Now is a critical time for our nation.
We are racially divided. Our trust in public officials, such as police officers, has waned. We no longer have faith in our government at the national level.
As the time comes to look back on 2014, this has been an eye-opening year for America. We watched Ferguson burn, protesters march and Congressional approval ratings continue to decline.
Where will 2015 leave us?
I stumbled upon an interesting headline in my search for a specific article on the nationwide “die-ins,” a practice similar to the “sit-ins” of the Civil Rights Era. The piece was published by The Nation, a self-proclaimed “left-wing” magazine. I don’t consider myself a “left-winger,” but I did find the title to be striking: “‘This Is Not a Protest—It Is an Uprising.’”
With a headline like that, I couldn’t help but click. Written by Zoë Carpenter, the piece featured many quotes from protestors of the Ferguson case, including the quote from activist Kymone Freeman, “This is not a protest – it is an uprising.”
I can’t say I agree. As Merriam-Webster states, an uprising is “an usually violent effort by many people to change the government or leader of a country.”
As of right now, there is not an uprising or revolt in the United States. No group is attempting to stage a hostile takeover of the government.
But, could an uprising begin in the near future?
Without a doubt, the roots of an uprising are present, though not close to a breaking point.
Great unrest exists in America in regards to our political system. The American people no longer believe Congress can do an effective job.
According to the latest Rasmussen poll, a survey of 1,000 Americans, just 8 percent would rate Congress’ performance as excellent or good. In contrast, 64 percent stated Congress was performing poorly.
The same Rasmussen poll results stated, “Just 11 percent think Congress has passed any legislation that will significantly improve life in America and just as few think most members of Congress listen to their constituents.”
Even police officers, men and women that Americans used to trust, have also lost a lot of respect in the past year. With the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, Americans are beginning to distrust police officers, too.
However, not all police officers are evil. In the same way that it’s wrong to stereotype according to gender or race, it’s not right to stereotype police officers. A few bad officers have spoiled the reputations of millions of honorable people.
The true problem lies not with the officers, but with the growing attitude of “us vs. them” within police departments around the country. The Justice Department specifically called out the Cleveland Division of Police, writing in its report last week that the CPD views itself as an “occupying force instead of a true partner and resource in the community it serves.”
The increasing militarization of police forces across the nation doesn’t help the situation. Thanks to a 1997 law, entitled the National Defense Authorization Act, equipment once used by the military is flowing into local police departments.
As Ferguson demonstrated, an excessive amount of sophisticated weapons in the hands of the police can elicit anger and fear from protestors.
The truly scary part, however, is the grand jury ruling in the Eric Garner case. The grand jury, made up of 23 people, voted not to convict Daniel Pantaleo. Video evidence clearly showed that the plain clothes officer continued to choke Garner, even as Garner surrendered and repeatedly said that he could not breathe.
You can feel a raw anger and frustration in the resulting protests that continue across the country. Americans are not happy.
The number of citizens who are unhappy enough to march and protest has not reached crisis proportions, but imagine what might happen if Timothy Loehmann, the officer who shot and killed Rice, is not convicted.
One question will follow us into the quickly approaching New Year: How will we fix these troubling problems as a nation? If we don’t act soon, an uprising might not sound so absurd.