Police have killed more than 1000 people per year in the US every year for the past decade. This is a per capita rate of 33 people killed by police violence for every 10 million population, and the rate is higher for our Black residents. Police killings per capita happen at less than half that rate in every European country. France has a rate of 5.5, Germany 1.3, and the UK 0.5. There have been vats and vats of ink spilled writing about the reasons for these differences. The number of guns is a key factor. Differing attitudes about violence and cultural beliefs may play a role. But the core truth revealed by this set of statistics is that violence generally, and police killings specifically, are not immutable facts of life. Other nations have different sets of beliefs, histories, and practices, and they have different results.
We fall too easily into the trap of American exceptionalism. Our nation is exceptional for us because it is our home, in the same way that my family may feel exceptional for me because it is my family. There is not a sense in which my family is superior to yours, or at least if I were to have such a sense, it would be misplaced. Families are different, with different assets and flaws, and we each came up from that unique blend to become the people we are now. In the same way, one nation is not inherently superior to another. We can learn things from other nations, as they can hopefully learn things from us.
Patriotism is a heady drug. It manipulates us into believing that our nation can do no wrong, or at least that any wrong our nation has done is justified or inevitable.
I am not proposing that we give up loving our nation, any more than I am proposing we give up loving our families. Love the USA, critique it, learn things from other places and times that can help us to grow together and get better. We can improve. First, we simply have to admit what we can improve and set about learning from others who have already improved it.
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