In news stories that involve crimes with divisive racial themes, the media frequently paper over information about the perpetrators. But that noble restraint only seems to incite readers. In reckless fashion they often post the most inflammatory online comments about such liberal censorship. Officially, America celebrates diversity; privately, America is fragmenting into racial, political and ideological camps.
So why is the United States not experiencing something like the rioting in Turkey or Brazil, or the murder of thousands in Mexico? How are we able to avoid the bloody chaos in Syria, the harsh dictatorships of Russia and China, the implosion of Egypt or the economic hopelessness now endemic in Southern Europe?
About half of America and many of its institutions operate as they always have. Cal-Tech and MIT are still serious. Neither interjects race, class and gender studies into its engineering or physics curricula. Most in the IRS, unlike some of their bosses, are not corrupt. For the well driller, the power plant operator and the wheat farmer, the lies in Washington are still mostly an abstraction.
Get up at 5:30 a.m. and you'll see that most of the nation's urban freeways are jammed with hard-working commuters. Every day they go to work, support their families, pay their taxes and avoid arrest -- so that millions of others do not have to do the same. The U.S. military still more closely resembles our heroes from World War II than the culture of the Kardashians.
Like diverse imperial Roman citizens, we are united in some fashion by shared popular tastes and mass consumerism. The cell phones and cars of the poor offer more computing power and better transportation than the aristocracy enjoyed just 20 years ago.
Youth of all races and backgrounds in lockstep fiddle with their cell phones as they walk about. Jeans are an unspoken American uniform -- both for the Wall Street grandees and the homeless on the sidewalks. Left, right, liberal, conservative, professor and ditch digger have similar-looking Facebook accounts.
If Rome quieted the people with public spectacles and cheap grain from the provinces, so too Americans of all classes keep glued to favorite video games and reality-TV shows. Fast food is both cheap and tasty. All that for now is preferable to rioting and revolt.
Like Rome, America apparently can coast for a long time on the fumes of its wonderful political heritage and economic dynamism -- even if both are little understood or appreciated by most who still benefit from them.