By Max J. Castro on October 14, 2015
Irony is dead, some fools declared after 9/11. In the same prophetic and wrongheaded vein, a think tank sage declared the end of history after the end of the Cold War and the apparent global triumph of anything-goes capitalism. But irony never dies and history has no final chapter, unlike what Hegel, and his rebel disciple, Marx, imagined.
Irony is the best word to describe what happened this week when, at the same time U.S. President Barack Obama was consoling the relatives of the seven students and one teacher killed at an Oregon community college – yet another instance of a man with deep demons and too many guns – when news came about two more deadly campus shootings at Texas and Arizona colleges. Yet another college received a threat that never materialized.
The gun madness continues, only now the victims are not only ghetto youths gunned down in gang warfare and drug disputes but also middle class elementary school students and their teachers as well as college students and professors in places as culturally different as Connecticut, Virginia, Texas, Arizona and Oregon.
nra logo“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” is the mantra of the National Rifle Association, the head of the vast hydra that makes up the hyper-powerful gun lobby that has successfully opposed any restriction on the ownership of guns and ammunition. These include military assault rifles that can kill lots of people in seconds and armor-piercing ammunition, which pose a threat mainly to law enforcement officers who routinely use bullet-resistant vests to protect their lives.
Nefarious is the best word to describe the work of the gun lobby–the NRA, gun manufacturers, acolytes of a wrong-headed and anachronistic interpretation of the Second Amendment (including ultra-right wing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the other four right-leaning justices who make up the majority of one of the most reactionary Courts in decades).
The “well-regulated militia”, which is part and parcel of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right of the people to bear arms, has nothing in common with the legions of wing-nuts running around the country bearing arms that are exponentially deadlier than anything the Founders could have imagined.
Unfortunately, the gun lovers and the worshippers at the temple of a twisted version of the Second Amendment include many more Americans than the CEOs of self-interested corporations, the lobbies they fund, and right-wing politicians and jurists. Although they are a minority, the pro-gun crowd is not a tiny minority but a sizable, well-organized and fanatical one.
Even though no politician or mainstream journalist would ever say this, the truth is that this country is crawling with gun huggers as it is with racists and xenophobes, many of whom don’t consider themselves any of those things. Still, they are. It’s a pathological complex that is as endemic to this country as HIV, Ebola, and political violence and corruption are to big swaths of sub-Saharan Africa.
The consequences of gun violence in the United States, which includes unjustified police killings and murders of police officers by criminals, is the stuff of daily tragedies from Miami’s Overtown to Ferguson, Missouri.
Cumulatively, the awful toll of America’s gun madness shows up starkly in the statistics that compare the carnage wrought by guns in developed countries like this one. The United States leads all such countries–by a lot. The rate of gun deaths per 100,000 people in the population in this country is three. It seems like a small number until you consider that none of our peer countries comes close to 1 per 100,000.
Gun murdersOur rate of gun homicides is about five times that of our closest competitors, Switzerland and Turkey. Fifteen of the twenty-one developed countries have rates that are one sixth of ours or less. The rate of gun homicides in Japan, South Korea, France, the United Kingdom and Poland approaches zero.
The proliferation of guns is certainly the leading reason that explains our dubious distinction as the leading rich country in the rate of killings by firearms. But it is not the only one.
The American dream holds that anyone can make it in material terms. This has never been true for most people, especially people of color, and given the very great level of inequality and the low rate of upward mobility in the current era, it is now more fantasy than ever. Yet anyone with access to a television, which means almost everyone, is urgently encouraged by advertisement to lust after the material markers of the Dream–fast cars, expensive watches, palatial homes. Many are seduced but few can attain these without breaking the law, often at the point of a gun.
The toxic mix of too-easily available guns, daunting inequality, scant chances of moving up the food chain by legal means, and relentless pressure to reach unattainable dreams by any means necessary make the United States a society uniquely plagued by gun violence among all the economically advanced countries of the world.
If becoming well-off is the American dream, gun madness is the American nightmare. Despite tragedy after tragedy and the huge total toll evident in the numbers, nothing is likely to change. The gun lobby has American politicians in a vise grip and the NRA and its allies are not willing to loosen it an inch.
[The illustration at the top first appeared in a New York Times article about the proliferation of gun violence in the U.S. The illustrator is Edel Rodriguez, a Cuban American.]
Source: Progreso Weekly