America has long prided itself on the coexistence and equality of its citizens, regardless of factors like race and religion. It’s a national identity which it has maintained even in the face of criticism by many who have identified flaws in the system over the years. However, in light of events from the past few months, this self-proclaimed national identity may be facing its harshest opposition yet.

 

These events, of course, are the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. While Brown lost his life in August after being shot by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Garner was killed while being held in a chokehold by police officer Daniel Pantaleo during his arrest in Staten Island.

 

In neither case were the officers held accountable by the U.S. justice system. First, the St. Louis grand jury made the decision not to indict Wilson. Then, the New York grand jury made the decision not to charge Pantaleo. Now, people across the United States have made the decision not to remain quiet regarding these recurring displays of blatant injustice, taking to the streets in protest of these judicial decisions.

 

Public outrage has been particularly driven by the temporal proximity of the events, in which anger has built-up from one case to the next and left people enraged. It is a chain of events which has not only led to opposition to each particular decision, but which has sparked a collective nationwide conversation on inequality in the American justice system and the overt role of racism in each instance.

 

Protesters march in NYC after grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson on November 24 (cbsnews.com)

Protesters march in NYC after the St. Louis grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson on November 24 (cbsnews.com)

In a country which has so long touted itself as being at the center of democracy, progress, and global integrity, it is especially confusing and frustrating to see the kinds of social injustices which have occurred in recent months taking place; injustices which are born out of situations that seem almost painfully obvious in terms of how they should be responded to legally, and yet have nevertheless received a completely contradictory response from the justice system and those in power.

 

The fact that the perpetrators in the killing of an unarmed teen and the video-recorded chokehold death of a man can walk away from each of these situations entirely unscathed is not only infuriating, but unequivocally draws into question the status of the United States as a country built on equality and morality.

 

With this being the case, one has to wonder: what place does America have to police the rest of the world? This is a nation which has positioned and involved itself in a multitude of global conflicts constantly — conflicts which were entirely unrelated to the United States — under the pretense that it has a moral obligation to bring justice and democracy to the “backwards” and “underdeveloped” countries of the world.

 

But by what standards is the American moral compass any less backwards than that of the nations which it seeks to save? Why was America qualified and responsible for intervening to save the Syrian, Libyan, and Egyptian people during their own national uprisings in which each nation’s citizens sought to bring about democracy by their own hands? What place did it have to condemn foreign bloodshed in conflicts, like that between Israel and Palestine or Ukraine and Russia?

 

America has consistently taken it upon itself to save the world, but it’s about time it stopped looking for problems beyond its own borders and instead began focusing on the numerous issues at home. As it stands now, the realities about America which continue to be uncovered — realities about racism, inequality, and corruption — are more than enough to demand acknowledgement of the fact that America is not the model other countries need to be following.

 

Should America wish to promote justice, equality, and democracy internationally, it must do so by example — an example it will only set when it begins enforcing these ideals domestically.

 

How do you think the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the results subsequent trials reflect on U.S. ideals and democracy? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tamarahoumi