“Now, even as we learn how this happened, and who’s responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this. Such violence, such evil is senseless. It’s beyond reason,” said President Obama in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shootings.
The words of the president have surely been mouthed by nations who have received the back hand of the U.S. in the form of bombings, invasions, occupations, economic blockades and drone attacks. Surely they must have thought that such violence, such evil is senseless. They must have asked aloud, “What would lead the U.S. to terrorize their fellow human beings like this?”
Yet when violence is visited upon a special section of society in which non-violence is reserved, we cry out about lack of reason. Pundits and prognosticators from the religious community to amateur psychologists all try to make sense of what really isn’t that hard to figure out. This apparent senselessness makes perfect sense, that old dog you tried to lose in the other part of town has found its way home. Violence begets violence.
I disagree with the president, this violence is not “beyond reason” but rather it is palpable and logical.
Why this violence? The answer lies in the very foundation of U.S. culture. It is one founded and nurtured on violence. H. Rap Brown once said, “Violence is as American as cherry pie.” The young nation’s so-called “Manifest Destiny” allowed a group of divinely inspired rich White guys to kill the Indians, steal from the Mexicans, enslave the Africans, segregate and lynch the African Americans and work the laboring class to within an inch of their lives. And the legacy of violence continues to this day.
There are parts of U.S. society (inner cities,
Indian reservations, Appalachia,
migrant farms) where a violence of
benign neglect is perfectly acceptable.
Examples of violence in U.S. culture are profligate. The idea that some children shouldn’t be educated because their parents are trifling is violent. The desire to cut out welfare and Medicare for the poor is predicated upon violence. Of course it’s violence, because if folks can’t eat they suffer from malnutrition and disease that lead to early death.
The culture is filled with violence. Black folks live in constant fear of being harassed by law enforcement. Muslims live under constant watch. Legal immigrants are asked for their papers and so-called illegal immigrants are treated like lost dogs rather than people seeking a better life.
Even our entertainment is based on violence, and we can’t get enough of it. The Dark Knight movie series is as violent and as dark as so-called entertainment can get.
What is it about seeing bloodshed and wanton violence that is so appealing to us? How did movies come to this? Thanks to the record industry’s promotion of gangster rap, our urban youth get a constant diet of negative messages.
And the need to televise everything (with the exception of some of the more pressing issues) has given these madmen a bit more motivation. And for the mass murderers obviously negative attention is better than living their isolated and ignored existence.
Moreover, there are parts of U.S. society (inner cities, Indian reservations, Appalachia, migrant farms) where a violence of benign neglect is perfectly acceptable. Folks are catching hell in these places, and their suffering is perfectly acceptable to most Americans. They are a kind of acceptable collateral damage.
Conservative Christians want to blame this on the curtailing of prayer in schools and talk of God in public discourse and over all godlessness permeating our society. Ironically, if there is anyone to be blamed it would be placed at the feet of their own godlessness. Too often they confine themselves to one or two issues which they deem as the moral issues of the day such as abortion or gay marriage, but ignore Jesus’ command to love their neighbors as themselves.
Applied practically, it would mean that they would oppose the bombing of their neighbors for filthy lucre and their oil. It would mean supporting a social welfare safety net, not opposing it on some hard-hearted theological grounds about a man not working shouldn’t be able to eat. Most folks who are struggling are not doing so by choice; most want to lead productive lives.
Gun advocates are right, guns don’t kill people; people pull the trigger. But should we really sell semi-automatic weapons over the counter? Should someone really be able to order thousands of bullets without anyone questioning it?
The Second Amendment doesn’t hold the same meaning it did at the time it was written. Defending against the tyranny of coming capitalist-inspired fascism will require much more than guns; it will require understanding and resolve.
We should expect no less from a society in which too many are known not as brother or sister but as ni**ers, sp*cs, h*es, ch*nks, b*tches, fa**ots, chicken heads, crack heads, rag heads, sand ni**ers, trailer trash, poor White trash, welfare moms, bums, wetbacks. Violence and dehumanization are our calling cards, or I should say their calling cards, ’cause we learned these terms from the ruling rich who systematically encouraged this constant denigration, degradation, and dehumanization of our fellows.
If we are really honest, we know that we aren’t that surprised by the Aurora shooting. We know that we live among folks that are ready to snap. And we know we can’t confine it to the neighborhoods where this kind of thing is supposed to happen. We suspect that there is an inherent insanity in American society.
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pullquote: There are parts of U.S. society (inner cities, Indian reservations, Appalachia, migrant farms) where a violence of benign neglect is perfectly acceptable.