CNN’s Jane Velez Mitchell, a self-described recovering addict, had something to say tonight about our American Culture. Velez-Mitchell stated that “There is something wrong in our culture”. There is a sickness, a toxic, toxic situation in our country”. Jane likened it to an addiction.
She says we must acknowledge that there is a problem with our culture before we can deal with it. Jane, as an anchor on CNN’s Headline News, has a front row seat to the pressing crises in America. She sees it, reports on it, and works with it every day, and her conclusion is that we have a serious cultural problem.
Specifically, Jane referenced our prison system which houses 25% of the world’s prison population, while the United States represents just 5% of the world’s population. Instead of treating addicts, we lock them away in our prisons. Instead of rehabilitating non-violent and first time offenders, we choose as a society to lock them up for decades, throwing their lives away.
People who work in the field of addiction know very well that a drug or alcohol problem is an effect, not a cause. The addict must acknowledge, confront, and begin to address the addiction before they can get real help for the underlying cause. This underlying cause can be childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, or a host of other traumas. In the same way, our violent culture (deficits in civil conflict resolution, impulsive anger, gun violence, a callous view towards and a low value placed on life, numerous addictions, disregard for others, competition to destruction, and a distorted view of reality) are really effects with an underlying, contagious cause.
We don’t put resources into the front end, carefully nurturing our children and bringing up people with a positive, hopeful, and productive attitude, who help each other and cooperate with one another. Instead, the idea of the supremacy of the individual is embedded in our children in many ways from an early age, and we produce adults who see few opportunities and become hardened to life, giving the lives of others little value.
Instead, we put more resources into the back end, locking away the products of our diseased culture, and cleaning up the messes they make. In this one way, the serial killer Charles Manson was right. The behavior of people is a product of our culture just as much as our culture is the product of our behaviors.
Our Congress, our politics, our media, our schools, and our justice system all share responsibility for how our toxic culture is developed and perpetuated.
Our Lawmakers set a terrible example of gridlock, vitriol, and shutdown in the one place where civility, cooperation, and the general welfare should be paramount. Our politics are caustic, divisive, and dominated by personal attacks.
Our media tells us what to think about and how to think about it instead of just delivering the objective information.
Our schools teach to the test and practice “zero tolerance” instead of concentrating on developing informed, curious, and concerned citizens.
Our justice system uses the same “zero tolerance” with mandatory minimums and barbaric sentencing laws to lock people away for decades for very minor offenses.
With more people like Jane Velez Mitchell speaking out in our media, perhaps we can finally acknowledge that we, the people of the United States of America have a serious cultural problem. We can realize that what we are witnessing on the news is, in reality, the effects of a larger, deeply ingrained cause. It’s a disease of poorly evolved values and priorities.
A Cultural Evolution is the cure, and it must be reflected from all of the above sources. It must also come from the private sector as well as from individual parents, children and citizens, all over this great nation.
We see it in a President, who strives to bring affordable healthcare to everyone in our society.
We see it such figures as Nelson Mandela, who brought two warring sides of a country together, to the consternation of many and for the betterment of all. We see it in the countries of the world, who are organizing together to address world problems.
We see it in a new kind of religious leader, who endeavors to heal a broken church and set a proper example for its members. We see it in our grass roots activists, who organize to address grievances and restore personal liberties and personal responsibility.
We need to see more of these structural changes and new initiatives. Evolution of our shared culture revolves around choices, it comes from each of us and it affects all of us.
The cure can be as infectious as the disease.
Like Jane said, we need to look at the shameful effects, acknowledge the cause, and begin to heal the wounds and work on the cure.
Instead of sitting in a big chair and idlelly grousing about much more accomplished people and such abstract concepts as “Communism” and “Socialism”, let’s apply our thinking within the framework of a dynamic, sustainable and just Capitalism which can challenge and elevate us all.