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American Anxiety

“The whole world was watching this case to see if everybody can get equal justice, not just certain people,” Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for Mr. Martin’s family, said on Sunday.
                            —The New York Times    

     I’m not so sure the whole world was watching. The rest of the world is quite preoccupied with countless other events careening toward criticality — civil war in the Middle East, bankruptcy all over Europe, riots in Brazil, the global bond market, a mystery epidemic in India, etc — and if they are watching, they must be mystified by what they see.

     What the Zimmerman trial showed me was a nation stuck in tired narratives about its racial predicament, and confusion about what the predicament even is. It doesn’t help that we stopped even pretending that something called common culture matters or even exists. By common culture I mean shared values and behavioral norms. The “multiculturalism” offered in place of it — at least among so-called progressives — hasn’t worked out too well either. On one side of the street you have Slate podcasters foolishly wringing their hands over “the N-word” while over on the other side Kanye West is making millions shouting “nigga, nigga, nigga.” We pretend to want to have a national conversation about race, but the truth is that it makes us too uncomfortable, so we retreat into platitudes and sentimentality.

      CNN covered the trial and its aftermath relentlessly — I saw a lot of it recovering from a Friday surgery — and the narrative there was a largely sentimental one about “a child” gunned down. Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon repeatedly omitted to mention that the six-foot-tall child was beating the smaller gunman’s head into the pavement in the minutes before he shot. Apparently the jury did notice this part of the story.

     The most uncomfortable part of the botched conversation is about behavior in general and the behavior of young black men in particular. The visible social failure is too gross and its implications are too scary, namely that we have more and more an oppositional culture saturated in violence that will never accommodate itself to any kind of a common culture. At this point that culture of young black men is oppositional to virtually every other group in America, white, Asian, Hispanic, et cetera, and the only response to it from the jittery “others” is a set of excuses for black opposition and failure.

     One excuse is that America’s drug laws have turned young black men into “political prisoners” in the world’s largest prison gulag. I’m sure that our drug laws are stupid and counter-productive, but I’m also sure that most of the young men caught in its web were doing something anti-social besides just holding, using, and selling.

     There are ways of understanding historically how we got to the current situation but they may not offer much consolation. The Civil Rights victories of 1964 and 1965 — the public accommodations act and voting rights act — created tremendous anxiety among African Americans about how they would fit into a desegregated society, so the rise of black separatism at exactly that moment of legislative triumph was not an accident. It offered a segment of the black population the choice of opting out of the new disposition of things. Opting out had consequences, and over several generations since then, the cohort of poorer black Americans has grown only more oppositional, antagonistic, and economically dysfunctional — with the sanction of America’s non-black “diversity” cheerleaders, who remain adamant in their own opposition to the idea of common culture.

     The economic challenges of the long emergency, with its desperate competition for the common resources of daily life — money, food, fuel — are liable to provoke new layers of desperate behavior, and new layers of opposition, antagonism, misunderstanding, tragedy, and failure. Do you argue that there are no “jobs” for young black men and nothing to absorb their energies? Increasingly there will be no “jobs” for anybody, except perhaps in local small scale farming. And these days that probably lacks the appeal of becoming a hip-hop star shouting “nigga, nigga, nigga.”

     What we “learned” from the Trayvon Martin case, so far, is exactly nothing.

About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

515 Responses to “American Anxiety” Subscribe

  1. Q. Shtik July 21, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    It’s a pretentious word… – Carol

    Everything YOU don’t know seems pretentious.

  2. Pucker July 21, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    I generally agree with the WSJ op-ed:


    Unfortunately, the Zimmerman trial afforded all the Bozos a tempting opportunity to perform racial antics on stage in front of the kids. It gave the Bozos a platform and opportunity to claim power, but it didn’t improve the economic circumstances of black working people one iota.

    It was a tragic waste of time and energy.

  3. progress4what July 21, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    I suspect that Fred, like I and many others, was wary of a repeat of the rioting that occurred after the Rodney King trial.

    And there was violence – just not to the level that new asokajanet tells us that Fred was predicting.

    Why wasn’t the violence as bad this time?

    Certainly, the cases were somewhat different. But in many ways – the Martin shooting was WORSE than the King beating. After all, King was a very guilty man – driving drunk at 3X the legal limit, speeding recklessly, endangering innocent life, and refusing to comply with legal police orders at the time of his arrest.

    Martin, at least according to the narrative sold to the Black Grievance Coalition through the media – was INNOCENT. And he was young. And he looked like the POTUS’ unborn son, to make matters as bad as they could possibly be.

    So, why wasn’t the violence as bad this time.
    Perhaps – because of the power of the internet and alternative news sources to challenge the dominant narrative of the media.

    • michigan_native July 23, 2013 at 1:27 am #

      Let’s not bullshit any longer. There are 2 angles that blacks play on whites. I consider myself Native American, but I see the way many blacks play their cards as well as the way many of the white Rush Limbaugh types respond. My experience is that many blacks treat me as white, just like there are with Hispanics like Zimmerman. I will spare bandwidth by using generic terms like white, black, and red.

      The minor card is that “we” enslaved them and are responsible for their predicament. That includes all non black people. That is the guilt trip. The major card they play is the fear trip. If there is no “justice”, there will be no peace. If you don’t capitulate, we will kick your ass, white boy. The ever present threat of actual or implied violence. That is why Zimmerman was brought to trial in the first place, why the charges against him took so long, and why the tax payer’s money was wasted on appeasing or giving into this omniscient threat of real or implied violence despite all the evidence that showed Zimmerman acted in self defense and that the “state” never had a strong case against him. They caved in to this fear. Not many are happy that Martin was killed, save for the KKK/Limbaugh types. But after all the hype about this 6’3″ baby faced kid was “murdered” by a “wanna be cop with a chip on his shoulder” and all these other assumptions that are successful attempts to get the most gullible and stupid people get involved and watch media sensationalism, the truth is that many people know Zimmerman was innocent and acted in self defense, they just don’t like the fear card being reversed. If Zimmerman had been black and Martin Hispanic, I am sure if you would hear nothing in the media about it and if any black would be “activists” spoke, it would be justifying his actions along the lines that it is a dangerous world and people have to band together to protect themselves, etc etc and on and on.

      So now we have the hypocrites within the black community who are OK with a virtual epidemic of black on black violence and the extreme left knee jerk morons showing us what buffoons they truly are by bellying up to the fear card and regurgitating emotionally charged assumptions and take turns taking pictures with their hoodies up which after all is said and done have no basis in reality.

      The Rush Limbaugh types would be more vocal in defending Zimmerman, except he is not a card carrying member of their lilly white glee club. In their view, all of the problems in the world are caused not by greed, short sightedness, and resource depletion, but by those persons of color whom they view as bankrupting the system and dragging them down in the sinking ship.

      Both are full of shit and this latest outburst I think is just the tip of the iceberg. When the shit hits the fan soon, everyone will be looking for scape goats. People are arming themselves to the teeth. The US government appears to be preparing for the imposition of martial law. I have always imagined the collapse of the US as being hell on earth for people who are still unaware and totally unprepared for it. Each passing day, week, and month seems to confirm this. Look around you. Race conflict as the collapse gains momentum. The acceleration of resource wars as those of you who still have jobs and homes watch your wages stagnate while your neighborhood deteriorates and your standard of living declines. Look around you, and don’t kid yourselves. Empty houses falling apart, boarded up businesses, people snapping and going on rampages or committing suicide, the latest emergency budget crisis or bankruptcy. This shit is real, this is the big one, the end of growth, the collapse. Don’t kid yourselves with denial or wishful thinking any longer

  4. janet July 21, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    “So, why wasn’t the violence as bad this time. Perhaps – because of the power of the internet and alternative news sources to challenge the dominant narrative of the media.”

    Who woulda thunk it? Seething Blacks, violent by nature, angry and waiting to explode into rioting, ready to kill whites at random, burn cities, etc. etc.

    And they can be tamed and made docile by words written on blogs.

    You really believe this?

  5. progress4what July 21, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    “And they can be tamed and made docile by words written on blogs.

    You really believe this?”
    – new asokajanet -

    Who said “blogs,” nitwit?


    The dominant media thrust kept putting out the iinflammatory picture of Trayvon Martin at about age 13. The dominant theme did NOT show pictures of Zimmerman’s broken nose or the bloody back of Zimmerman’s head.

    Accurate pictures existed – but they were not released into widespread circulation EXCEPT grudgingly and AFTER being first published by non-mainstream sources.

    So – by the time of the verdict, there was enough REAL evidence out in public circulation that a critical mass of rioters was not reached.

    Lucky for the US, this time.
    And a great contrast to the events surrounding the media narrative and the violence after the Rodney King verdict.

  6. janet July 21, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    Who woulda thunk it? White fear paints a picture of seething Blacks, violent by nature, angry and waiting to explode into rioting, ready to kill whites at random, burn cities, etc. etc.

    And yet it turns out Blacks can be tamed and made docile by “the power of the internet and alternative news sources” to provide a contrasting “media narrative.”

    Seems like Blacks are reasonable people, very aware of media, who accept media narratives and have impulse control, taking the correct course of action toward whites as a result. Who woulda thunk it?

    • Elmendorf July 21, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

      Yeah right, Janet. Blacks are such a pacific people [sic]. There were no Watts riots or LA riots of yesteryear or Oakland riots in support of Martin where cars were overturned and business windows smashed.

      Yes, Blacks are so known for their “impulse control” except for their rates of murder, mayhem, and theft. Are you out of your goddamned MIND?


      • michigan_native July 23, 2013 at 2:11 am #

        I try to be objective. I am wondering if these quick to defend gang banger types have ever lived in neighborhoods where rapes, murders, burglaries, car jackings, armed robberies etc are enough to drive the people that do not commit these acts to wish to flee? Maybe a day or a week living in areas like this would change their naïve perspectives over night? I am betting they would, if they lived through the experience

  7. progress4what July 21, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    It’s got to be much more difficult to riot, beat people, and burn down liquor stores when you see this picture and realize – deep in your guts – that Zimmerman was being assaulted by a larger Mr. Martin – at the time of the shooting.


    I’m out ’till next week.

    Hope JHK is feeling OK and posts on time.

    Something about Detroit, I’d wager.

  8. Lee Grove July 21, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    As a white guy who grew up in an ALL BLACK neighborhood, and who made it out, accompanying my best friend (black) to college, I have to say: I am tired of the fucking whining by the black community. Fucking tired of it! I had none of the preferences for college loans and scholarships that my best friend had, and yet I made it; we came through it together. He is now a quite important person in the military that protects us. There is prejudice everywhere for all sorts of reasons. Get over it.
    I have to think that if Obama could say what he really believes, he would say: Fucking losers. Stop making excuses.

    • Elmendorf July 21, 2013 at 10:56 pm #


      I went through graduate school with a conservative black friend who still lives in Tempe, AZ. Recently he called me up to complain about all the demonstrations in California in support of Trayvon Martin. My buddy grew up in none other than DETROIT and he, too, is sick of the Sharptons and Jacksons.

      Of course, any black person that’s actually politically conservative is defined as an “Uncle Tom” by his peers. That’s a great tragedy because the politically conservative blacks tend to be better educated and could be outstanding spokespersons for more civility in their communities. Instead, they are ostracized and marginalized by their peers and usually end up choosing to live in white neighborhoods.


  9. janet July 21, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    One thing cannot be argued:

    George Zimmerman is now free, but Trayvon Martin is still dead.

    I’m with Stevie Wonder. I will never vacation or patronize an event, concert, conference, etc. in Florida until the Florida law that allowed Zimmerman to kill Martin, and not even be charged for six weeks, is repealed.

    • Q. Shtik July 21, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

      While you and Stevie are NOT traveling to Florida be sure not to travel to these other 15 states with Stand Your Ground laws on the books.

      ?New Hampshire

      • anti dod July 22, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

        Not that GZ trial had anything to do with SYG.

    • Elmendorf July 21, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

      Zimmerman did nothing wrong, was legally exonerated, and deserves to be free. Trayvon Martin paid with his life for being a gangsta punk-ass but when you choose that path in life, that’s often an end result … usually from your own people.

      You can see the media disinformation surrounding urban demonstrations in support of Martin where his picture is shown when he was an innocent 10-year-old boy in contrast to the cocky punk he grew up to be. The liberal thought police are busy whitewashing his reputation to make the incident seem more repugnant.


      • juicyfruit July 23, 2013 at 11:05 am #

        yeah right. nothing wrong. if he was a pedophile and chased a ten year old who ended up kicking him in his junk and then was suddenly “really scared”, he coulda pulled his gun and shot a ten year old. great law.
        or if it was a neighborhood watch hood, stalking a woman walking home from the grocery store who turned on him and hit him in his head with her bag of canned goods he coulda shot her dead too.

        yeah. great law.

    • debt July 22, 2013 at 12:25 am #

      You spend most of you time in New Mexico and Arlington, Virginia. And you fantasize about yearly trips to Ecuador… My guess is you never go to Florida anyway so who cares?

      • anti dod July 23, 2013 at 12:27 am #

        You are so funny. Are the ‘stats’ still somewhere on this site that show ‘the entity’ as logging in from Dept of Defense?

  10. janet July 21, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Mary Mary has decided to join Stevie Wonder in his efforts to boycott the state of Florida following George Zimmerman’s acquittal. “We will stand with Stevie Wonder & boycott Florida until the Stand Your Ground Law is changed”

    • anti dod July 23, 2013 at 12:28 am #

      I know someone who drove celebs around including ‘Mary Mary’
      They were one of the worst. No tip and they grabbed whatever water and candy [all of it] dat wuz in duh limo.

  11. janet July 21, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    “I, Eddie Levert will not play Florida until they change their gun laws,” Levert said on Twitter. “I’m going to join Mr. Stevie Wonder in his boycott of Florida.”

    • Q. Shtik July 21, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

      Eddie Levert will not play Florida

      OMG, this is getting serious! They’re gonna crash the whole freakin Florida economy.

      BTW, who is Eddie Levert?

  12. Q. Shtik July 21, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    Forty some years ago my parents retired to Florida (Tequesta). My Dad was a big lifelong Ham radio buff. One of the first things he did was get a PT job as a radio dispatcher with the Tequesta Police. My wife and I visited (this would have been around 1975) and one night said we were going out to hit a club or two and have some drinks. Dad showed some real concern. “For Christ’s sake be careful, you wouldn’t believe the shit that goes on around here…I could tell you a thousand stories.”

  13. Q. Shtik July 21, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    Here is something I am surprised has not come up on the blog this week concerning the Trayvon/Zimmerman incident:

    Rush L. presented an analysis of the Piers Morgan interview of Rachel Jeantel (note, I have never watched/listened to Rush’s show. Someone sent me a link via e-mail). It is a written, not video transcript. It appears that what Jeantel told Piers differed greatly from what she said on the witness stand. Specifically, she gave the impression that her’s and Trayvon’s concern about the “creepy ass cracker” was that he was a sexual predator (i.e. gay) and that there was no conversation about race. It was all about homophobia and that was what the “whoop ass” was delivered for.

    Jeantel was not smart enough to realize that what she was telling Piers was destroying the whole racism narrative but Piers was quick to try to divert the conversation in the desired direction.

    Google it and judge for yourself. If I can locate the link I’ll post it.

  14. Q. Shtik July 21, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    I’ve been meaning to mention this all day:

    I keep up with the e-mail in my in-box throughout the day. A couple of times a day I will also click on my Spam folder, give a cursory glance at the subjects then check the box that automatically checks all the boxes and then hit Delete. Poof, all gone. I’ll bet a lot of you do the same thing.

    But when you do this you never know for sure what communication of real value you might be tossing out. I discovered this today when I went to my Spam folder and there was only one item in it so the subject really jumped out at me. I am so glad that I wasn’t quick to dump this item. The subject read “LOCAL SLUTS…..Free access to local sluts.” Whew, to think I almost deleted this. ;o)

  15. janet July 22, 2013 at 12:29 am #

    “note, I have never watched/listened to Rush’s show”

    I do listen to Rush and I heard that show. His big thing was trying to paint a picture of the dilemmas liberals are in: who to defend, Blacks or gays? (As if those are two different universes. Maybe Rush has never heard of a Black who is gay?)

    It was really pretty superficial, an attempt to make race go away. If all you have is the transcript, then you missed Rush’s dripping sarcasm.

  16. Carol Newquist July 22, 2013 at 7:16 am #

    Zimmerman did nothing wrong, was legally exonerated, and deserves to be free. Trayvon Martin paid with his life for being a gangsta punk-ass but when you choose that path in life, that’s often an end result … usually from your own people.

    Leave the “gangsta punk-ass” hyperbole out of it. You lose all credibility, as if it’s even possible for you to have any, when you characterize Martin versus Zimmerman. Those who engage in the characterizations are racists, whether they positively or negatively characterize Martin and /or Zimmerman.

    I’ve said it before, in my estimation this was a case that never should have gone to trial. It’s obvious why it went to trial, and the reasons for that were obviously agenda-driven. Zimmerman, per the facts presented, was well within the law and the jury made the right decision. If people don’t like that outcome, they can try to change the law, but they can’t claim the jury acted dishonorably. If they believe the decision was unjust because the law is unjust, then first the law must be changed. That’s where the focus should be, not these sideshow issues the liberal media and the right-wing pundits keep harping on.

    Face it, you racists, you didn’t get your wish. No riots. It was a big dud. People are going about their business and living life to the fullest just as they did before and during this fabricated media spectacle. It has nothing to do with the internet and social media. People are too busy with the increasing complexity and speed of life to linger on something like this for any length of time, despite the media’s attempts to carve a groove.

  17. Carol Newquist July 22, 2013 at 7:22 am #

    I do listen to Rush

    I do as well. It’s fantastic satire. He’s quite clever, and for anyone with a shred of intelligence, you can determine the mind games that are being played. Some of his characterizations of liberals are spot on, and quite humorous. He actually makes me laugh out loud sometimes. The key with any of these pundits is to not become emotionally involved and to view them as a joke….because that is exactly what they are. The joke is on the idiotic right-wingers who fail to see that Rush, Beck, Savage, Hannity et al are entertainment, not news. They know a good market when they see one, just like JHK. These dolts eat this shit up and keep coming back for more. It’s an endless supply of low-hanging fruit ripe for the harvest.

  18. Carol Newquist July 22, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    “For Christ’s sake be careful, you wouldn’t believe the shit that goes on around here…I could tell you a thousand stories.”

    I find this hard to believe. Your father was obviously a paranoid and bitter racist, and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

  19. Carol Newquist July 22, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    Q Schmuck continues to emphasize his Catholic education, so it’s not surprising he holds the views he does. Check this retard out….who happens to be a defender of the Catholic faith. Q Schmuck could have wrote it himself with the exception of this typo with which Q Schmuck would take umbrage.

    This article by Fred Reed entitled “Riots” is a sad but all to accurate read.


    Watching the Zimmerman trial, I wonder whether we may not be in for big trouble. Racial hostility is much higher in the United States than it is allowed to appear. In the Twittersphere there is much traffic from blacks, saying that if Zimmerman walks, they will kill him themselves, riot, or kill random whites. On many sites around the web, whites of a sort not found on NPR are saying, “Bring it on.” This is not your granny’s recipe for domestic tranquility.

    Let’s not kid ourselves. Race underlies almost everything in this country that spends half its time denouncing racism. This is true of trials, and particularly true of show trials. When the police who beat Rodney King, were acquitted by a white jury, the cops being clearly guilty, blacks burned Los Angeles. When OJ Simpson, clearly guilty, was acquitted by a black jury, whites didn’t burn anything, but were angry and perfectly aware that the verdict was political.

    The prosecution’s case against Zimmerman is so weak that unless the fix is in, he will walk. Katie, bar the door.

    What is it with the Catholics? What it shows is people like Q Schmuck and his friends here are perfectly incapable of thinking for themselves, and instead must have their talking points spoon-fed to them by the likes of Fred the Fruit. Q Schmuck and friends are nothing more than a parrots.

  20. chomskyite July 22, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    What the hell happened to your comments section James? It’s loaded with teabaggers from hell! The blog-vampires were better than these wackos, holy hat.

    • anti dod July 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

      Yes, Assoka. Wheres JHK today?

    • juicyfruit July 23, 2013 at 11:28 am #


    • David Gordon July 28, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

      James himself led the parade as the racist pied piper.

      When, as James does, you stand on the premise that a 30-year old man can follow a 17-year old boy at night for no other reason than the boy is black, then when the boy in fear for his safety challenges your right to threaten him, you enter into a physical altercation with him and you pull out a gun and shoot him dead, what do you expect?

      I expect you will get exactly this parade of racist ghouls and tea-baggers to crawl out of the woodwork and make their disgusting allegiances public.

      Good luck to washing the stain off of your reputation now, Kunstler.

      A merry lot you and your clusterfuck nation are turning out to be.

  21. wayfarer July 24, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    Racism is alive and well.

  22. Smashy Bone July 30, 2013 at 4:30 am #

    Boy I’m glad I live in Canada.

    It’s wild shit watching your culture eat itself. Please don’t come here when shit hits the fan.

    Not that it’s perfect here, our government has made life hell for First Nations.. But generally blacks are regular people and whites are not afraid of them.


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