So many people have commented to me that America seems to be so much more polarized and violent than what they remember. And that coincides with my impression. So...why is that?
On reflection, there are many candidates...and I strongly suspect that no one of them are the sole basis, nor do I think my list is complete, but I would argue that if we take them all together we will have a pretty good idea of some major influences that work to tear us apart as a nation.
Has anyone else noticed how violent the ads on tv are these days? Notice how medicine attacks germs, stuff like mucus is killed by whatever medicine prevents it, how bugs aren't prevented, but killed in their tracks? Everything is not only the best to solve your problem, but seemingly needs to kill the behavior that it is intended to prevent. And it happens more than ever before. Think it is an influence on behavior? Or just a reflection? Think about it.
How about political correctness? It stifles a clear expression of what you believe and, more importantly, feel. Emotions that are squashed and forced to be held in lead to higher stress levels and tend ultimately to show up in physical action...and that is violence.
At the same time, it prevents responding in kind when you are verbally insulted, attacked or disrespected. Notice how often when someone is bullied in school and reacts by attacking the bullier, it is the person who acted to protect him or herself from the bullying is the one who is punished? Apparently the bullier is the one protected. Why? Again the questions: an influence on behavior, albeit deferred? And a sign that bullying is a protected activity, despite words to the contrary? After all, actions speak so much louder than words.
And how about the prevalent attitude that no one should suffer consequences of their actions? When I was growing up I was taught that all actions had consequences...good,...and bad. I learned civilized behavior from my parents. But I learned them from the words and direction...and I learned them from consequences of not acting "civilized." Lying was punished...immediately. It wasn't cute to tell "stories" and it wasn't laughed at just because it was inventive...it was punished. Fighting was allowed if it was to defend you or your relatives honor should that be disrespected. Fighting just because you wanted something someone else had was not allowed and was punished. Bad language (and unlike today it included all swear words and scatological references) was punished immediately and the punishment usually included improving your vocabulary, the argument being that if one had an adequate vocabulary to describe your feelings, one needn't employ swearing.
And as to shoplifting and any other law-breaking, like vandalism and other inappropriate acts, it almost never required the attention of the law. Why? Because the law could never know like my parents how to reach my very soul and the punishment of my parents was personal and left me with immense guild; a punishment by the "state" would never have been so effective.
When in today's America have any of seen true consequences delivered to anyone as not only a punishment but as a natural order of things? Doesn't occur much today. Is this absence contributory?
Our teachers are tasked with teaching. Yet both administration and parents often act as if teachers are only to be "praisers" of children, approving everything they do, passing out passing grades as a matter or right, and never interfering with children's social lives even during class time...and if they dare interfere and the child physically attacks the teacher, it is the teachers' fault. Does this sound like civilized behavior, much less justice, to you? Doesn't make much sense to me. Teachers are not always blameless, but I think that they could accuse most administrations and parents of fraud in the inducement; what they got isn't what they were promised.
I don't have the expertise to define what is cause and effect here, but it is hard to look at all these tendencies so prevalent today and not think that civilized behavior is not of high priority in the minds of today's citizens. Narcissism is the practice of today, with parents choosing to accept government benefits that will have to be paid by their as-yet-unborn heirs, and even to the point of meeting their own desires while ignoring the needs of actual children. How sad! How ugly! And how profoundly disappointing to those of us who must witness it and not have the power to effect any meaningful change.