Saturday, July 21, 2012
And Then I Woke Up
Another American gun massacre. Another American gun massacre in Colorado. Another American gun massacre in Colorado featuring costumed characters, assault weapons, some kind of odd vengeance.
"But he was such a nice boy...."
Yes, well... they all are, aren't they?
Americans have a touching and romantic faith in the gun culture that's been sold to them for ages.
I'm sure everybody is familiar with the Sand Creek Massacre. It took place in 1864 in Colorado Territory when a contingent of the Colorado Militia went on a rampage and exterminated an encampment of Cheynne and Arapaho along the Sand Creek in eastern Colorado. Even for its time, what happened was shocking, though not unprecedented. An unprovoked attack by militia on an encampment housing mostly women and children resulted in perhaps 135 dead and many wounded Indians, and it had the effect of triggering a brutal retaliation by Plains Indians against American settlers that really didn't conclude till the Wounded Knee Massacre in South Dakota in 1890. Thus was the West... tamed.
Oh, but there were many other massacres before those, dating back almost to the very beginning of European settlement in North America -- regardless of the welcome or the resistance they received from the Native inhabitants. It didn't matter. From time to time there would be massacres.
On the other hand, and perhaps more germane to the Incident in Aurora at hand is that from time to time European-American settlers would go on murderous rampages or would simply murder Indians one by one, and almost always they would be allowed to get away with it. The murder of Indians was not "murder" in the law of the West. It couldn't be. The attitude may not have universally been that the only good Indian was a dead Indian, but there was little or no sense at all that killing Indians for real or imagined crimes against the settlers was in any way unjustified, or that any white killer of Indians could be or would be held to account for their deeds. In fact, many were celebrated. Some still are today.
The notion that it was somehow "wrong" to go about with guns blazing, blasting every living thing in sight, simply didn't occur to a substantial chunk of the American population, and to some extent, it hasn't occurred to enough Americans yet.
Certainly in the American conquest of Mesopotamia -- well, attempted conquest -- the notion that the Valiant Troops were engaged in "Indian Wars" was well understood by many, and massacres were simply part of the process of dealing with the Natives. It was what was done. And there was no accountability, often enough, not even reports of this or that many civilians slaughtered in this or that locale. Who cared? They were "just Iraqis" or Arabs or Muslims, people who were so different from our own sweet selves that they were, well... hardly human.
Of course when you demonize The Other that way, the slaughter of innocents is inevitable, and when such demonization is routinized and almost required throughout the culture, not only in War Zones (which we have learned is the Whole Wide World), then we are going to have killing, gun violence, on a massive scale whether or not there are alien "Natives" to massacre.
This is one reason why I cannot simply let Chris Hedges' demonization and scapegoating of the Black Bloc be a "difference of opinion." No, he crossed over a bright line, into the realms of propaganda and demonization that lead inevitably to slaughter, something he should know better than anyone since as he never tires of telling us, he "covered the wars in the Balkans."
He learned the wrong lesson.
Americans suffered nearly 10,000 deaths last year due to gun violence, not all of them in the form of mass murders, but still way too many dead and wounded via easily accessible and useable firearms. Restricting routine access to firearms would help lower those numbers, presuming Americans really wanted to lower those numbers. But what would help even more is changing the social norms so that gun violence against various Others would no longer be routinized and romanticized.
Starting, perhaps, with entertainment.
I stopped going to movies years ago and I rarely watch television -- even television news any more -- because so much of what is shown in the movie theaters and on television is absolutely drenched in blood; it is a non-stop blood fest of murder and mayhem, and guns firing constantly. Not in any sort of defensive situation, mind you, but in offensive battles or just madness, often of a lone individual "taking matters into his own hands."
Changing the culture of the shoot-em-ups in entertainment won't by itself curb the gun violence. Much more needs to be done. Restricting access to firearms and requiring that they not be deployed at all under most conditions is something else that needs to be done. It's common sense.
The police are far too eager to shoot and kill suspects, especially if they show signs of mental illness, and they always get away with it. This should no longer be tolerated.
Reminding Americans that what's happened in the past -- the almost endless list of massacres and genocides -- is not an example to be emulated now and in the future; nor is the murderous warrior culture that our Valiant Troops practice elsewhere one to be emulated at home.
Some have suggested that powerful psychotropic drugs play a role in the continuing series of gun massacres in this country and that overprescription of mind and mood altering pharmacological substances must stop.
But I'm not at all convinced that Americans by and large want the gun violence to stop. It's part of the American psyche and American Exceptionalism. It may be outrageous and shocking -- each time it happens -- but like lightning strikes, it's dramatic and energizing.
And of course there are the gun ravers who, if anything, want more, more, more!
Yes, and they may get it, too.