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“We have met the enemy and he is us.” Pogo, cartoon character
The recent mass shootings in Ohio and Texas are not anomalies. They are not aberrations. They are not the result of mental illness or a few “bad apples.” Mass shootings can be expected to occur in a society steeped in racism, hate, selfishness, greed, and fear of “others.” Mix in widespread, easy access to guns and you have a recipe for mass shootings. America is reaping what it has sown.
Killing people has become normalized in our mentality. We are desensitized to the tragedies occurring around us every day. We are not shocked by the “collateral damage” of bombing children in foreign wars. We are not outraged that children are being separated from their parents and incarcerated on our borders. We accept that many children in America are homeless, lack adequate food or medical care. We have a society that has normalized violence of all kinds, directed at many people, at home and around the world. As a society we simply don't care. So it is not surprising that 251 mass shootings have occurred this year and we hardly noticed.
Not only do we not care but we glorify violence. The gun toting cowboy, the tough cop, the military hero, and mafia godfather are typical Hollywood themes. Violent sports like boxing, football and hockey are encouraged. Making women into sex objects is another example. Violence is not always physical. Poverty, racism, and discrimination are less obvious forms of violence. Economic sanctions are a form of warfare. Our economic system promotes greed and individual gain over community good. This often harms people without economic power, especially women and minorities. Making money is all that matters whether you are selling opioids, guns, or wars. In America working together as a society to provide a better, more secure life for everyone is branded “socialism” and considered by many to be a threat to our national ideals.
Politicians promote all this with division and fear for their own selfish gain. Fear of people who are different, or have different viewpoints, is used to manipulate and control. They divide the rich from the poor, white from the black, male from female, gay from straight, union from non-union, immigrants from former immigrants, and liberals from conservatives. Wedge issues are deliberately used to divide. So it should not be surprising that young, angry men shoot people that are different from themselves. Lock her up! Sent her home!
Violence is the basis of our foreign policy. We accept without question endless war. We believe wars are necessary to keep us safe and free. Fear is used to justify the violence committed in our name. Wars kill innocent people and mostly poor people of color. Economic sanctions also kill people, mostly children. This arrogant, selfish America first mentality allows us to justify bombing children, killing civilians, destroying countries, and destabilizing economies. It justifies torture, targeting “suspected” individuals with drones for extra judicial assassinations. It allows us to justify keeping nuclear weapons that have the capacity to end all life on this plant. The result is troops returning with PTSD and suicidal tendencies that contribute to domestic violence.
The militarization of the police is part of our culture of violence. Police using excessive force is normal procedure in many places. Trained professionals should be able to defuse situations or subdue suspects with non-lethal means. But too often suspects are shot and killed for no reason. Often the excuse given is that the officers were afraid the suspect had a gun. Even the police are afraid because of the prevalence of guns. Anything in the hands of a black man is assumed to be a gun.
Then there is our long history of racism and violence toward others. For most of our history blacks have been enslaved, denied justice, and lynched with impunity. Native Americans suffered genocide and ethnic cleansing. Jews, Muslims, and Catholics have been targets of hate and discrimination. Even white Irish, Italian, and Eastern European immigrants have been hated and discriminated against. Now we target Hispanic immigrants and asylum seekers. Is it any wonder that hate groups abound?
The gun violence epidemic in America is not about the Second Amendment or gun ownership rights. It is about domestic terrorism. The deliberate targeting of synagogues, mosques, and Black churches is terrorism. The deliberate killing for people of color in El Paso last week is terrorism. It happened because our divided society allows such tragedies to happen. It happened because an angry, racist, white, young man had access to high capacity military style weapons. It is time our elected officials stop defending domestic terrorists.
Military-style, semi-automatic assault weapons are not sporting weapons. They are designed and intended to appeal to ignorant, racist, angry, white men. Three percent of the population owns 50% of the guns. They are the gun manufacturer's target market. These weapons, like their military look-a-likes, are designed to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. These weapons have no place on our streets or in our communities whether they’re carried by civilians or the police.
Things don't happen in a vacuum. There are reasons white men pick up a gun and kill out of fear and hate. They are the product of our intolerant, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic society. They are the product of all the ways our society encourages violence as the solution for problems. We need to change gun laws but we also have to change society.
Strong, sensible, comprehensive gun laws are needed. But these laws will not be enough. We have to address all the ways violence is endemic in our society. We have to build a country that truly values peace. We must build a democracy that actually works for everyone. We must build an economy that allows all our people to thrive. We must build a worldview that rejects militarism and war. We must stop voting for fake leaders who foster division, fear, and hate.
Most people in this country want action on curbing gun violence. But it won't happen unless we all raise our voices and demand action. Raise your voice for peace and a better, safer America. Let's finally stop gun violence in America.