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Sickness in US society will not be easy to cure | Updated: 2017-08-14 19:54

For a long time, people in the United States took pride in the belief that one of the things that made their nation great was a system that was designed to encourage principled disagreements so that people could achieve consensus through reasoned debate.

"I disapprove of what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it," as French philosopher Voltaire put it.

Yet their faith in that system seems to have wavered in recent years amid the widening social, racial and political divides in the country.

Divides that fester with animosity, as shown by the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, when a man plowed a car into a crowd of people protesting against a rally by white supremacists, killing one person and injuring 19, and bloody street brawls erupted injuring more.

While violence, bigotry and hatred in any form must be condemned, it is also imperative to identify the root cause of all these problems because they show something is wrong with US society.

Some people in the US have pointed an accusing finger at President Donald Trump, who they say is to blame for what they believe is his incitement of intolerance for his own political gains, citing his anti-immigrant and misogynist campaign rhetoric as proof.

That is why Trump has been widely criticized for his failure to explicitly condemn the white supremacists for their part in the weekend violence, unlike Vice-President Mike Pence, who stated bluntly that he had no tolerance for white supremacists or neo-Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan.

Yet it would be oversimplifying the facts to attribute all the social problems in the US to a single person or certain groups. US society was polarized before Trump took office.

This is a society where 1 percent of the people have nearly 40 percent of the national wealth, prompting the quip that it is "of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent and for the 1 percent".

The Virginia violence is just one symptom of a social system that is afflicted with a severe sickness.

People may differ over what has gone wrong in the system, but there is no denying that the strength on which the United States built its success, a widely shared belief in the American dream and what made it great, is no longer there.

There is no easy cure to remedy the wrongs in US society. But to start with, a little soul-searching may be a step in the right direction.

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