By Mark L. Taylor
The Commoner Call (10/8/17)
A week out from the Las Vegas massacre and the post mass shooting ritual is well underway. Flags are once again flapping limply at half-mast. Sidewalk memorials have sprung up with the requisite teddy bears, heart-shaped balloons, flickering candles and heartfelt messages on cards and posters. Bouquets of flowers pile up on sidewalks and decorated white crosses dot the cityscape. Politicians, who could actually do something to trim and manage the domestic arsenal a bit, mouth their cynically empty and oh-so-tiring “thoughts and prayers” rap and will in the next week cash a fresh round of campaign checks from the ghouls at the NRA.
Along with the usual reporting on the inventory of weapons and calibers used and shots fired, we learn the gun industry once again cashes in on the ritual of the predictable post-massacre bounce in gun sales.
The pundits have dutifully stepped forward to do their job filling the air – and our spinning heads – with all the tired talking points about the tragic senselessness of it all; including the weekly round-up of Shields and Brooks on Friday’s PBS News Hour where nothing – and I mean absolutely nothing – new or particularly insightful was said about America’s domestic blood lust. That’s not picking on PBS, the same can be said from NPR to The New York Times and The Washington Post to the HuffPost on to CNN and, even, the peculiar squirmy subterranean insanity nested up at Faux ‘News’.
As of this writing the death toll in Las Vegas stands at 59, including the shooter. The number of wounded/injured has dropped a tad to something just under 500. These tallies will tuck neatly into the reports of the 36,000 or so of Americans who die by gun annually. Since January 1, 2013 there have been 1,516 mass shootings in the U.S., defined as four or more shot in one incident, not including the shooter.
Guns are not the problem. The problem goes much deeper to a kind of official systemic, industialized violence that infects us all. It is a violence that comes to rest with each of us as citizens in this land; we all bear responsibility for the monstrous actors among us, beginning with the oily corporate monsters in charge.
We are reminded that a mass shooting – meaning four or more victims per event – happens pretty much daily in the United States. It’s now become so routine a shooter has to go really big – like shooting up a concert – to make it to the national news.
Up to his eyeballs
But here’s what I think of more and more with these uniquely American blood spectacles: I think of all the times we have heard – and continue to hear – about a wedding party blown away by a US Predator drone in some faraway Iraqi village, or seen the pictures of children in Yemen dismembered and shattered by American-made bombs dropped by Saudi jet fighters fueled by American tankers and guided to target by American intelligence units. More Yemeni children in a US backed bombing raid on a Doctors Without Borders hospital. We – you and I – paid the bill.
I think of all the past years – many decades – of reports from places like Chile, Argentina, Honduras, Columbia, Nicaragua in which we have over and over heard reports of 25, 50, 100 poor villagers or indigenous people who were gunned down by US-trained, backed, and funded rebel or counter insurgency militia or warlords. How many times have we heard about CIA trained forces kidnapping, raping, torturing, executing and ‘disappearing’ labor union leaders, student activists and farm worker organizers from dozens of Third World countries?
During Vietnam US soldiers slaughtered somewhere between 347 and 504 unarmed innocent civilians in the village of Mai Lai. As bad as that was, it was just one of a number of other such slaughters. The CIA’s seven-year long Operation Phoenix was a systematic, official program of domestic terrorism responsible for the torture and deaths of tens of thousands of Vietnamese.
The Vietnamese are now into second and third generations of children born with horrific defects due to the effects of the widespread spraying of Agent Orange dioxin defoliant by American forces. The HuffPost reports, “In the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, the Nixon administration promised to contribute $3 billion for compensation and postwar reconstruction of Vietnam. That promise remains unfulfilled.”
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler wrote in his classic essay War Is A Racket of this kind of callous American brutality and violence going all the way back to the Spanish American War and the invasion of the Philippines in the early 20th century.
And don’t think this stuff happened in the past. Hell, the Wisconsin-based In These Times magazine just published a disturbing report of U.S.-Trained Warlords Committing Atrocities in Afghanistan. ITT also reports The U.S. Is Bombing at Least Six Countries.
And the brutal truth is, that with the exception of small groups of lefty activists, no one in this country ever gives a shit about the murder, mayhem, brutality and straight-from-hell evil that is done in our name and on our dime in service to corporate profit and empire.
Uncle Sam is up to his eyeballs in the blood of innocents.
Given this international brutality is done by our government with our tax dollars and we often profit from the booty, we all share responsibility – whether we choose to look at it or not. Whether we even chose to become aware of it or not (and truly, folks, the information is there to be found and citizens do have obligations to know what their governments are up to).
There is no justification for a Las Vegas or Sandy Hook or Pulse Night Club. The people who died and were injured and traumatized were innocents caught in the crossfire. They did nothing to deserve what fate brought them. And all of these incidents need to be seen within the context of the larger society and the actions routinely taken in our name and on our dime. There is something called karma: that the energy we put out into the world comes back on us at some point and in some way. Karma works on both the individual and collective level.
If we tolerate insane violence being done by our government to unseen others don’t be surprised if the same kind of insanity ricochets back to infect the sick ‘homeland’ from which it sprang. Just because our victims may be on the other side of the world does not mean we are safe from the karmic blowback: sow insane violence; reap insane violence. All wars come home and we have, through decades of callous indifference, made the inevitable lessons all the more painful.
Yes, guns are a problem. A big problem that spawns all kinds of other problems. New gun regulations and limits? Yes, but be clear: guns are not the problem. The problem goes much deeper to a kind of official systemic and corporatized brand of American violence that cheapens and dehumanizes then infects and numbs us all. It is a violence that comes to rest with each of us as citizens in this land; we all bear responsibility for the monstrous actors among us, beginning with the oily corporate monsters in charge. To really confront American gun violence we must deeply confront the shadow of the nation’s soul. And that you will not hear spoken of on Shields and Brooks or anywhere else in the corporate mainstream any time soon.
(Commoner Call commentary and cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )
Mass Shootings Are Really No Surprise, They Are The Logical Outcome Of Something Much Bigger Than Weak Gun Laws
By Robert C. Koehler
Common Dreams (10/5/17)
In the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, as in the wake of all the high-profile mass shootings that preceded it, the big question looms: Why?
John Whitehead puts the question this way: “What is it about America that makes violence our nation’s calling card?”
This is the enormous question — you might call it the $700 billion question, which is the size of the 2018 military budget recently approved by the Senate — that most media and law enforcement personnel do not ask or acknowledge, as they search for clues about the motive behind Stephen Paddock’s rampage on the night of Oct. 1 amid the scattered wreckage of the killer’s life.
He was a “lone wolf.” He was a “psychopath.”
He was an American.
And he was in possession, in his various dwelling places, of 47 firearms, some of which were used to kill at least 59 people and injure more than 500 others as they attended a country music concert. And some of these firearms were modified by “bump stocks,” a cheap, legal device that allows a semiautomatic rifle to fire like an automatic.
Whitehead puts the answer out there with terrifying clarity: “Perhaps there’s no single one factor to blame for this gun violence. However, there is a common denominator, and that is a war-drenched, violence-imbued, profit-driven military industrial complex that has invaded almost every aspect of our lives.”
This is America, a global empire engaged in endless war, with an entertainment and news media that sells violence as a spectator sport and a consequence-free solution to pretty much every problem you can think of. We believe in having enemies — not in a personal sense but in the abstract: people who are different in some defining way and symbolize, in their differentness, the cause of our troubles. In other words, we dehumanize. We call people gooks or ragheads or . . . we all know the list of obscenities, past and present.
He was a “lone wolf.” He was a “psychopath.”
He was an American.
Sociologist Peter Turchin, in the wake of the Sandy Hook killings nearly five years ago, wrote: “On the battlefield, you are supposed to try to kill a person whom you’ve never met before. You are not trying to kill this particular person, you are shooting because he is wearing the enemy uniform. . . . Enemy soldiers are socially substitutable.”
And mass murderers behave the same way as soldiers, except the “orders” they are obeying are their own or those of some marginal hate-community. The defining characteristic of mass murder is not that it’s senseless or random, but that, to the murderer, the victims symbolize evil. This sort of behavior, in other circumstances, is publicly celebrated. Suddenly, for instance, I’m thinking about the outpouring of praise Donald Trump generated from much of the media when the U.S. dropped a MOAB bomb — the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in the American arsenal — on Afghanistan. Some commentators declared that he became “presidential” after this action. The poor slobs who died because of it couldn’t have mattered less to the cheering spectators.
And a serious segment of the national economy depends on the continual flow of enemies and their elimination. It depends on selling weapons.
For instance, William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, pointed out in a recent Democracy Now! interview that the Trump administration has eliminated human-rights restrictions on small-arms exports, putting them under the control of the Commerce Department rather than the State Department, as well as “restrictions on fighter planes and bombs and the large weapons, the kind that are being used by Saudi Arabia to kill civilians in Yemen.”
Remarkably, domestic gun sales had slumped after Trump’s election — gun owners apparently became less fearful that the government would take their weapons away — so “gun manufacturers are desperate for more foreign sales. And they don’t care who the guns go to,” Hartung said. “And I think that’s really the problem.”
He concluded by quoting Martin Luther King’s speech against the Vietnam War: “I can’t in good conscience fight violence at home if I don’t stand up to my own government, which is the greatest purveyor of violence around the world.”
Only in this context does it become relevant to talk about gun control legislation. By themselves, such basic regulations as universal background checks, a reinstating of the assault-weapons ban and required permits for gun ownership feel like a frail wall against American violence and the ease with which the next “lone wolf” can plan his assault.
Indeed, gun control laws are basically just stopgap measures perpetually debated by a violence-addicted society. They swell in significance because they’re so viciously opposed by the NRA. I’m not against them, but they’re not enough.
Pro-violence Dem senator pops off
“And I awoke Monday hoping that maybe this shooting is the one that will persuade America to reclaim the mantle of global leadership that has been at our core since our origin,” Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy wrote in the Washington Post the day after the Las Vegas massacre, calling for sane gun control legislation.
Yes, this is crucial. But I can’t help but note that Murphy was one of the 89 senators, including, of course, most Democrats, who voted last month for the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, bestowing $700 billion on the U.S. military next year, an increase of $80 billion, which is even more than the Pentagon or Trump requested.
“Mass shootings,” Murphy acknowledged, “happen almost nowhere else but the United States.”
This is not because of tepid gun laws. It’s because the country funds — and benefits from — endless war and violence of all sorts. Occasionally the violence comes back to haunt us.
[Editor’s Note: The writer refers to the $700 billion war budget recently approved on an almost completely bipartisan vote. Be advised that amount is not the total annual expenditure on American war making. When various intel, black ops and veterans programs are taken into account the actual amount is about $1.3 TRILLION per year. Don’t ask why we can’t have universal health insurance. After all, we have much bigger priorities – corporate sponsored death and destruction that occasionally comes home. – Mark L. Taylor]
(This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.)
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