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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Violent Nation Under God

    After every mass murder in the United States, there is a Tsunami-sized wave of excited chatter about causes and necessary remedial strategies. The cycle of “ins” and “outs” follows, that is, introspection and outrage. The hullabaloo lasts for a couple months at best, and fades into the wind, usually overtaken by some outrageously trivial matter of “public interest” or some politically devised crisis.
America is a nation where powerful people determine, if not decide, the nature of the public discourse, and, more importantly, the corrective actions to be taken. In the case of violence, and the inevitable gun debate, the dialogue is driven by demoniacs of the infamous gun lobby, the National Rifle Ass-ociation. Presently a completely demented man is the head and mouth organ of that body, a certain Wayne LaPierre. “O Judgement, thou has fled to brutish beasts and men have lost their reason!” The utterances and perspectives of this man, in any truly sane society would justify a public hanging.
Au contraire, he has, we understand, the undying support of many of the so-called “Christian” right, who were once accused with much public uproar and opprobrium, of clinging to their guns, as though somehow this was an inaccurate statement.
Always, after each senseless killing spree, the pressing question demanding an urgent answer is: WHY? What caused it? What was the perpetrator motivated by?
Always the painful lament is: “this has never happened in this wonderful quiet neighbourhood and he was such a nice boy… quiet demeanour…offspring of a good, upstanding family,” and so on.
Although the question is asked, the real answer is deliberately ignored, seldom posited. It is too raw and painful to acknowledge.
Modern America was founded on violence, and violence is embedded in the psyche of the nation. The Wild West was not an accident or imaginary literary creation. The White man penetrated and overran the country killing every resisting and even passive Indian in sight and making the John Wayne archetype, the hero of the nation who could do no wrong. Every little boy grew up adoring and emulating that imaginary gunslinger, playing “cowboys and Indians”, the national sport. The merciless, indiscriminate slaughter of the Indians, the aboriginals, to clear the land for the white people left a trail of misery and hardship for the defenceless peoples, but most tragically, an indelible scar on the hearts of the vulnerable children of the nation.
Then follows, true to form, the unspeakable violence and brutality of Slavery and the Jim Crow era; the lynching of black men, the burden carriers of the nation, at a whim, while insensitive onlookers gazed on with glee and amusement. Little white boys grew up unconsciously thinking that this was a desirable norm, a pattern of behaviour to be emulated to achieve one’s sadistic, narcissistic  goals. Idiots dressed in sheets ranged the land like mad marauders, slaughtering blacks and destroying their property and livelihoods, with impunity, while their impressionable young sons and daughters witnessed the spectacle or even participated vicariously.
Then there follows the murderous era of the Mob and the era of unspeakable gang violence, the seeds of which are still germinating today, in the enlightened 2000s!
On a Sunday in September, 1963, when all good Christians should have been on their knees at church, a white man places a  bomb under the steps of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, (a Church, Good Heavens!!) killing four little black girls Denise McNair (11), Addie Mae Collins (14), Carole Robertson (14) and Cynthia Wesley (14).
 The four girls had been attending Sunday school classes at the church. Reportedly, twenty-three other people were also hurt by the blast. The infamous Ku Klux Klansmen were held responsible.
 On the night of June 21, 1964 three Civil Rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner are beaten, killed and buried in Mississippi by Klu Klux Klansmen.
During the various seasons of murder and mayhem in America, gunmen have taken the lives of the country’s national leaders, Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, John and Robert Kennedy, Medgar Wiley Evers and Martin Luther King, and attempted the assassination of many others.
 In the 1970s  a white preacher, James "Jim" Jones, persuaded over 900 mostly black church adherents to migrate to Guyana in search of an idyllic life he offered, and led them in 1978 in a mass suicide. Of the 914 members of the church who drank the cyanide coolaid Jones served them in Jonestown, over 200 were children.
A recent Mother Jones magazine investigation conducted by Mark Follman, Gavin Aronsen and Deanna Pan documented over 60 mass shootings in the United States between 1982 and 2012. The combined toll (fatalities and injuries) was 1007, an average of roughly 17 innocent  souls per shooting spree.
Among the most notorious of these were: the 1984 McDonalds Restaurant massacre in California, where 41-year old James Oliver Huberty shot 41; the Stockton School shooting where in 1989  26-year old Patrick Purdy shot 35; the Luby’s massacre in Texas in 1991 where 35-year old George Hennard shot 44 people; the Long Island railroad massacre in New York in 1993 where 35-year old Colin Ferguson (alas, a black imitator) shot 25 people ; the 1994 shooting in Washington where 20-year old Dean Allen Mellberg shot 28; the 1998 Thurston High School shooting in Oregon  where an expelled student shot 29, the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado where Eric Harris and Dylan lebold shot 39; the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 where Seung Hui Cho shot 56, the Fort Hood shooting in Texas in  2009 where Nidal Malik Hassan shot 43; the Aurora theatre shooting in 2012 where 24-year old James Holmes shot 70 people; and most recently the Newtown primary school shooting in Connecticut where Adam Lanza shot 30, mostly infants.
In 1995 a young idealist Timothy Mc Veigh was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing which killed 168 people, including 19 children under 6 years old, in what was labelled “the worst terrorist attack on American soil” up to that time. More than 600 people were also injured in the attack.
We do not have the time to detail the endless stream of individual killings, official brutalities and merciless acts of violence that have cluttered the American landscape.
  But sadly it is not only physical violence that perpetuates the historical carnage and threatens the destruction of the country.
 Violent free speech has been just as pernicious as physical murder; no more was such freedom more manifest than in the campaigns that brought the first Black President, Black Barack Obama into the White House. During the last couple elections the waving of guns and demands for gun rights reached a feverish pitch. Not only did the show of guns take on new currency during that period, but in both elections the speech violence directed at the President was heavily accentuated. Republican spokesmen such as John Sununu, Louis Gohmert, Sean Hannity and Pat Buchanan to name just a few of the most crazed and outlandish, excelled each other in the language of incitement and spewing violence in speech against the President.
This violent speech has led to attitudes and thoughts that virtually spelled war against those “not like me”. Added to that is the violence of exclusion and poverty; the violence of greed which creates great disparities and animosities between social groups, the violence of racial slur and innuendo, the violence of prejudice and inequity, the violence of fear mongering, the violence of partisanship gone mad, the violence of obstructionism against which people feel violated and helpless.
It’s like a poison flowing through the rivers of the land from which the impressionable youth drink, like coolaid, hungrily.
All this violent talk and mayhem causes the little boys to develop a desire to take up arms and destroy the neighbourhood; gripped by an incomprehensible fear and insecurity and the unresolved youth phobias that have never been healed.
When on the 14th of December 2012, 20 year old Adam Lanza walked  into a school and mowed down 20 infants and their six teachers as though he were on the battlefields of Viet Nam, he was virtually fulfilling the history of his nation, or he perhaps would say, his destiny. Once again, for the umpteenth time, the nation went into outrage mode.
Missed in the hysteria and furor, is the irony of a woman, blinded by fear of unknown forces, who stocks up an armoury of lethal weapons in her home, to protect herself from the horrible invaders, only to have the weapons used to take her own life .
Lanza’s mother is persuaded, by people like LaPierre, that the authorities are coming to take away her guns, while her unsuspected adversary is in reality her own misguided son, the very son she nurtured within the walls of her home and who is living under her roof. It turned out that her fear was hopelessly, fatally misdirected. She really had nothing to fear but fear itself, and that fear snatched away her life and the life of her son and 20 beautiful babies and with them the hearts of their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, grandmothers and grandfathers, left to mourn for the rest of their lives.

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