By Ralph E. Moore Jr.,
Special to the AFRO

“Mercy, mercy me. Things ain’t what they used to be…”  

The 1971 song lyrics Marvin Gaye intoned on his classic album, “What’s Going On?” are ringing louder than ever. The words are even more relevant, if not prophetic, today. 

The news is filled with weekly mass murders overwhelmingly done with some of the 433.9 million guns possessed by Americans, a figure provided by the Congressional Research Service and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). 

It has been observed many times lately: there are more guns in the United States than its population of 330,000,000. It seems as if innocent people are being shot and killed all the time, with no end to the violence in sight. Little to no federal government action only seems to increase the violence.

The staggering figures mentioned above should tell us all something.  The level of fear in this nation is just as staggering as the amount of gun possessions.  “Get yourself a gun!” seems to be advice, along with the hope that you will be quicker on the draw.  

The 1960’s civil rights activist from Cambridge, Md. formerly H. Rap Brown, now known as Imam Jamil Al-Amin, once reminded us that “violence is American as cherry pie.” The quantity of guns is symbolic of the level of national fear -and some home-baked hatred from a very old recipe.  

The fact that so many weapons are manufactured, sold (legally and illegally) and possessed is evidence of America’s testaments to fear of violence and historic and current acts of violence because of fear and hatred.  The vicious cycle spirals onward and upward.  It’s a very sorrowful and horrific situation. 

American violence raises many questions as to what it is and where is it going?  Does its prevalence represent that America itself is dying, at least figuratively?  Will the “untimely demise” of democracy once called out by poet, Gil Scott Heron, be homicide, suicide or genocide? Either way would be an ending.

Another indicator of decline is that the Supreme Court is shameful these days.  It is no longer supreme or a righteous court.  It is a tool of the conservative forces who have installed its majority and while playing by their own rules, some justices ignore the Constitution (see abortion and voting rights rulings) and follow little or no ethical rules. Justice Clarence Thomas has been a very close personal for 20 years with conservative billionaire, Harlan Crow, who gifted his friend on the bench with luxury vacations and private jet flights.  Thomas’s wife, Ginni, took pleasure trips and rides, too, not to mention, she was paid $25,000 in 2012 by a Leonard Leo, who was responsible for manipulations that packed the court with its current conservative majority.  Mrs. Thomas was handed the check back then by former Donald Trump top adviser, Kellyanne Conway, who was a pollster at the time.

But most of the gifts the Thomas family received (including rent-free Crow-owned housing for Clarence’s mother) were not reported as required and expected at least as the norm.  Righteous judgments ruled on the rest of us from freewheeling personal behaviors by Supreme Court Justices.  

Questions have been raised about Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.  So far, the Court polices itself.  That is never a good thing. One must feel badly for Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who last year became the first African-American woman to sit on the court in history.  Her likely professional dream of one day sitting on the highest court in the land must have been inspired by the unanimous 1954 Brown decision that ruled “separate but equal facilities in schools were inherently unequal and thereby unconstitutional.”  It was a very high point of Supreme Court rulings but by today’s court rulings and personal behavior, the Brown decision was a very long time and several ethical standard compliances ago.  The Supreme Court must seem embarrassing to her. Sad. 

The justices have a lot of power and a lot of influence over life in these United States and the court is not acting honestly or honorably in these times. Is America’s Supreme Court over as an institution? What does the collapse of its proper functioning mean for the country? 

Avon Bellamy, a professional writer and longtime social analyst of the state of the nation’s affairs put it this way, “We are watching the decimation of a nation that has failed its mission in one sense and accomplished it in another. The silence that says we no longer care is deafening. Our leadership is engaged in rioters’ treachery as it noisily overthrows our faux democracy.”

Some big things are happening in this country: all at once and with the so-called “tyranny of the minority.”

And of course, there is no better evidence of America’s collapse than the rise, fall and possible return of Donald Trump, a symptom of the Republican Party’s disintegration. Once the party of Abraham Lincoln, then the party of Ronald Regan, it is now the party of a twice impeached and now indicted with the felony crime of falsifying business records in New York.  

In one news poll conducted by Hart Research Associates, Trump is ranked in first place with Republicans– far ahead of nearest potential rival, Don DeSantis, the book banning, Disney World attacking, anti-gay governor of Florida. 

DeSantis gets attention from the media by fighting his culture ways because he, like his party, has no program.  Yet he is ahead of potential candidates Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott (R- SC) and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson in the polls.  It is hard to believe these are the best candidates the Republicans can come up with to defeat Trumpism.  But the party of “no” has no good leadership to serve as the 2024 Republican nominee.

Kermit K.C. Burton, a non-profit policy maker in social programs, recently made this observation, “I believe democracy at its essence is about coming together in decision-making. Separate “isms” in democracy is anathema. When our leaders, governmental and otherwise, advance separate-isms and use power of the people to advantage themselves against the best interests of the people, it is the people themselves who must repel, diminish and defeat separate-ism such that our democracy can’t be fallible or faux!”

America is sharply divided. Many of its institutions are under attack or dying– to include the police, the courts, churches, the media, the medical profession and the schools.  Institutions that were once trusted have lost the faith of many in the public. These institutions with all their flaws and mistreatment of American citizens are the building blocks of an admittedly imperfect union. Their collapsing right before our eyes practically begs the question, “Is America over?” that is, “Is democracy dying right before our eyes?”

If so, then one must “show us brave,” as the poet Claude McKay wrote in his Harlem Renaissance poem, “If we must die.” And though one or many find themselves “pressed to the wall,” one must fight back for freedom, for the children and grandchildren of America. Save the children.