Tuesday, 20 December 2016 00:00




Given the launch of SP News at the beginning of the new year and after consultation with (being ordered by) my dear editor, we decided to begin this series of columns with everyone’s favorite journalistic guilty pleasure format: “The Top Stories of 2016.”

In this case, it is the top stories of 2016 but with insights and twists which our readers might not have encountered in other similar pieces. With that said, let’s begin this new year with a look at what was an extraordinary year by any standard.  



There is death - graceful, dignified, in peace, surrounded by loved ones. And then there is death - disgraceful, undignified, crazy, cardiac-arrest-naked-on-the-toilet kind of death.

The American mainstream media - television, newspapers, magazines - showed their real lying, sycophant, arrogant selves in 2016. This was particularly evident in three major stories: the presidential elections, the Syrian war and the Louisiana floods. I could add the police killings of young black men, the Flint water scandal, the Dakota pipeline story and all the others on our list as evidence, but these three are enough to make the point.

By “death” I do not mean that the mainstream media no longer exists, or that it has somehow disappeared or dissolved. By death I mean that it no longer has any credibility - not even with the so-called “dumb masses.” Nobody believes it anymore. Nobody listens to it anymore. For the mainstream media, this is death.

The important point is that this disgraceful death is the mainstream media’s, which includes the owners, editors, writers, presenters, experts, own fault. They lied, they behaved like sycophants and most importantly they could no longer hide their arrogant, visceral dislike of the “dumb masses.”    

In the America of the early 21st century, the America of the very rich and the America of the very poor with nearly nothing in-between, they clearly showed their allegiance to the very rich outdoing each other in displays of sycophancy for the system of oligarchy that owns the news organizations that employ them and that owns the candidates that seek office. Or like some, they themselves are millionaires or even billionaire/celebrity/news anchors and scions of oligarchs with multi-million dollar homes in exotic locations. This makes “connecting with normal people” a bit problematic.

The billionaire oligarch who himself ran for office without needing “them” - neither the mainstream media to give him name recognition nor other billionaire oligarchs to finance him - “messed up” the whole racket.

You see, the mainstream media’s job in post-Vietnam America is to tell the “dumb masses” what to think and more importantly, what to feel, especially and particularly at election time and as it relates to foreign wars. The mainstream media are supposed to make you feel good about neoconservative globalism (mass murder of foreigners) and domestic neoliberalism (oligarchy in the US where none of us will ever be the oligarch).

This worked fine from the Reagan administration until the Obama administration, but you can only continue a lie for so long. In other words the essence, the substance of neoconservatism globally is essentially a lie, it does not conform to truth. The same goes for the substance of neoliberalism- “Wall Street liberalism”- domestically.

Domestically, the mainstream media tried to get Hillary elected at any cost and with total disregard of any journalistic ethics. I remember thinking to myself during the televised debates that if Hillary’s head began spinning continuously 360 degrees, and she began speaking in tongues while her eyeballs rolled back into her skull, and then she started spewing blood on the lectern, CNN would have still called the debate in favor of Hillary.  

Globally in the Syrian war, the mainstream media became the knowing aiders and abettors of al-Qaeda, DAESH, Saudi Arabia and NATO intelligence services who were committing the most disgusting war crimes and crimes against humanity. They lied, misinformed, disinformed, created false videos, created false sources, purposely gave information out of context - in a word - propaganda at its worst and most shameful, with skills they honed during the Iraq war which was based on “fake news.”

Speaking of which, they told all these lies while the “dumb masses” had access to “real news” - funny how that sounds, through non-mainstream media, you know what these media criminals are now calling “fake news.” The mainstream media’s rigged monopoly on news, its iron-fisted occupation of news, was broken. In addition to all this real/fake news, the candidate of the Republican Party was calling the mainstream media out on their lies at every opportunity, particularly as it relates to the lies about the Syrian war and American complicity with DAESH there. This alone is a noteworthy moral and civic achievement by Donald Trump and his campaign for which they should be duly praised.

To these two stories, let’s add the absolutely disgraceful lack of coverage of the Louisiana floods by the mainstream media. Well, if you don’t want to tell the truth about some folks in a war thousands of miles away that’s one thing, but what about in your own country? Let me say it very clearly: When the mainstream media reports overwhelmingly more about a few hundred homes threatened by wildfires in California than about over a hundred thousand homes engulfed by floods in Louisiana at the same time, it is telling you which one of the two it truly cares about. The “deplorables” and “irredeemables” got the disgraceful message loud and clear.

Michael Moore said during the election that voting for Donald Trump would be the biggest eff-you have ever given to elites. If this is true than at least half of that outstretched middle-finger is directly pointed towards the disgraceful mainstream media, rather the media war criminals, the walking dead, zombie mainstream media, who have the blood of Syrian children and Louisiana senior citizens on their hands.  


Beyond the person himself and as alluded to earlier, Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential elections is significant because it is a victory of what we can call “American nationalism” over neoconservatism and neoliberalism.

This two-headed neo-neo beast, this hellish conjoined twin, was, and unfortunately remains, the dominant view of nearly all American governmental elites since the end of the Cold War. Actually, the Bill Clinton presidency and the “New Democrats” was about getting the Democratic party into lock-step with this monster, similar to the Tony Blair and “New Labour” horror show in Britain.

Interestingly the very first social-democratic, left, labor party to undergo this transformation in the west was the old, venerable Socialist Party of Austria which in the late-1980’s went down this path during the chancellorship of ex-banker Franz Vranitzky. This is relevant because the reaction of the socially conservative relatively poorer working class Austrians who were the base of the socialist party, was to immediately start voting for a nationalist called Joerg Haider and his Freedom Party, a party that advocated strict immigration control and political and economic nationalism over pan-Europeanism and economic globalism. Sound familiar? It sure does to folks in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.

This was in the late 1980s mind you, but what’s more interesting is that years later when Joerg Haider, who enjoyed a mild personality cult among his voters, began turning socially and economically liberal as governor of the province of Carinthia (the neighbor of the new First Lady’s native Slovenia), the party and more importantly the voters on the national level rejected him and he was driven out of his own party.

Yes, the neoconservative and neoliberal viruses are trying to infect the Trump administration, because it is the nature of filthy, dirty viruses to do so, and so probably the biggest challenge for Trump will be to avoid being infected by them the way the Democratic Party was. We will be watching.    


Some might ask, why are you rubbing salt into the wound, why is this a separate story? Isn’t this what you said before just with different words?

First, let me say that Hillary, her campaign and these no-good warmongering Wall Street liberals deserve to have salt rubbed into their wounds, and much more! Don’t get me started.

Second, they might say, well she won the popular vote, it’s not a defeat defeat! Well, let’s see. If Hillary had won the electoral college vote and Trump the popular vote, would they be saying the same thing? Probably not. Okay, so we can move on from this one now, right?  

Third, this defeat is itself a separate story because of the sheer arrogance and totally unjustified assumption displayed by this bunch that this election would be a coronation for Hillary. How dare anybody seriously challenge the Queen! As they say, “when you assume, you make an…”

Also let us not forget the totally undemocratic methods of the Democratic Party in creating this fantasy creature called “super-delegate”- without whom maybe (well more than just maybe) the Democratic candidate would have been Bernie Sanders. Maybe Sanders would have then nominated Iraq war veteran Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii as VP candidate. So let’s see, Sanders/Gabbard versus Trump/Pence in the general elections - now that would have been a good one! How do you think that would have played out in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin?  

Honestly, those dumb celebrity Hillary sycophants who condescendingly spoke down to Sanders supporters after the Hillary anointment, as punishment, they should have their shows suspended for a year or two and then be forced to watch Jeff Foxworthy and re-runs of Duck Dynasty while gagged, bound and dressed as Guantanamo prisoners (waterboarding included) which you know, isn’t “technically” torture. For the “deplorables” there is a bus load of top-notch jokes in all this, all at the expense of these glorified clowns with television shows.  

Of course the most stupid of all of them in this whole story is none other than Bernie Sanders himself. And you can add Michael Moore to that as well. Wait, hear me out! So let’s be clear about what happened, you spend a lifetime and an incredible campaign successfully beating the life out of warmongering, Wall Street liberalism (a major accomplishment) and then after they steal the nomination from you, you endorse warmongering, Wall Street liberalism! Why? This is textbook stupid! Let me say it in a different way: On the economic matters which are the heart and soul of Sanders’ political life, Trump is actually better than Hillary! Let that one sink in slowly.

But unfortunately the matter is worse than this. What people like Sanders and Michael Moore have done (either knowingly but more likely as patsies) is offer honest, well-meaning, idealistic young people who otherwise might have thrown these warmongering, neoconservative Wall Street liberal scum into the Hudson river years ago, a “faux-socialism,” a chic, safe-for-the-oligarchy socialism and thus, let us be generous and say unwittingly, make sure that no serious challenge to the warmongering, Wall Street liberalism of the Clintons and Barack Obama could ever emerge. The best case is that they are dumb patsies.

And so the normal working class folks vote for Trump, including Michael Moore’s cousins in Michigan. Well, good for them with the likes of Sanders and Moore “defending” the working class and blowing historical opportunities such the one that was given to Bernie Sanders this year.           


I mentioned some points about the Syria war earlier which can put this discussion in context so I won’t repeat them here. There are some very important points as to why the liberation of Aleppo is a top story of 2016. And let me say more: The liberation of Aleppo is one the most important events and turning points of contemporary human history. That’s right, it is major.

First let us emphasize the word liberation. Yes , “liberation”, not “conquest,” “re-conquest,” “occupation,” “fall” or any other deceitful euphemism. Aleppo was liberated in the full meaning of the word. Ask the local Christians who are openly and happily celebrating Christmas this year, after years of not being able to, if you don’t get it. Merry Christmas indeed.

From whom? By whom?

Aleppo was liberated from the vicious, inhumane, brutal occupation of an axis consisting of DAESH, al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia (Wahhabi tafkiris), Turkey (confused), Qatar (whatever will guarantee the survival of the Emir), Israel (Zionists), the United States of America, France, and the United Kingdom (warmongering neoconservative liberals).

By whom? Aleppo was liberated by an alliance consisting of Syrian government forces (Arab nationalists), Russia (Russian nationalists), Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah and associated Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani volunteer militias (Shia Islamists).

So an axis of Wahhabi takfiris, Zionists, and western warmongering neocon liberal governments occupied Aleppo for years and this occupation came to an end when an alliance of Arab and Russian nationalists and Shia Islamists liberated the city? I’m purposely spelling the matter out clearly just so we are clear about the facts which the mainstream media war criminals don’t tell us.

The issue is so big that the President-elect of the United States repeatedly and very clearly sided with the Russians on this matter during the elections, against the incumbent administration, and still managed to win the elections. Something really strange is going on here! What is it?

What’s going on is that there is a country in the Islamic world which has established a model of governance which successfully allows it to be a modern-nation state - with all the material and moral consequences this entails - without having to get rid of its religion and traditional culture. This country is called the Islamic Republic of Iran. This successful model, despite the shortcomings that exist in Iran, like in any other country, is juxtaposed to the Saudi-takfiri model, the Turkish-Ikhwan model and the Zionist-apartheid model in Israel. These are the options that exist for folks in the region. You can guess which one looks most attractive to folks in the region.

Yes I know, you will be shouting, but what about the young Iranians who don’t like the system there? Answer: It’s all relative to the real existing alternatives, and the alternatives look really bad, including immigrating to Europe, the US or Australia which is actually not a real option for most inside Iran.  

And if we forget about the youth for a moment and we ask any official in any country – any - who they would be rather dealing with - the Saudis, Turks, Israeli or the Iranians - again the overwhelming answer would be Iran. In other words, the future of the region and the Islamic world is Iran and the others in their current form are “on the wrong side of history.”

Now guess which side of history the United States of America is on as displayed so clearly for all to see in the Syrian war? Now guess which side the Russians are on?

I know all this goes against the indoctrination we get in the US - in school, in universities, in the media and from so-called experts. In sum, America is blowing it big-time in the Middle East and the Islamic world and has been since 9/11.

This reality showed itself clearly during the Syrian war and culminated in America and its allies’ dismal defeat in the battle of Aleppo. The basic problem is that even if American officials decided to strategically abandon Saudi Arabia and Israel in favor of Iran and Russia they couldn’t politically. Yes, Trump has said some truths about Saudi Arabia and in the beginning he even dared to hint at some matters regarding Israel. But in the case of Israel, he was quickly brought back in line and well anyway, how would the atmosphere be the next time the in-laws came for dinner if he dogs Israel too much, right?

On Saudi Arabia, the talk is still tough but as a businessman he understands that credit-ratings, liquidity of financial markets, dollar stability and the all-important arms industry need Saudi Arabia more than Saudi Arabia needs them. Not to mention Saudi financing and human resources for America black ops in various regions of the world, particularly in the Islamic world that shall not be reported to Congress through the legally mandated budgeting process. It’s a very dark and evil thing this relationship, which even Trump probably can’t end.

In the case of Russia, well you can see the open warfare between Trump and the establishment that’s going on at the moment.

So after the liberation of Aleppo, Iran and Russia will go from strength to strength and America will not because of the near-total corruption of its domestic political and intelligence system by Saudi and Israeli forces and the Russophobia that is an essential part of the DNA of the American national security caste.


A storm dumps three times as much rain on Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina, close to 200,000 homes and millions of people are engulfed by flooding, a dozen dead and the mainstream media spend more time reporting about wildfires that threaten a few hundred homes in wealthy California suburbs.

President Obama visits, but not before completing his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. Hillary Clinton doesn’t visit in the middle of an election raising questions about her humanity, Mike Pence and Donald Trump visit (let’s be cynical and say because of the elections). For many people, this is where Hillary morally lost the elections.


The Dallas shooting is important because it ties together global and domestic matters in a way that might not be apparent at first glance.

A young African-American veteran of the so-called “War on Terror” starts picking off police officers in Dallas in such an expert fashion that police initially think they are dealing with three shooters.

The motives of the shooter are related to a wave of police killings of young black men across the country and the lack of legal punishment for the majority of the police officers involved. More than that, after returning from the war, he witnesses a militarized police force perceived as occupiers by many in his community, using techniques he was taught and technology he used as an occupying force in Afghanistan against terrorists.

In the end and for the first time in US history, he was “neutralized” by a police robot that was initially developed for the military to use in the war of terror against terrorists.

If we flashback to the 1940s, we see that one of the roots of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was African-American WWII veterans returning home to Jim Crow and American apartheid. Right now, it’s not exactly clear to me what will happen in our time, but something is definitely going on here.  


The closeted gay son of a former Afghan army colonel who was a CIA asset in America’s endless Afghanistan wars now living a suburban life in the US, enters a gay nightclub and shoots dozens of patrons, some of whom he had relations with previously, committing the largest terrorist attack in the US since 9/11. Wow, so many places that one could start on this one, but my guess is that Americans are no longer intellectually and spiritually capable of processing and understanding such complicated and twisted tales any more. Maybe that’s the real story here.


The Flint water scandal is the story of total post-industrial urban decay in America. In the US, when one region is done feeding the insatiable beast of profits, it is discarded like used toilet paper and the beast moves on to another frontier.

The city that was once the desired place to live and work for millions from around the US and the world as a center of industry and progress is today poisoning its children with lead-infested water. Again, remember Michael Moore’s cousins - actual and proverbial - who voted for Trump are locals.

Silicon Valley, take note.


Evil oil companies with the help of corrupt local politicians, the feds and the Army Corps of Engineers want to build an oil pipeline over pristine sacred Native American grounds. A left-progressive’s wet-dream!

This, and other cases like it, always goes back to the issue of tribal sovereignty.   The problem is and will always be that white progressive limousine liberals just can’t get themselves to support full tribal sovereignty because in the end they really love a powerful, central federal government, especially when the President is black and/or a liberal woman, who will “guide” the nation and world towards the equivalent of paradise on earth. It’s a sad tale and one can get a sense of it when one remembers that the late Russell Means ended up supporting the Libertarian party and abandoning the progressives and liberals because of these things.

In the end it is very unlikely that these United States will readjust the path of their sacred oil pipeline or cede the lands in the Dakotas under which the next holy oil boom lies and which will be the next fodder of the idol-beast of profits, to its real owners. It has never happened and they will be damned if it ever will!



Published in Politics
Sunday, 01 January 2017 00:00

2016 in Review

Published in Videos
Tuesday, 10 January 2017 00:00

2016 Year in Review (Social)

2016 was another challenging year for African Americans and Muslims. From the increase in black girls getting suspended from school, to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, to President Obama visiting his first American masjid at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, to the charter school controversy, to the rapid rise in hate events against blacks and Muslims, many are welcoming the end to 2016 and bracing for an even more challenging 2017.


Black Girls and School


Growing numbers of black children from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade are finding it harder and harder to get a quality education because they get suspended or expelled in disproportionate numbers, especially girls, and especially in the south.


“Far too many students across the country find themselves suspended, expelled, or involved with the criminal justice system for misbehaviors that occur during school,” explained Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) in the executive summary of a new report by the Penn Graduate School of Education (PGSE).


“Making all of this worse is the fact that these punishments are not applied equally. From the data available, we know that black students are disproportionately suspended, expelled, and referred to the criminal justice system by schools. The overuse of these punishments and their disproportionate use on students of color are serious problems that we have to address right now.”


President Obama’s Mixed Review Visit


President Obama’s first visit to a mosque, February 3, was condemned by critics who questioned the choice of the Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB), seen by some as linked to terrorism and Muslims who felt it as a slap in the face considering the countless numbers of drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia that have killed innocent Muslims.


However his supporters were impressed with his words of support for Islam and the rights of Muslims to live in America without fear.


“And so if we’re serious about freedom of religion -- and I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country -- we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths.  And when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up.  And we have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias, and targets people because of religion,” said the president.


The hashtag #toolateObama was all over social media. @AfrixaAF wrote, “Years of surveillance, drone strikes an negligence and a visit to a Masjid is supposed to mean what? Fix what?” (There is something missing after drone strikes. - SR)


@DarakshanRaja wrote, “This entire speech was paternalistic to Muslims. It belittled our pain, the collective punishment we face.”


What About the Children of Flint?


Flint, Michigan's water crisis placed thousands of children at risk. There is no cure for lead-based poisoning. "Increasing evidence shows that there is no safe blood lead level and that lead disproportionately impacts low-income children. Lead has been linked to decreased IQ and an increased likelihood of ADHD, delinquent behaviors, total arrests, and increased rates of arrests involving violent offenses,” said pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha.


“There are other adverse effects on health attributable to lead exposure, including but not limited to hematological, cardiovascular, immunological, and endocrine.”


2016 began with many students, who were forced to go before school to go get water for their family. They trudged through the snow and bad weather to get free water from the numerous donation sites around the city.


Then they went to school.


“The Flint Community Schools will need additional support in the form of expanded special education resources. We need lead-free facilities for all students so time can be spent on what matters most – teaching and learning. We need resources to measure the intellectual and emotional damage done to each, and possibly every child. This will require complete testing – both medical and intellectual assessment – to understand the magnitude of our issues,” explained Superintendent Bilal Kareem Tawwah, of the Flint School District.


“We need early intervention programs to provide the educational support so that each student will have the opportunity to lead a productive life, and year-round schooling to deliver these services. We need the resources to attract and retain talented specialists who are trained in

special learning needs.”


Charter School Controversy


The Movement for Black Lives and the NAACP, who have long expressed concern about charter schools, recently called for a moratorium on the expansion of privately managed charter schools.


“The NAACP is not anti charter as a policy,” explained Rodney Muhammad, president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the NAACP . “But we want to put the brakes on opening new schools. We’ve found that charter schools’ suspension rates are higher and some of their expulsions are more. In Philadelphia now that we have a monitoring system, we’ve found that charters are not performing better than public schools.”


“Everyone that opens a charter, are they really qualified to run a school? We have hedge fund managers applying for charters. They quadrupled the amount they want for administration. They profit off the backs of black children. They get $6-$7 million a year to run a school. There are very good charter schools in Philadelphia but a lot of them are performing poorly.”


The resolution, voted on during their annual convention won’t become final until an NAACP Board vote in the fall, includes the following language:


“Charter schools have contributed to the increased segregation rather than diverse integration of our public school system.”


“Weak oversight of charter schools puts students and communities at risk of harm, public funds at risk of being wasted, and further erodes local control of public education.”


“Researchers have warned that charter school expansions in low-income communities mirror predatory lending practices that led to the sub-prime mortgage disaster, putting schools and communities impacted by these practices at great risk of loss and harm…”


Calls for a moratorium from two widely known and supported organizations have drawn a line in the sand about school choice. Dr. Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., was quick to respond.


“The NAACP isn’t even considering what’s best for black children. If they were considering what’s best for black children the first thing they would be doing is getting black children out of the schools that lead to the prison pipeline. Over 90% of black children are attending traditional schools that have failed since they opened to educate black children. So much so that the venerable NAACP came to prominence in large part due to its efforts to get black children out of those schools,” he explained.


“The teachers' union has thrown a couple of dollars at them and it isn’t even real money. They literally take on the teacher’s union perspective. The teacher’s union which by the way is over 90% white and overwhelmingly female. They take on a suburban white female platform at the expense of black, Latino and poor children of all colors. The second thing is the data is so clear that black children in general and black males in particular are doing better in charter schools in particular and school choice in general.”


Hate’s on the Rise


Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is calling for the termination of a 67-year-old Department of Labor employee from Brooklyn accused of verbally assaulting a Muslim woman December 5, yanking her hijab off and throwing it to the ground.


"This was an act of hate against the Islamic faith, as well as an attack on her as a woman," Mayor Baraka explained. "In the present climate of violence against Muslims across America and around the world, hate crimes must be recognized for what they are and they must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”


As 2016 comes to an end, this is just the latest in an increase of incidents ignited by hate that continue to soar across the country on almost a daily basis with blacks and Muslims as the primary targets according to FBI statistics.


“This is a reflection of where America has always been,” political scientist and Sirrius XM Radio host, Dr. Wilmer Leon told The Final Call. “After the election of Donald Trump, people feel more empowered to express their hatred and xenophobia. America has always had deep seated hatred. It tends to ebb and flow with a downturn in the economy and threats from abroad.”


“Usually when the US is vanquishing its opponents things are more stable. Since the illegal invasion of Iraq, instability of the Middle East and the assassination of Ghaddafi, it's only getting worst. One of the consistent things his supporters say is, ‘He’s saying exactly what I think but have been afraid to say.' Donald Trump’s election is evidence they are. Looking at his cabinet selections, we’re in for a very, very ugly time.”


He added, “Compound everything I’ve said with his ability to nominate two to three Supreme Court justices. He will have Supreme Court back up to what he does. It’s not about the writing of the law but the interpretation of the law which is what the Supreme Court does.”


2016 promises to be a record year for hate with 2015 not far behind according to the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics Report of 2015, the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s latest compilation about bias-motivated incidents throughout the nation.


In 2015, law enforcement agencies submitted incident reports involving 5,850 criminal incidents, a 6.8% increase from the 5,479 incidents reported in 2014, and 6,885 related offenses as being motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity in 2015.


The report revealed 5,818 single-bias incidents involving 7,121 victims. A percent distribution of victims by bias type showed that 59.2 percent of victims were targeted because of the offenders’ race/ethnicity/ancestry bias, 19.7 percent were targeted because of the offenders’ religious bias, and 17.7 percent were victimized because of the offenders’ sexual-orientation bias.



Rethinking School Discipline for Black Girls




President Obama’s Masjid Visit Gets Mixed Reviews




Flint Water Crisis




Charter School Controversy




Rise in Hate Crimes




Published in Culture

When looking over the newsworthy events that took place in the United States throughout 2016, a common thread ties many of them together. So many major events illustrate a real failure of the powers that be to solve problems.


And these problems are not new. The epidemic of opiate addiction has been brewing since the 1990s when American doctors, incentivized by medical drug manufacturers, began over-prescribing pain killers. The crisis intensified when the US invasion of Afghanistan unleashed the country's poppy growers, flooding the market, and driving the price down. Now, cheap heroin is everywhere and people are dying. In 2015, more Americans died from drug overdose than from gun violence, another problem plaguing America. As 2016 comes to a close, the numbers of drug-related deaths are still rising.


The Pulse nightclub shooting broke records in 2016 for America's ongoing problem of gun violence. Mass shootings, in which deranged individuals with guns begin slaughtering people, have become a regular occurrence in recent years. Many times President Barack Obama has appeared on television to comfort a grieving nation and call for tighter gun control. The present order is unable to adequately address the issue, and the shootings continue.


Guns, Racism & Discontent


One could say that problems related to race are almost a built-in problem for the United States, which defined African enslaved persons as 3/5 of a human being in its Constitution. Since the end of slavery, after a bloody civil war, there have been endless protests, tensions, and controversies, both violent and peaceful, related to racial questions. The death of Muhammad Ali, the world heavyweight boxing champion who had aligned himself with Black nationalism and converted to Islam during the 1960s, gave the country a moment to reflect on the long history of racial strife.


2016 is the final year of the presidency of Barack Obama. His presidency began with so much optimism about a "post racial society" and the belief that this age-old source of disagreement on the American continent could be finally resolved with a dark skinned man as commander in chief. This final year of Obama's presidency is notable for illustrating how one blatantly unfulfilled these expectations.


Protests swept Charlotte, North Carolina in response to the killing of Keith Lamont Scott by police. The country nervously watched as unrest swept yet another city, with fresh memories of the violence that swept Baltimore and Ferguson in the previous year.


In addition to the thousands of peaceful protests, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Dallas, Texas, police officers were shot and killed by individuals who were angry about the documented wave of unpunished police brutality. After these shootings, many mostly white Americans, who had been almost silent during the continuous wave of "Black Lives Matter" protests, expressed sympathy for police. A huge gap in public opinion became very apparent.


The isolated, violent individuals who were outraged by police brutality were certainly not the only Americans to express their political views with firearms. The year of 2016 began with the seizure of federal property from January 2nd to February 11th by "sovereign citizens" and right-wing militia organizations in Oregon. A shootout with the FBI and state police eventually ensued. One of the armed militants was killed, and 27 were arrested. Gun-toting, right-wing organizations that talk of "constitutional liberties" and opposing the federal government are notably present across the US.


A Twist in American Politics


The 2016 presidential election, much like the increase of protests and political gun battles, revealed how divided, and desperate the country is. Bernie Sanders, a US senator from Vermont who describes himself as a "socialist," long a forbidden term in Americana, was welcomed onto the national political stage. 


Millions of Americans voted for Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary. Leaked emails showed that the Democratic National Committee was working behind the scenes to ensure his defeat, and secure the nomination for longtime party power broker Hillary Clinton. The revelations showed a kind of cynical and dishonest internal atmosphere at the top of the Democratic Party, and therefore disillusioned many activists.


Sanders' challenge within the Democratic Party seemed mild compared to Trump's complete shake-up of the Republican Party. Donald Trump, a New York City real estate tycoon and billionaire, who declared his candidacy was at first treated almost as a joke, but ultimately won the election.


Trump's campaign used crass language, demonized Muslims and immigrant workers, opposed international trade deals, and criticized the failures of US military interventions. With slogans like, "America First" and "Make America Great Again," Trump won the electoral college vote, despite proof of a solid majority of voters favoring Clinton.


Neither Trump nor Sanders were, in reality, a very big departure from the American political status quo. Sanders talk of socialism was not a call for a centrally-planned economy, but just for some European-style welfare state reforms. Trump's nationalism and derogatory words for certain demographics is a far cry from fascism or Nazism. The sudden, unpredicted success of both political mavericks was based on an extreme dissatisfaction and a longing for "an outsider."


"You're on Your Own"


American political discourse has long been defined by liberalism. The ideals of the European enlightenment, expressed by John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and others, and applied by Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton put the individual above all else. In a repudiation of feudalism, the revolutionaries of 1776 embraced "freedom" as the true value of America.


In economic terms, this has meant unrestricted capitalism. Unlike most western countries, the US government does not provide public healthcare to its citizens. American college students, even those who attend public universities, must pay for their education, and millions remain in debt for decades. Employment is not guaranteed, and social services for low-income families are limited. 


The American economic mantra is "personal responsibility," i.e. "you're on your own." While the US has the richest of the rich, measurements of basic societal health show that many get left behind. The rates of infant mortality, life expectancy, and poverty are statistically much worse than other western industrialized countries.


In social terms, American liberalism has meant an ever increasing break down of traditional structures. Religion is considered to be a personal matter, and government institutions are forbidden from expressing faith or invoking divine authority. The US Supreme Court has declared same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. Now debates about whether or not bathrooms in elementary schools should be gender segregated have erupted across America.


The ideology of liberalism, which has escalated over the course of American history, prescribes for the citizen to be like Thomas Jefferson's ideal "yoeman'; alone, unmolested and unattached to others, free to "pursue happiness" on his own, with no obligation to society, to his family, to God, or to anyone else. 


However, as the crisis of racial tension illustrates, "No man is an island." Americans can watch the exact same video recordings, yet a majority of whites will defend the police, while African Americans will see brutality. Despite the obsessive individualism, Americans still identify themselves with groups they consider to be similar to themselves, and thus view the world accordingly.


Group identification is natural, and people have always had a collective nature. The entire history of humanity consists of humans cooperating, working together, agreeing on rules and expectations, and in the process, advancing civilization toward greater heights.


Liberalism & The American Dream


A severe lack of collective identity is very apparent in present day America. Items considered to be "public property" are in severe decay. The system of public transportation in Washington DC made national headlines when it shut down for a single day because of continued accidents, which had resulted in injuries and a single fatality. Throughout 2016, accidents plagued the Amtrak public train system, which like DC transit system, also faces a lack of funding. During the 2016 academic year, millions of children have been left without schools to attend, as their for-profit charter schools, run by corporations, which have replaced public schools in many cities, have closed down mid-semester.


In the states that ultimately secured Trump's victory (Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) one can find numerous neighborhoods that were once prosperous, now filled with empty, foreclosed homes. The factories that once employed millions of American industrial workers have closed their doors. The jobs that have replaced them offer much lower pay, to a generation which is unlikely to see the once lauded "American dream" of middle class prosperity. 


Suicide rates across the United States are rising, as are cases of mental illness. Polls show that Americans increasingly find a lack of meaning and purpose in their lives, as their TVs and iPhones push them to purchase more and more, and live in pursuit of short-term pleasures. Economic security is also in question, as employment is far more short term for young workers, while the cost of housing and other living expenses are rising.


The changing political stage and rising instability shows a desperation on the part millions who are dissatisfied. The widely acknowledged problems facing the country are simply not being addressed. 


As Trump is sworn in at the beginning of 2017, the attempts to resolve the escalating crisis will continue. The search for answers outside of standard political discourse is likely to continue as well. 


Published in Politics
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