Dark days in America. What’s next?

Do you even remember how this week began? Do you remember that we are still in the middle of a deadly pandemic that killed more than 100,000 people in America?

What has happened in the last few days is scary, infuriating and sad. It blurred that happened before earlier this week or almost many events that occurred. A black man was arrested by four police officers in Minnesota and brutally killed after one officer put his knee on the victim’s throat for a few minutes. The offender, ironically a police officer in this case, continued his act even after George Floyd repeatedly pled for air. He died at a hospital shortly after. The whole episode was filmed by a few folks that happened to be at the scene and were kind and brave enough to ask the four policemen to stop. It sparked anger and riots across the country that called for justice for the victim. Violence took place. Destruction of properties happened. Police intervened. Politicians voiced opinions and of course, the President poured gas on the fire with his controversial tweets. The whole country is in chaos and suddenly, arguably the worst pandemic ever seems to take a back seat in people’s mind.

As I have been following coverage on this tragedy and the aftermath, I feel sad, angry, scared and worried about what comes next for America. The country is increasingly deep into chaos. The problems that America faces seem impossible to overcome. Let’s go over a few

  • The government is in disarray. The two parties are more willing to win at all cost than to do what’s best for the country. The current administration rolled back a lot of regulations that the previous one put in place. The next administration, if from the opposite party, will install back what was removed. The cylce may continue on
  • There is no longer a uniting, calm and compassionate leadership at the helm. Whenever the current leader gets involved in an issue, things tend to take a turn for worse
  • The trust in authorities is seriously eroded. Scandals, misinformation, corruption, cover-up, violence, ineffective policies, unkept promises
  • Courts seem to be politicized
  • Racism is still alive and well in America. What happened with George Floyd is just one of a few that were caught on camera. It’s 2020 and we still are having to deal with this
  • High unemployment rate amid a pandemic that doesn’t seem to end soon
  • Voter suppression
  • Income inequality

Those are just a few significant challenges that US faces. Can you imagine even with the new leadership and Congress things will change? Can you imagine the divisiveness that we have right now will be lessened with a new administration? Can you imagine racism will go away when it hasn’t after decades? Can you imagine the trust in authorities will be regained soon?

What’s next for America? I think about this a lot because this is where I intended to reside for a while in the future. While China is still growing as an economy and a global power with a less democratic yet effective and stable leadership, America has too many structural challenges to deal with. Do a quick research and you can see America’s standing in the world also slipped over the past 3 years. The anti-immigrant policies make America less attractive to foreign talents. A couple of my friends who wanted to do PhD in the US already ruled out coming here. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to study here any more.

Perhaps, I am being pessimistic. But if right in the middle of the worst pandemic the social and political issues can dominate everyone’s mind, and we know that given enough time (a few weeks) there will be a bigger scandal, what’s the future looking like for the country? I hope I am wrong, but I don’t see too bright a near future

A word on the fight between the President and social media

It started when the President sent out a tweet about mail-in ballots. Twitter put a note below the tweet to suggest other content to fact-check what the President put out there. Trump took issues with it.

He then sent out a tweet on the debacle in Minnesota with language that seemed to call for violence. Twitter warned users of the content, but didn’t take down the tweet (see below)

Trump, his fanbase and allies accuse the company of violating First Amendment Right and censoring him. He was supported by Mark Zuckerberg, who disagreed with Twitter’s approach. Trump signed an Executive Order to curb protection for platforms like Twitter.

Now, I won’t get into the debate whether First Amendment Right is infringed here. I do want to talk a bit about the fine line social platforms are walking now. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter want to do both:

  • Enable expression and access to information, including what politicians say
  • Promote an impression that they are a safe place for users and that they contribute positively to the world

The challenge is difficult, but it’s not impossible. It becomes much more difficult when bad actors want to distribute misinformation for their agenda. Leaving misinformation intact is detrimental to our society; which contradicts one of the two things platforms want to do. Censoring misinformation will cause outcry over infringement of First Amendment Right and contradict the other. As bad actors want to take advantage of social media to aid their propaganda, the disregard for truth intensifies. Platforms like Twitter are stuck in a dilemma between censoring harmful or false content and abiding by free speech and expression.

In the case of Twitter, they are doing the best they can. They didn’t take down the President’s tweets despite repeated requests from many other users. They did put a label on two of his most egregious tweets recently. But that’s not enough, from both sides. Concerned users want a complete removal of some of Trump’s tweets while Trump is using his popularity and power to arm-twist the company not to.

When the two sides cannot compromise, platforms like Twitter, as some sort of a middleman, will soon have to pick a side. Eventually. The walking-a-fine-thin-line will likely not work for much longer.