Photo illustration by John Lyman

U.S. News


Civil Unrest in the United States, Stability in Russia

Russia recognizes the importance of diversity and leaves open equal participation by all members of society; the country is not experiencing widespread civil unrest due to widespread systemic discrimination or any other topic. On the other hand, it appears the root causes of ongoing civil disorder are not being addressed in the United States and it is currently on a path that may very well see more trouble ahead. Many who believe widespread and fundamental changes to the system of justice in the United States remain disappointed with both the Republican and Democratic treatment of this topic.

Civil disorder does not arise on its own. It is normally born out of long-term injustice, harm and injury directed at a population or a subset within that population. When the disaffected finally opt to assemble as a group or mob they do so with the intention of provoking a change to the existing social or economic status quo. The responsibility for maintaining the existing order normally falls to the police.

Racism has been part of the genetic makeup of the United States since colonial times and evidence shows that it is still alive and well. The Native Americans were the first, but not the last, to suffer under the cultural, economic and governmental organizations established by European settlers arriving in North America. At various times different ethnic or social groups have organized themselves and risen up in efforts to alter the status quo.

There is abundant evidence that African Americans still suffer unacceptable socioeconomic inequality. Compounding the situation is the impact of a historically biased criminal justice system working against the African American community in the United States. One alarming statistics shows that one in three black males will go to prison in their lifetime. Furthermore, detailed research is available to show the rate of imprisonment in the United States has increased fourfold over the last four decades, and is currently 5 to 10 times higher than other comparable countries.

In the last few years the existence of modern information technology combined with the emergence of several Black Lives Matter oriented protest organizations has created a dynamic force demanding change to the status quo. A long history of attacks and shootings of black men, women and children by police officers or fellow Americans is no longer being tolerated in silence. The longstanding failure of legal proceedings to hold police officers accountable for the beatings or deaths of African Americans has galvanized urban communities to protest against racism and police brutality as well as ignited calls for long overdue reform to enduring racial inequality in the United States. Furthermore, the heightened attention to police violence against black people, along with a legal system that fails to serve the marginalized African American community, has thus far provoked two occasions of racially inspired shootings of police officers during July 2016. The intentional shootings and deaths of multiple police officers in Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, raises alarms that simmering unrest over longstanding racial injustice threatens to deteriorate into an expanding cycle of violence.

The pervasive nature of racial inequality in the United States, accompanied by lack of trust and confidence in the police, the courts and the Department of Justice has allowed this broad movement to grow and carry forward their activities into the 2016 presidential election cycle. Despite the election of an African American President in 2008 and 2012, and the appointment of two African American Attorney Generals over the same eight year period, the actual or perceived abuses of due process persist and the Black Lives Matter oriented organizations and protests continue to flourish. Today the situation is arguably worse than at the onset of the Obama administration. Indeed, for these and a host of other issues that arose during the Obama administration, many black Americans have lost the optimism they once had upon electing Barack Obama to office.

During the second half of July 2016 the two main political parties held conventions to establish the manifestos of their political platforms and to nominate their presidential candidates. Unsurprisingly, both the Democrats and Republicans have had difficulty addressing the long-standing core issues of the Black Lives Matter movement while also showing solidarity for law enforcement organizations. In reality neither party appears ready to address fundamental issues that lead to injustices suffered by African Americans during this election cycle. Also, neither party appears willing to recognize the police may have an impossible task of maintaining the status quo. The tension inherent in the ongoing situation is unlikely to be resolved on its own.

The possibility that the same imperfect and inequitable application of law and order in the United States that discriminates against African Americans and other minorities also fails to curtail criminal activity of the privileged classes, the wealthy and the politically connected is an admission that neither the Republican nor Democratic Party are currently willing to address. Both parties continue to hurl accusations of reprehensible behavior and criminal activity at the opposing candidates, but overwhelmingly fail to attribute any such deficiencies to themselves or to the overall functioning of the criminal justice system at local, state or national levels.

In contrast to the division currently seen and felt within the United States, there appears to be much more consensus among Russians. Remaining united for the benefit of Russia is advocated and reinforced from the highest levels of the government. One clear example can be found in the most recent Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly: “Russia’s strength lies in the free development of all its peoples, its diversity, the harmony of cultures, languages and traditions, mutual respect for and dialogue between all faiths, including Christians, Muslims, Judaists and Buddhists. We must firmly resist any manifestation of extremism and xenophobia while defending our ethnic and religious accord, which is the historical foundation of our society and the Russian statehood.”

Mainstream media in the United States would like for the public to believe otherwise. A simple search of Western corporate media articles written during recent global financial upheavals (the financial crisis of 2007-2009 and the 2014-2016 world oil glut) shows there have been frequent predictions regarding impending widespread civil unrest in Russia. Over the last decade the same predictions of civil disorder associated with impending or recently concluded Russian elections have also appeared in mainstream media of the West. In reality, the predicted (or hoped for) civil unrest in Russia has simply failed to manifest. The product of Western corporate media, with its widespread failure to report on the systemic causes of civil unrest in the United States while churning out baseless articles about an impending Russian collapse, is politically inspired propaganda, not journalism.

It is ironic that in recent years many in the United States have encouraged and/or celebrated unrest and regime change in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Ukraine, and even in Russia. In reality, it must be remembered that societal upheaval can have dangerous repercussions and the most recent developments appear to be much more harmful for the United States than for Russia.