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Wednesday, 19 August 2015 08:30

Structural Violence in the US Is Not Caused by a Few Bad Apples

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aaaaaaarottenappCultural violence in the US is not limited to a few "bad apples." (Photo: George Armstrong)

Sometimes it takes an infected orchard to create rotten apples.

That means that the decaying apples that fall into the mud aren't exceptions; they are created by blighted trees.

That is a metaphor I think about when the news media and most people in the US attribute gruesome and reprehensible behavior to "a few bad apples."

The examples of this frame being applied to corrupt, violent - and all too deadly – actions that are reported by the mass media are legion:

  • Police officers who shoot unarmed Black suspects are bad apples

  • Cops who accept payoffs from drug traffickers are bad apples

  • Abusive prison guards are bad apples

  • Military personnel or CIA contractors who torture terrorist "suspects" are bad apples

  • White men who commit mass murders are bad apples

  • Individual small-fish financial fraudsters are bad apples

  • Domestic abusers are bad apples

  • Venal politicians are bad apples

  • Corporations that sell toxic or defective products are bad apples

  • Corporations that knowingly pollute and lie about it are bad apples

The list, of course, is endless when it comes to the dismissal of destructive and deadly behavior as being due to a few bad apples.

The reality, however, is that the bad apples in the US are born of the seed toxic trees that are planted in the culture of the nation. The bad apples bob around daily in a barrel of noxious water that is born of a society that was founded upon and glorified violence - and that economically grew because of the condoning of the heinous practice of slavery.  Furthermore, as detailed in Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America by Peter Andreas, illegal trade was not just conducted by a few bad apples. Andreas argues that illicit trade has long been a key factor in the US economy.

Racism, white supremacy, entitlement to the use of violence, an acceptance of corruption as the cost of doing business - these are ingredients swirling in the deadly brew.

Certainly, there are many, many people in the United States who nourish instead of destroy and who have integrity and compassion. However, the jingoistic narrative about democracy and fairness in the US is integrally bound to a seamy underside. This includes the glorification of the "rugged" individualism that justifies white men’s entitled engagement in violence, avarice, bigotry, sexism, exploitation of the weak and unethical behavior.

An elimination of bad apples will only come from confronting the reality that it is the orchard of our culture that is toxic. Then we must turn over the earth and begin to plant new seeds, through the passion of advocacy for justice, that will bare nourishing fruit that is free of violence and oppression.

Confining our national illnesses of the soul to blaming a few bad apples for society's injustices will solve nothing.

Not to be reposted without permission of Truthout.