Enough Already: individualism and a slow death

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Enough already! This morning I heard that the Vikings had “reversed course” and are exempting Adrian Peterson from team activities. This comes on the heels of outrage over Ray Rice and the NFL reversing course on his discipline after TMZ released the video of him assaulting his then fiancé. Since then there has been a certain sensitivity paid to NFL players and the NFL’s course of action when dealing with violence. The sad thing is all this outrage is simply another manifestation of America’s superficialness and concern for the bottom line: the almighty dollar. It is nothing more than America’s own individualism and ultimately sickness on full display.

In America we are taught, either explicitly or implicitly, that we are all individuals and as such are responsible for our actions. Nothing wrong with that. However we are also taught that these actions exist in some sort of vacuum free from the influence of others while others also remain free from the influence of our actions. This is the cornerstone of America and it is killing us. Of course, we know this is the farthest thing from true, some of us more so than others. Either way this belief in individualism is everywhere and serves as the backdrop upon which the tragedy that is America plays out, all in the name of the almighty dollar.

Consider the Ray Rice situation. What he did was wrong. Point. Blank. Period. However, the Ravens and the NFL knew that domestic violence was an issue in the league. How could it not be since it is an issue in America? The NFL took no significant interest in the issue. It was only after Ray Rice was caught on camera that the NFL decided it needed to act. Even then the reaction was disturbing to many: a two game suspension. So, when TMZ released the video, which provided no new information about the incident, the NFL and the Ravens ceased the opportunity to quell public backlash by suspending and releasing Ray Rice. Let’s be clear this was a business decision, nothing more. If the NFL was concerned about domestic violence and believed this type of action was an effective way of combating it Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald would also be suspended, but they are not. In true American fashion, the NFL has taken the position that Ray Rice is simply a “bad apple” whose actions are solely his own and as such he is deserving of punishment as opposed to rehabilitation, education, and/or therapy. Sadly, this focus on individual responsibility and punishment satisfies many Americans, as there are now calls for the Vikings to cut Adrian Peterson (the governor even weighed in!), while changing nothing systemically and allowing for the NFL and the Ravens and the Vikings to continue making immense profit.

This emphasis on individual responsibility provides a concrete and simple villian making it very easy for many American’s to ease their conscious because they know “the bad guy” has been punished. We then continue with our normal consumer driven lives as if everything is right in the world. This approach does nothing but perpetuate the sickness that is slowly killing America: the belief that we exist disconnected from society, history, and mainly each other. We focus on Ray Rice as the problem but ignore the violence done to women on the daily in households all across America. Those homes have the privilege of existing in the mythical American individualism. We ignore the violence done to women by Republican’s blocking the Equal Pay Act. We ignore the violence done to women by the continuous drones our country uses to wage the War on Terror. We are in shock that Ray Rice could be so brutal and turn around and pour millions into the latest Hollywood action movie which is guaranteed to be saturated with violence. We ask ourselves and our friends how you could put your hands on your partner or your child while cheering on the President as he proclaims the United States will hunt down its enemies. We feign horror at Adrian Peterson disciplining his child but the cop who murdered Michael Brown is enjoying his freedom. We care so deeply for children that a significant portion of the country wants to send thousands of them, who arrived at our border seeking help, back to their war torn nations simply because they are undocumented. Our individualism has blinded us from our duty: to make the world a better place. Nothing illustrates the total failure of this approach better than the hypocrisy of Anheuser Busch chastising the NFL while producing and profiting of a product that facilitates the violence they are supposedly taking a strong stance against. After all, it is each individual’s decision if they drink and how they act when they do. We exist in vacuums.

This has to change. And the change begins by understanding we are all a product of something and that something matters. We do not exist in vacuums and if we are truly outraged at violence against women, or violence being used as a discipline technique, or violence in general then we need to take the time and make the effort to understand the roots and influences and motivations of such things. Byron Hurt and Brittany Cooper have done a great job of doing just that. Of course this leads to tough and often times ugly truths about us and our country, but that is part of the process and like everything else we are in this together, even the healing. And let us not forget, that is the point: healing.

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