Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Explores Homicide in America

A new book suggests that politics has more to do with murder than poverty, race and unemployment. Randolph Roth, a professor at Ohio State University, has published American Homicide. Roth has concluded that homicide is directly related to how people feel about their government. Roth distinguishes a healthy distrust for government with a disdain for government. Disdain is a precursor to hopelessness and in turn homicide.

Roth traces hatred toward the government back to the Civil War when the government was literally torn in two by competing interests and very different moral standards in attaining those interests. The modern form of “split asunder” has manifested itself in divisive, partisan elections. Starting in 2000 with Bush and Gore and continuing through the Obama/ McCain election, politics has taken on a vitriolic tone that can be best described as uninformed, inflamed rancor.

Roth charts the changing political landscape which increases or decreases in the homicide rate. For instance the Nixon Administration followed by the Carter administration brought about a feeling of distrust, hopelessness, and frustration. Political scandal, a sputtering economy, racial tensions and the Iranian hostage crisis ushered in an unprecedented increase in lawlessness.

The Obama administration bears out Roth’s theory. In urban areas, where Obama did extremely well in 2008, citizens felt empowered and realized the most significant decrease in homicide in 2009. In cities with a population of a 100,000 or more, that increased their GOP vote in 2008, endured an 11-percent increase in homicide.
Roth suggests that the bitter partisan rhetoric from both Democrats and GOP’s fuels the disdain with government.

Citizens are generally disenchanted with the process and that feeling of hopelessness fuels violence. In fact, he attempts to discredit the influences of poverty, drugs, unemployment, alcohol and race on violence-particularly homicide. Roth’s theory is provocative and he can point to the national political arena as his laboratory.

Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
672 pages

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