In this entry, I want to provide you with what I have encountered so far during the last several days of absolute madness and chaos. My intention is to offer evidence of some perspectives that are floating around so that you can make your own judgement
First and foremost, you may want to look at the video of George Floyd being arrested and killed by four policemen. It’s tragic and horrifying, but it shows the worst of the abuse of power from the police. Here is another incident when they kicked a powerless girl
Protesters tried to protect properties from looting
There are real peaceful protests, not just the violent ones that seem to attract more attention
There is a population among police who decided to join the protest
There are white people who compassionately and bravely stepped up to help their black brothers and sisters
There are also legitimate and terrible looters
There are also cooler heads
In the process, the police attacked the press and the First Amendment Right
I am sure there are other incidents that back up each of these perspectives or bring out new vantage points from which you can look at this whole chaos. These are multiple separate issues, each of which deserves its own investigation, national discussion and dramatic overhaul of what is currently in place. However, they are currently lumped into one confusing mess to muddy the waters. You can absolutely call for justice for George Floyd and other victims, and demand racial equality while absolutely condemning the looting that some terrible individuals carried out. The two are mutually exclusive. Just like you can appreciate the job of the police and justly call out the brutality whose frequency is so high that you can’t call it “a few bad apples” any more. Like a friend of mine from Belgium said, no one ever said this about plane crashes: well it crashed, but it’s one bad apple. Indeed, no one ever.
I hope these are helpful to you while you are processing the whole chaos unfolding in front of us.
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
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.
A few days ago, I received a message from a German friend floating a question on why racism has risen in popularity recently in Western countries. I gave him my answer and thought I should put it out here to share what I have been thinking about for quite some time.
Nothing is perfect and neither is globalization. We have reaped its benefits for years and I suspect that we start to see its downsides now. In Western countries, globalization leads to unemployment in certain industries whether it is because firms relocate their operations to developing nations or it is because the technological advances render some industries obsolete.
Suddenly, workers who are between jobs are left with few options. The jobs that the workers are qualified for no longer exist where they live while new jobs require skills that the workers don’t have. Instead, highly skilled jobs are now done by skilled immigrant employees. Businesses care the most about their productivity. As long as they don’t have to break banks to hire qualified staff for the jobs, they’ll do it. Even if one is local but doesn’t have the qualifications, how can one be employed?
Consequently, there is tension in the society from unemployed folks and there is a sentiment that immigrants steal their jobs.
Wars and violent conflicts
Meaningless wars and violent conflicts in Africa, Middle East and other developing but unstable areas also contribute to the rise of racism. As these unfortunate events take place, the victims have no choice, but to flee for their and their family’s lives. Who can blame them? The closest safe heaven is Western Europe, which has been quite more friendlier than the US in terms of refugees.
Unfortunately, the influx of refugees is so much bigger than what the Western European countries can handle. Once the integration efforts don’t keep up with the arrivals of refugees, the refugees stay unemployed while reaping the social benefits from the governments. When that happens, some locals would understandably be upset. I mean, who wouldn’t given the high tax rates in Western European countries.? Additionally, there are some bad “apples” such as terrorists or those who committed crimes. As a consequence, local citizens grow unhappy about the refugees and immigration in general.
Internet enables the friction-less flow of good information….as well as of bad information such as propagandas or simply false news. As human-beings, we are more drawn towards negative coverage. Hence, media outlets keep feeding us negative news on immigration regardless of whether the news is valid or how the news stands in the whole big picture. For instance, if a refugee commits a crime, what is the percentage of the incident compared to the number of crimes committed by locals in the same timeframe?
And there are folks who intentionally distribute distorted and false information to advance their agendas. As we are drowning in an ocean of news & information every day, it’s tricky to know what is what.
Validation from the US
I don’t believe that racism only existed after the above factors. However, its rise, especially in politics, can be attributed to having a validation. The validation stemmed from the election in the US in 2016 and perhaps one year before that. Suddenly, some politicians have an example to validate their less-than-desirable behavior. I couldn’t recall seeing that much racism a few years ago when wars already took place, globalization had already been going and Internet was already there. However, after 2016, the wave of racism and nationalism has risen to a new height and gone from strength to strength to the point that even countries such as Sweden or Finland have seen more anti-immigration.
I have been pretty much an immigration since 2010, except 3 years of staying in Vietnam. The growing anti-immigration movement concerns me a great deal and the connection between the factors above has sat on my mind for a while. I used to adore globalization a lot thinking that it was such a perfect concept. Now, I don’t think it’s perfect any more.