This changed of late, as immigration has now become a requirement to keep the economy growing, and we now have immigration from culturally different places, such as Asia and Central America. These nations have now come in and affected our culture. Now America has gone from a growing nation to a shrinking, ageing nation, one that needs immigrants to keep the population up. This has fundamentally changed the idea of America.
The change has been largely regional. The difference between rural Iowa, Houston and San Francisco is amazing. Talk to people in California, as opposed to northern Texas, and you will find a huge difference. These people are far from working together. The nation is divided along many different seams. We have been for years, but recent events have brought everything to the forefront.
What makes a nation? Nations can be united by ideas, by ethnicity or by success. The Romans were neither one ethnicity nor one ideology. They were just so successful that the places they conquered wanted nothing more than to be citizens. Look at smaller European nations like Hungary or the former Yugoslav states, and you see nations united by ethnicity. The United States of the past was united by ideology. They are no longer, as we have seen in bitter partisan fighting. The United States is not an ethnic country, and never really was. Its success was put on hold with the COVID epidemic. We have to find a new way forward.
So, the big question, can America be a country? Can it be one, united country? I think the proper way to approach things is greater regional autonomy. I just don’t think the conservative Midwest and California should be governed under the same set of rules. If both populations overwhelmingly want to live a certain way, why should they be forced to live under the same set of rules? I think that greater state autonomy is the way to go. This can assist in our problems, as people can live in the state that follows the rules they want to live under. I don’t think that this has to lead to a break-up of the Union, but greater autonomy domestically while still being a united entity in foreign policy would benefit the United States, in my opinion. We’ve seen state autonomy work in recent days, with the individual states handling COVID in many different ways, each taking into account their own states with their policies. I also think we’ve seen the disbenefits as states fail to contain riots within their borders. It is my theory that with greater autonomy we will see greater happiness in the long run, as we can have peaceful competition of ideas for the country, rather than the violent upheaval we’ve seen. I think if we don’t have some levels of autonomy, these problems of division will grow, and I think the damage to the United States would be greater in the long term.