The United States has been a world leader in homicide for centuries. Indeed, “since the early 19th century ...[America has been] the most homicidal country in the Western world” and holds that title today (Kelley, 2009). In a 2007-2008 list of 31 nations, only two nations, Mexico and Chile, had higher homicide rates (Comparison, 2010). Nations with higher populations, such as India and China have fewer homicides (Comparison, 2010). Further, a nation such as Japan, which has a lower population but a higher population density then the United States, has one of the world’s lowest homicide rates (Comparison, 2010). Population size and density, therefore, cannot be the chief reasons for this nation’s higher homicide rates. There are, however, several factors in the United States that create the conditions which make this nation a world leader in homicide.
Americans celebrate lawlessness and criminals to such an extent that the nation has made it culturally desirable to become a criminal. This is seen in all areas of society, from poor, urban, minority, youth and their hero worship of gang members to rural, religious, White, “anti-government,” gun-toting vigilantes. While Americans hate crime and routinely speak about the need for law and order, they often create heroes out of criminals. Americans have celebrated the exploits of Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde. These criminals, for varying reasons, have engaged the American public and become heroes as they killed, robbed, and otherwise violated the good moral character the American Puritan ethic has always promoted. One professor of history and criminology indicates that Americans’ love affair with criminals, the anti-hero, stems from a distrust of government (Kelley, 2009). In a nation founded upon the criminal act of treason committed by American colonists who turned against their King, this idea makes perfect sense. This belief, that
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