In one of my previous posts about violence as public policy (i.e., "Guantanamo"), I quoted the Biblical admonition that "you reap whatever you sow." (See also, "The Wide Gate of Torture.") Well, it looks like at least part of the harvest is starting to come in.
The New York Times has reported that, after more than a decade of declining crime rates, many areas of the country have been experiencing double-digit increases in violent crime over the last two years. ("Violent Crime in Cities Shows Sharp Surge," 3/9/2007.) Theft and other crimes against property continue to go down, and the biggest increase in violent crime is in aggravated assaults with guns (i.e. shootings).
The article talks about a lot of different possible causes, including economics, a rise in the abuse of methamphetimine, and declining federal aid to local law enforcement, but most of the law enforcement officials who were interviewed talked about it as a social problem. There are simply more people willing to use guns to settle disputes or avenge perceived wrongs.
The leadership of a country influences the thinking of the country, so let's look at where the Bush administration has been leading us.
One of the most important policy formulations of the Bush administration is the "Bush Doctrine" that was first announced by President George W. Bush in a commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on June 1, 2002, and is laid out in more detail in the "National Security Strategy of the United States" issued by the National Security Council on September 20, 2002. The essence of the Bush Doctrine is that the United States intends to maintain overwhelming military strength and will use that military strength unilaterally and preemptively against any people or country who might pose a threat to us. This policy has been described as "muscular," but it could also be described as "macho," "violent," and "paranoid."
So then we invaded Iraq without the approval of the United Nations in order to protect ourselves from weapons of mass destruction that might exist but don't, as it turns out. And, in addressing a question about the dangers of attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, President Bush responds with "bring 'em on." (7/2/2003)
The administration also has policies of seizing people it thinks might be a threat (e.g., "extraordinary rendition") and holding them indefinitely (e.g., Guantanamo) while subjecting them to "tough questioning" (i.e., physical and mental stress, threats, and abuse) without the authority of any law and without any judicial review.
And Republican leaders regularly mock those who want to cut back on our use of violence as wanting to "cut and run," implying cowardice.
So, within a few years, people on the streets begin to think (and act) as though the same rules (or lack of rules) apply to them, using deadly preemptive violence to respond to perceived threats, and never backing down from a fight.
We're reaping what the President has sown, and it is still just the beginning.