American Egg – Democracy in Crisis

American Democracy in Crisis

“To have egg on one’s face” is an American saying, that means that one has done something to make oneself look foolish. On the other hand, the British call a good person or someone to be trusted, “a good egg”.

The story goes, that doubt about the authenticity of a $20 currency note, made a shopkeeper called the police on George Floyd, in Minneapolis. Whatever took place next, was most shocking to behold on the candid camera of bystanders. His life was squeezed out by the policeman kneeling down on his neck! In Les Miserables, a novel, by Victor Hugo, a man is sentenced to 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. This incident seems to be in the same group of extreme punishment for what would certainly have been declared a misdemeanour if it turns out, that it was a counterfeit note, that George Floyd was trying to use at the store.

More irrational reactions were to follow following the news of the African American’s death. Police videos that were circulated, show that many posh stores in Manhattan were looted of their luxury watches and other goods as retribution for the unjust killing. There were many protests all over the US, and even curfew was declared.

How can social scientists come up with a psychological explanation for days of irrational behaviour? I think perhaps the COVID-19 lockdown built up too much pressure on the society, and this incident in Minneapolis blew the lid off the kettle. Why a class war should erupt due to some frustrated policeman’s action on one individual is hard to explain. After years of democratic government, US society is known to be quite suave about race-relations, and most citizens are all-American to the core. They are all proud of their black leaders, and sportsmen, actors, engineers, professionals, and musicians. This, despite there being many reminders of Black history, and their bondage, before the emancipation declaration of Abraham Lincoln. Maybe the lockdown provided too much time to the citizenry, to think about history, and that too, without guidance from professional historians. The greatest democracy in the world, should accept this incident, as a momentary lapse of reason on the part of some of the law enforcement representatives, and return to their progressive ways, that the whole world admires and aspires towards.

Dr. Badri Toppur
Associate Professor, Rajalakshmi School of Business, Chennai
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