For us in America, an important question coming out of the unrest in several British cities following the police shooting of a black man is whether it can happen here in the United States. Yes, it can. In fact, social upheavals have already been taking place in Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Philadelphia, some of it related to heavy-handed tactics by the police. In Miami, where tension has not yet risen to the level of street protests, police shot and killed seven black men in as many months last year, most of them unarmed, with impunity.


Relations between law enforcement officers and African Americans, at best, have always been on shaky ground. Mistrust has shaped the attitude of one for the other, with potential for an explosion ever present. But many American cities have already passed through the trauma of urban upheavals and residents know the lasting negative consequences that result. And no one can justify the killings that sometimes take place during such unrest. That, more than anything else, may be what has been keeping tensions from exploding.

But the tensions that are threatening to roil American cities are not just the result of strained police-community relations. They are due to the stress of the severe economic downturn that is destroying the lives of tens of millions of Americans. Many people have been forced back into poverty with little prospect of a better future. Jobs have disappeared, homes have been lost. And the rich are getting richer.

There is very urgent need to create jobs, to return hope to people as the top priority for the national agenda. Yet, in this time of great economic hardship, when the nation is searching for direction, Republican presidential candidates are engaging in the most obscene attacks on President Barack Obama and scandalously pandering, in the politics of parochial appeasement, playing to a narrow, ideologically selfish base that has not the interests of America at the forefront of its agenda but its own curious interpretation of national and world affairs.

We are living at a time of great social, economic and political complexities, when, regardless of party affiliation, we yearn to be exposed to ideas of how America fits into the changing global landscape in a manner that continues to promote our interests abroad, while ensuring prosperity for all at home.

Absent such a vision, the people remain rudderless, without hope and highly susceptible to be seduced into extreme measures to make themselves heard. To denounce those who protest the lack of statesmanship among the leaders and wannabe leaders, as is being done in Britain and in some American cities and keep the cover shut onto the pressure cooker of popular dissent by whatever means necessary is just a fool’s game. It will work for only a period of time.