Another mass shooting – this time, leaving nine victims dead at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg Oregon – is a reminder of the culture of violence of American society. Make no mistake – this will not be the last. As selfish as it is to say, I only hope future shootings don’t affect anyone I know or love.
I sincerely thought after the slaughter of children in Sandy Hook that the so-called leaders would respond to the grief of the nation and take action. But the NRA acting for the gun manufacturers pushed back with at least $10 million in lobbying dollars and closed off all meaningful dialogue that could lead to thoughtful action.
That dialogue needs to happen if we are going to survive as a society because guns are the most visible symbol of the violence that pervades American society.
As President Obama said in his comments after this latest shooting, it’s become routine. What he left unsaid is how routine violence in all its forms has become (and a good deal of the organized form of international violence arising from his decisions). From campus rape to campus shootings to the slaughter of young black men on American streets to the NFL to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (including Syria and eventually Iran) to the secretive special operations and drone strikes in innumerable countries, the American psyche is absorbed with violence.
The response to everything appears to be more guns and more violence, with an increasingly militarization of all aspects of American society. All foreign policy, including diplomacy, increasingly looks like its controlled by the Department of Defense.
Politicians and some segments of the electorate attack others for not being “strong” on defense and use of military force; the increasing irony is that many of those pushing for violent action never fought in a war or even served; it almost goes without saying that no one they know will ever be involved in the wars they champion.
The military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us against has grown larger than he could ever have imagined in his worst nightmare with trillions of dollars diverted into business, government agencies, military contractors, and other firms. At the same time, the commons – schools, public space, and the essential infrastructure – decay with an ever larger bill coming due at some point.
And don’t get me started on Junior ROTC in the high schools. They did this in another country to poor result – but if you see films about it you won’t understand what’s being said unless you speak German.
Some police departments increasingly look like military units with camouflaged web gear and uniforms, body armor, heavy weapons, and armored vehicles. The meaning is unmistakable: they consider themselves at war with the communities they patrol and are supposed to be protecting.
Individual citizens are increasingly arming themselves for offensive action. Revolvers, bolt action rifles and shotguns are for home defense and hunting. M4 carbines and semi automatic pistols are for offensive urban combat. At least one gun dealer in Puget Sound offers Barrett sniper rifles for sale to the public. A Barrett fires a .50 caliber round out to an effective range of approximately 1,800 meters (over one mile). Killing a deer in the next county doesn’t really appear to be its intended use.
Is it any wonder then that poorly socialized young men (and they all are young men) strike out at a society that informed them that violence solves everything?
Remember the victims. Of this, and the next, shootings.