The human society is under an unprecedented test by the COVID-19 pandemic on top of numerous natural disasters such as earth-quakes, floods, even grasshoppers and man-made turmoil such as violent riots, massive protests, never ending vicious military confrontations and wars. The U.S. as the richest nation and the only superpower in the word has been leading the world for the past eight decades, but today, the U.S. leadership is being questioned not only by the third world, other developing and developed countries but also by Americans themselves subconsciously if not openly. From sociology point of view, one wonders what has happened to American society and American leaders? Why is America losing her esteem in leading the world? The answers may be correlated with some statistical data, but a clearer picture may be described by adjectives based on broad observations. The author attempts to diagnose the American society which is inevitably driving the U.S. including her elected political leaders to today's status. Hence, the article is entitled, American Society Is ‘S.A.F.E.’ But Failing, which will be explained below.
‘S.A.F.E.’ Is a group of adjectives collected under their initial letters for describing American societal phenomena. ‘S’ represents 'sore, sad and sinking'. ‘A’ represents 'anger, aching and anxious'. ‘F’ represents 'fair, fear and fending'. And 'E' represents 'equal, egoistic and evil'. We shall explain how these adjectives may describe American society to create a picture which may be responsible for the status the U.S. is in, losing respect and esteem on the world stage and crumbling and ineffective in dealing with our domestic issues. The American economy has been stagnant for years in terms of per ca-pita GPD, the society wealth gap has been continuously widening for decades, the racial discrimination and inequality issue have become more pronounced. Our foreign policy seems to be driven by legacy beliefs and ego never accepting reality. Let's see how 'S.A.F.E.’ describe our society!?
First, let’s look at the composition of American society. It is for sure an immigrant society consisting of the White (majority and principal initial settlers), the Black (the second largest minority behind Hispanics and most discriminated group perhaps next to the remaining <2% American Indians), and the Yellow-Brown (including the Mexican, Chinese and Indian immigrants). The sentiments of the Whites can be adequately described by ‘Sore’, ‘Sad’ and ‘Sinking’. The U.S. was dominated by the Whites in every aspect ever since they demolished the American Indians. They were the ones followed the world industrial revolution, created the large if not the greatest independent nation. The Whites dominated the economy, agricultural and technological industries and excelled in science, arts, sports … all arenas. Today, they feel 'sore' because their domination has gradually being eroded by the Blacks and the Yellow-Browns. The sore loser feeling is of course accentuated in the middle- and lower class-Whites, white and blue collar workers. Some Whites are still dominating the ultra rich sectors of American society, but more Whites felt 'sad' when they saw the American society losing her economic power, directly translated to losing buying power. The social programs paid by their tax dollars have not improved the harmony in their society - filled with social problems such as drugs, crimes, poverty, and riots. The recent 'George Floyd' incidence triggered Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement which made some Whites more 'sad'. Overall, even including the so called top 0.1% or 1 %, the Whites have a 'sinking' feeling, the U.S. is 'sinking'.
The Blacks in the U.S. was liberated from slavery and given voting right in 1865. That was 155 years ago yet today the Blacks are still the worst performing minority group comparing to Whites and Yellow-Browns, Asians and Mexicans, in terms of their median household income (2017 data: Asians $81,331, Whites $68,145, Hispanics $50,486 and Blacks $40,258.) Furthermore, the black community exhibits more crime rate which compounded the societal discrimination against the Blacks. Of course, the Blacks felt 'angry' when they experienced discrimination; this anger can easily explode if a specific incidence (as seen in the latest police brutality case) was against a Black, criminal or not. This type of conflict persisted to today since the slavery era despite of numerous legislation enacted to eliminate discrimination and to elevate equality. Some Blacks who succeeded academically and economically often have an 'aching' feeling when facing the Black's issues; their successes in contrast to the large number of Blacks living in ghettos made them feel painful and hopeless. Thus, among Blacks, there is a great anxiety, hoping for an instantaneous change. But that seems not possible judging on the 155 years of slow social progress in the black race in the U.S. In the third world, Africa, drastic progress had been made in both economic and politic arena post WW II. This social phenomenon adds another provocation to the American Blacks. Even though the U.S. had a black President, it did not ease the 'angry, aching and anxious' sentiments of American Blacks.
The Asian minority group in the U.S. came from different national origins but by the color of their skin and similar cultural background they were bonded loosely as a minority group. The recent Asian immigrants did not experience the severe discrimination the earlier Chinese immigrants had in the 19th and early 20th century. The Asian community generally felt the American society being ‘fair’ enough with abundant economic opportunities. With their respect for education and character of diligence and thrift, the Asian group made significant progress socially and economically despite of their lack of interest in politics. However, this ‘fair’ feeling or sentiment has been replaced by 'fear' feeling in recent years. Why? The colonial discrimination against Asians has vividly returned. The Hong Kong violent riots received endorsement from the U. K. and the U.S. and was praised as Human Rights movement in contrast to the BLM movement exploded worldwide treated more as a violence than human rights demand (sadly petering out just like previous movements). The trade competition between the U.S. and China is escalated unfairly beyond economical level to other domains. Chinese scientists are unfairly singled out as potential spies. The civilian company Huawei was unfairly sanctioned from U.S. market. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attempted to cancel all Asian student visas (F1 and M1). All these unfair and prejudice policies have converted ‘fair’ to ‘fear’. As a result, Chinese (and Asian) communities are organized and armed themselves to 'fend' violence. 'Fending' for themselves became necessary even though most Asians were basically peace-loving people.
Freedom and equality are two principal American values. Freedom more than 'equality' can be guaranteed by laws. Even the U.S. constitution prescribes all men are 'equal', the social and economic inequality prevails in the U.S. society. The White dominated America exhibits her superiority through her 'egoistic' manners. 'American Exceptionalism' and 'Make America Great Again' are 'egoistic' slogans appealing to American 'ego'. The American foreign policies carried out with American 'ego', unfortunately created 'evil' deeds, punishments, sanctions and wars. More such deeds were done, more 'evil' the U.S. appeared to the world. Sure, the superior military strength of America prevented retaliation or revolt against the U.S. but nevertheless the 'evil' image of the U.S. was looming. With the rapid rise of China and the weakening of the U.S. economy and even in technology, it is no surprise that the U.S. is showing signs of 'failing'. Yes, if we could not honestly reflect on why our society is disintegrating and make corrections, then America society will be 'S.A.F.E.' but failing for sure!
Ifay Chang. Ph.D., Inventor, Author, TV Game Show Host and Columnist (www.us-chinaforum.org) as well as serving as Trustee, Somers Central School District.