Sunday, January 9, 2011

What's Just Being Called "The Shooting"

[From the Arizona Star]

Yesterday in Tucson, some young fellow with a gun went Medieval on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and shot her in the head. Then, according to witnesses and news reports, he opened indiscriminate fire on the people who had gathered at the Safeway store to see her and killed a Federal Judge, a little girl, assorted bystanders, and one of Giffords' staffers and injured a dozen more.

Just another shooting in America; they happen every day. Of course, like all the other political shootings in this country, there is now a Big Fight over who -- whether the "Left" or the "Right" -- is responsible, and endless calls for "all sides" to tone down The Rhetoric. It goes this way every time. And the next time it will go this way the next time, too, for it is taken for granted that there will be a Next Time. There always is.

Political shootings and assassinations are as American and Mom's Apple Pie to the horror of most of the rest of the world, but that's the way it has always been in this country. Frustrated Americans, sane or crazy, from time to time take their frustrations out by violently assaulting or assassinating political figures.

And the rhetoric of violence and political assassination is so deeply rooted in the United States, though often denied or sublimated, that it is hard to imagine an America without constant allusions to gun play to satisfy one's anger, frustration or hatred. It's not just political rhetoric that's the problem. Gun play and killing is the foundation rock of so much American entertainment. No one remembers "The Sopranos?" Sure.

[Note: I only saw "The Sopranos" once, during which episode who knows how many poor sods were tortured and killed. I was horrified and disgusted that this television program had become the television program for all with it people to watch and enjoy and discuss endlessly. It was considered such a wonderful metaphor for Our Times, and so very well done. To my way of looking at it, "The Sopranos" was a celebration of violence, murder, torture and gangsterism and a relentless attack on any and all countervailing sense of morality or even common courtesy. It was monstrous. And it was a form of "permission" to those who wanted to behave that way.]

The Government will respond as it always does: retreating further behind its barricades and security apparat and expanding its surveillance of the rest of us. The media will go through its endless routine of "blaming both sides." The public, by and large, will go on as if nothing happened at all.

It's not unlike a scene I saw the other day of a security guard (an off-duty policeman) clubbing and pepper-spraying a citizen before dragging him off to a police substation (?!) in the gas station while the victim's friends (?!) watched placidly or stepped around the violence to retrieve things from the car beside which the beating and pepper spraying were taking place. They were simply too self involved to be concerned with what was happening right in front of them.

So it will be with this shooting.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but one of the things that Nazis did (and it wasn't just them, but it was more common with them) in Germany and especially in conquered territories was the spectacle of the public shaming, public beating, public summary execution or what have you. There were incidents of random summary executions on the street, of accused partisans being beheaded as passers by went about their business, of people being strung up to gallows or tied to posts and whipped or forced to parade around with signs around their necks describing their multitudes of crimes. This was one of the tactics used to frighten ordinary people into submission and compliance. And it worked remarkably well for a remarkably long time. The atrocities weren't just in the camps. They were on constant show in the streets. And people went right on with their business as if nothing was happening. But of course, they had witnessed what could happen to them or anyone if Authority so desired. So they kept their heads down and noses clean so as not to gain the notice of Authority.

That's very much what the American penchant for violence, shootings and assassinations is all about. Inculcating a herd mentality in the majority, while predators run free.

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