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We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

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From Counterpunch

From flickr.com: The Gun Shop Without the Attitude {MID-175286}
The Gun Shop Without the Attitude
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It is not America's gun laws that are the issue when it comes to the mass shootings which occur with banal regularity in the land of the free, it is the gun culture that underpins those laws -- a culture symptomatic of the moral sickness the country is suffering from, and for which in 2017 there appears no sign of a cure.

In the wake of the latest mass shooting to erupt in the US, this one at an open-air music festival in Las Vegas -- during which 59 people were killed and hundreds more wounded by lone gunman Stephen Paddock, spraying automatic gunfire into the crowd from the window of a room overlooking the event at the Mandalay Bay Hotel -- the same debate over America's notorious gun laws has ensued, involving the usual parade of fulminating defenders of the country's "sacred" Second Amendment of the US Constitution, enshrining the right of citizens to bear arms.

Said supporters of this provision within the country's constitution, adopted and ratified in 1791 at a time when automatic and semi-automatic weapons were still centuries away from being invented, have in time honored fashion been extending themselves in arguing that freedom in America means the freedom to be able to walk into a gun store on any given day and procure enough firepower to wipe out a herd of elephants.

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But as mentioned, the question is not over the rights or wrongs of the Second Amendment; the question is the culture of violence married to the near total lack of social cohesion that pervades in a country suffocating under the weight of its own nauseating hypocrisy. This culture and this lack of social cohesion are the underlying causes of the mass shootings and massacres that are so ubiquitous in America that they have become part of the cultural fabric, just like the Superbowl and Kim Kardashian's t*ts.

The sentiments of former right wing TV host Bill O'Reilly, who described this latest atrocity as the "price of freedom," while clearly outlandish and utterly contemptible to anyone who's managed to retain a semblance of sanity, are nonetheless evidence of the mass psychosis that passes for normality in large swathes of America.

In penetrating the foundational myths by which the US sustains itself -- rugged individualism, self reliance, the apotheosis of private property and personal wealth, seasoned with Old Testament virtues of work, self discipline, and the exaltation of "righteous" violence -- we come face to face with an ugly and suppurating reality in the form of the widespread atomization of society, white supremacy, along with a pervasive yet irrational fear of central government, fuelled by conspiracy theory. Add to this lethal cocktail the grotesque sense of exceptionalism which informs the country's political culture, an entertainment industry and celebrity culture that distorts the true measure of human worth and meaning with its worship of obscene wealth and fame, and you are talking a society coming apart at the seams.

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Is it any wonder that mental illness is so ubiquitous in a society in which rapacious competitiveness and a religious attachment to acquisition has reduced the lived experience of the majority of its citizens to one of unremitting pressure not only to succeed but for far too many just to survive? On the other side of this dismal equation sits a healthcare system which attests to the core inhumanity that no amount of boasts of America's innate goodness and promise could possibly elide, providing the ingredients that go into producing mass killers such as Stephen Paddock.

The gun culture in America is also central to law enforcement. The inordinate number of people killed by cops across the country on a regular basis is less to do with trigger-happy police officers in fear of their lives committing catastrophic and fatal errors, and more to do with an ethos of vigilantism born of the dehumanization of the poor and/or of minorities, who make up the vast majority of victims of cop violence across the country. Indeed, in this respect, things have got to the point where within US law enforcement it seems that executing young black males, regardless of whether they happened to be armed or unarmed, has become more acceptable than "protecting and serving."

Analyzing this perverse exaltation of violence in America, author and journalist Chris Hedges writes, "Vigilantes and lone avengers are the popular heroes in American culture. They are celebrated on television and in Hollywood movies. Audiences, especially as they feel economic and political power slipping from their hands, yearn for the violent authority embodied in rogue cops in films such as Dirty Harry or in unrepentant killers such as Bradley Cooper in American Sniper."

America's exaltation of violence is likewise reflected in a muscular and aggressive foreign policy that has been responsible for the deaths of more people around the world since the end of the Second World War. Thus, when black civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King, himself assassinated by a crazed lone gunman, described the US government as the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world," he never spoke a truer word. They are words attested to by the dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the destruction of North Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and not forgetting the countless proxy wars it has funded in Central and South America, and the Middle East.

So, yes, we are dealing with a culture in which the capacity for unleashing lethal violence on a mass scale is lauded in movies and on television, in which the veneration of tough cops and the glorification of the military are consonant with the dehumanization of the poor and minorities, and in which the Second Amendment is treated as if the very suggestion it should be reformed is considered sacrilege.

It is why in 2017 the biggest threat to the average American citizen is not North Korea, Russia, or Iran -- is not even terrorism -- but instead is the organization which exists to protect the right to bear arms, an organization whose money and political influence has succeeded in blocking even the most incremental change to the nation's gun laws.

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That organization is the National Rifle Association, more commonly referred to as the NRA. It is an organization which in a very real sense is dripping in the blood of the 59 victims of this latest mass shooting in Las Vegas, along with that of the countless tens of thousands of victims of gun violence all across America.

Stephen Paddock is neither the moral nor cultural aberration defenders of the Second Amendment assert. In fact, the country's history is littered with countless thousands of Stephen Paddocks, unleashing wanton slaughter against native Americans, blacks, and the poor, evidence that the true history of America is a history of psychopathic violence buttressed by the salve of a bible in whose name the crimes that have and continue to be committed are legion.

We have met the enemy and he is us.

 

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John Wight is the author of a politically incorrect and irreverent Hollywood memoir -- Dreams That Die -- published by Zero Books. He's also written five novels, which are (more...)
 

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9 people are discussing this page, with 9 comments  Post Comment


John Jonik

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We have met the victims of the Corporate State and they are us.

Submitted on Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 10:11:15 PM

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Lee Beacham

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I have multiple AR-15 rifles, many other rifles and handguns. I like to be proficient in their use and enjoy shooting targets on my private property range. It's not the guns, it's the demented selfish criminals that do evil havoc. If not shooting the innocent he would have killed in any number of other ways. It just would have been different people. Vegas brags being "sin city". Sin is at the bottom of evil deeds. Be good, be saved and all will be made right forever in Heaven.

Submitted on Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 11:08:53 PM

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Devil's Advocate

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All this analysis and opinion exploding everywhere, yet is there any convincing evidence that you're not (again) just victim to "intelligence community theater"?

(Why is this page italicizing everything?)

Submitted on Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 11:36:26 PM

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Susan Lee Schwartz

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YES! "In penetrating the foundational myths by which the US sustains itself -- rugged individualism, self reliance, the apotheosis of private property and personal wealth, seasoned with Old Testament virtues of work, self discipline, and the exaltation of "righteous" violence -- we come face to face with an ugly and suppurating reality in the form of the widespread atomization of society, white supremacy, along with a pervasive yet irrational fear of central government, fuelled by conspiracy theory. Add to this lethal cocktail the grotesque sense of exceptionalism which informs the country's political culture, an entertainment industry and celebrity culture that distorts the true measure of human worth and meaning with its worship of obscene wealth and fame, and you are talking a society coming apart at the seams."


Submitted on Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 at 2:21:45 PM

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Nelson Wight

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John, I find it near impossible to disagree with what you say.
For a little different way of viewing the story re:Vegas&Paddock,
should you find time, check PCR (Roberts) and Robert Steele ideas.
Nels Wight, Belfast

Submitted on Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 at 2:55:48 PM

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Larry Robinson

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Once again we have a statist collectivist telling us that rather than blame the evil done by an individual, we must blame an organization that promotes holding Government to live to the Constitution which prohibits them from infringing upon our inalienable rights from God, not government John F Kennedy put it exactly right in his inaugural address "And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe--the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God."

Submitted on Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 at 6:00:17 PM

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" an organization that promotes holding Government to live to the Constitution which prohibits them from infringing upon our inalienable rights from God"

Yeah right. In your dreams.

Submitted on Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 7:30:45 AM

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gunnar kullenberg

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...oh my goodness...wow...

"...irrational fear of central government..."

...I'd like to request a special piece on that subject matter...?

...and then...

"...described the US government as the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world," he never spoke a truer word..."

"!!!

"treating the Paddock story as settled fact, when it isn't"and on and on"

This article is a good example of how the "American mind" works"a good example and a frightening example"

Submitted on Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 at 7:27:27 PM

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Assuming the idiot president doesn't manage to launch a nuclear war you are right about the threat of North Korea, etc., as well as terrorism, relative to the threat of being blown away by a deranged gunman, to the average American. But I would venture all these threats are dwarfed by the threat of being killed in an auto wreck.

There's a lot we can do to avert this last threat, such as keeping our own houses in order and being safe defensive drivers, keeping our vehicles in safe working order, using the latest safety devices, etc. All those other threats are much less within our immediate control and therein lie our fears.

There's little we can do about aggressive foreign policies that start wars and piss off people throughout the world, given that whomever we vote for the same policies seem to be in force. I maintain there are things we can do about gun violence. However, they do not include wringing our hands over the hypocrisy of our culture, or the racism inherent in our society or the original sin of our forefathers stealing land from the natives, or whatever you think are the root causes of our society being f'ed up--or over how politically difficult it is to improve things on the legislative front. In my opinion we are not doing nearly all we could do to prevent as many lunatics and criminals as possible from gaining access to massively lethal weapons while minimally inconveniencing those who want guns for self defense, sport or as collectible objects. We still get to vote, and petition our legislators. That's where to start. The NRA is not omnipotent.

Submitted on Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 at 8:21:56 PM

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