March 26, 2012

ARLUCK: Trayvon and Toulouse

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Due to the national fixation on both cases, both Obama and Sarkozy were quick to take advantage of the public’s short attention spans. The public will remember the comforting words and supportive reassurances of each head of state, but few will adequately consider the ugly social realities which afflict both countries.

In the United States, coverage of the Trayvon Martin affair has become unavoidable over the past couple of weeks — and public anger might be justified, given many of the case’s basic facts. As a symbolic rallying cry in response to the unsettling social realities facing many African Americans, there has understandably been public fury over the incident.

In France, shootings in Toulouse have revived the public fear of terrorism to public attention and the recent growth of France’s unassimilated Muslim community does little to ease the agitation.

Due to the national fixation on both cases, both Obama and Sarkozy were quick to take advantage of the public’s short attention spans. The public will remember the comforting words and supportive reassurances of each head of state, but few will adequately consider the ugly social realities which afflict both countries.

There should be no greater irony than this phenomenon typical of our distracted politics: Tragic events revealing revolting social realities will wind up helping incumbent politicians in an election year. Never mind that elections are intended as a means for checking up on our incumbents, under whose watch our social problems get worse and our pundits grow more ferocious.

It isn’t cynical to note that our democracy doesn’t provide an effective contest from which the best policies and platforms can emerge. The tragedies of Trayvon and Toulouse do uncover some of the best urges for public concern, yet also the depths of our ignorance.

We’ll discuss Obama’s ability to “humanize” the Trayvon case, but we won’t discuss his continuation of the failed drug war or the self-admitted failures of his administrations attempts to reform American education. In each case, Obama’s administration has had the opportunity to improve federal policy and respond to the federal government’s historical tendency to make socioeconomic problems much, much worse. In each case, our incumbent has maintained the status quo.

For democracy to work, we must pay attention to what our politicians actually enact through policy, not what they say about themselves and each other.

Jacob Arluck is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at jarluck@cornellsun.com. The Hill is a politics blog that aims to stimulate discussion on today’s most pressing issues,  be they related to Cornell or national affairs. If you’re interested in joining the conversation, please contact thehill@cornellsun.com.

Original Author: Jacob Arluck

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