Last week, Christina Green got a lesson in American government and politics.
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The rest of us, apparently, did not.
Christina was a nine year-old kid, just elected to student council. She decided to see what government was all about by attending a "Congress On Your Corner' constituent event in Tucson, featuring Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
Christina came home from the event dead, one of the greater tragedies imaginable in a national narrative that always has plenty of those on offer. We -" American society -" mourn for her. And we would genuinely like to make sure that something like this never happens again.
It's just that we'd have to budge ever so slightly off our bloated, beached backsides, get up and reclaim our government for that to happen. So it won't.
Right there you'll find Civics Lessons Numbers One through Three that Christina Green got. First, that American government does not belong to the American people anymore. Second, that the public is too lazy to cease being ignorant in order to take it back. And third, that those societies which are fortunate enough to have been bequeathed the gift of liberty and democracy are not always mature enough to deserve keeping them. And therefore they might not.
Almost everything that is wrong with American politics and government and society can be traced back to these foundational axioms. We are a breathtakingly, astonishingly stupid society -" if stupid is defined as bringing unnecessary grief upon oneself -" and almost all of our shared tribulations derive from the simple fact that American government does not now exist to serve the public interest, and that we've let that happen.
Given that premise, government will do incredibly destructive things, including to you and me. Of course, the interests that own the government could not be less bothered by such externalities and collateral damage (that would be us) if we were instead all minnows, instantly pulverized by the churning propellers of their gasoline-inhaling, pollutant-belching, city-block-long yachts.
Serving the interests of the plutocracy is no longer merely American government's bias or even its mission. That function has in our time now become its full-on raison d'Ãªtre, and the government is therefore capable of anything in pursuit of that purpose.
It has created a gigantic military machine, completely out of proportion to any actual national security need.
It has launched an endless series of wars, based on lie after lie.
It has shifted ever greater tax burdens onto the middle, working and under classes, and onto future generations -" without, of course, their acquiescence.
It has created and defends a health care system that condemns tens of millions of its citizens -" including children -" to a lack of health, and to shortened lives.
It built a massive for-profit prison industry, incarcerating more of its citizens than any other country in the world.
It allowed its financiers to deploy every manner of crooked scam imaginable, in a context of almost completely absent regulation, wrecking an entire global economy in the process as these bunkster banksters enriched themselves before, during and after the meltdown they created. Then it covered their losses one hundred cents on the dollar, using taxpayer funds, even as these private sector privateers continued to flog that very same government as public enemy number one.
It gave corporations tax credits for shipping American jobs overseas, decimating the middle class on the altar of free trade.
It stood by silently, permitting banks to throw people out of their homes en masse, based on foreclosure documents that are utter garbage.
It declared corporations the equivalent of human beings, and then used the doctrine of free speech protection to cover for the unlimited political purchasing power those predators employed to buy the government of their liking.
It allowed credit card companies to charge interest rates that would make loan sharks blush.
It made it nearly impossible for citizens crushed under these burdens, and those of lost jobs or medical crises, to seek the refuge of bankruptcy.
It allowed oil companies to run dangerous drilling projects in our commons without the slightest regulation or supervision by the government.
It permitted coal companies to level entire mountain ranges.
It allows factory farms to create massive oceans of animal waste, to inflict astonishingly cruel industrial-scale violence upon the creatures in their maws, and to produce toxic chemical-infused products for the public to consume, leading to epidemic-scale national health disasters.
It permits ongoing destruction of the very environment which makes life on Earth possible -" the only such environment, on the only such planet, available to us.
And it regularly beats up on gays and immigrants and women and brown people and foreigners, in order to divert our attention from all of these crimes.
The government of this country has done all these things and much, much more for one simple reason: It serves the overclass, not the people.
And so, if it is capable of doing these things -" wars and depressions and mass incarcerations and planetary destruction -" and if it is so sociopathically amoral that it is willing to commit these crimes for the mere purpose of enriching the already fabulously wealthy, should it be any shock to us that it can also murder nine year-old little girls?
Or ninety year-old grandpas? Or even members of Congress? Is there really anything surprising about the fact that over 30,000 Americans die every year from gun violence? Do we really have the right to be startled about what happened in Tucson, when a million Americans have perished by the gun since Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were murdered in that same fashion?
And what could be shocking about the death of a nine year-old girl when we live in a society so far gone that it can't even remove the trade in military-grade assault weapons from the practice of its legal commerce? A society that makes it easier to purchase such killing machines than it is to get a driver's license? A polity that now has within its borders nearly one weapon for each of the 300 million of us living here? A country in which transparently deranged and dangerous individuals cannot be blocked from possessing weapons of mass destruction?
Jesus Christ, of course Christina Green is dead. What else could possibly be imagined? What else could possibly happen if one were to take -" as a sociological experiment -" any given society and infect it so thoroughly with the disease of such a vast and murderously destructive arsenal? What if, instead, we had nearly 300 million vials of smallpox distributed among the population? What else besides death on an epidemic scale could possibly happen?
And what else will continue to happen? And what else has already happened, by the hundreds, just in the mere week's time since this little girl was murdered?
There will be no end to this, because we are too lazy to take ownership of our government, too lazy to cure our ignorance about who actually owns it and for what purpose, and too devoid of the character necessary even just to maintain the democracy that we're always prattling on about abroad, as we boorishly extol the exceptional quality of our virtues to others forced to listen. Unfortunately, preserving the gifts of democracy and liberty requires a bit more effort than just showing up every four years (or not, for nearly half of us) and taking five minutes to cast a vote for this imbecilic clown as a replacement for that transparent thief. Hence the current sad state of the United States.
So forget it. Sure, it would be great if nine year-old girls didn't have to die violently, but what about our football games? What about our sitcoms and our ritual self-affirming humiliation-fests otherwise known as "reality TV'?
We're not going to do a damn thing about this child murdered for profit. And she was precisely that, just as sure as if it had been a contract killing. Let's not mince words. There are people who get rich by injected the poison of weaponry into our society. Fundamentally, they know this, and they are therefore morally no different from any standard issue contract killer, except by the vastly greater scale of their crimes.
We're not going to do a damn thing about this child murdered for profit, and in fact we're so far down the road of our national pathology that none of our elected representatives will anymore even bother with the kabuki dance ritual of yore calling for a change in such transparently destructive gun laws. They are fully complicit in this murder. They, too, are contract killers, exchanging political office, or money, or the political office that money buys, for 30,000 Christina Greens per year. Every year. Year in and year out.
We are so far down the road of our pathology that we praise our president for giving a supposedly "healing" speech, though he did not ever once discuss the remedies that could actually heal the gaping societal wound of gun violence. Instead he merely talks about how we should talk about our policy issues, if we do. Which we won't. All of which is code for people like him rolling over for the greedy predator class yet again. But we say, "Wonderful job, Barack! Such soothing bromides! Such warm and fuzzy platitudes! Such touching tropes! Thank you for making us feel better and less guilty. And thank you, especially, for not calling upon us to get up and actually do anything. Or even think about doing anything. Or even think."
Let's face it, we are so far down the road of our own pathology that we only even noticed Christina Green's death because she happened to be alongside a member of Congress at the moment she had her fateful reckoning with the insatiable greed of the American plutocracy. Who would have known, otherwise? Even being a senselessly murdered little girl isn't enough to make national headlines these days. And imagine if instead this had been the story of a forty year-old, a man -" worse, a minority -" murdered alone on a street corner somewhere, with no dignitary or celebrity anywhere nearby. Would Barack The Great National Healer have gone to his funeral? If so, he'd be a very busy president, since over 80 gun deaths occur per day in America, every single day.
For the money.
Which is the same reason nothing will be done, nor even seriously discussed. So successful have been the purveyors of the guns-for-profit trade that even suggesting a sensible gun control policy in this country -" for example, one like that employed by most every other country in the world, the folks who have radically less gun violence than we do -" has been delegitimized into some sort of nefarious communist plot to destroy the Constitution. Not to mention having become guaranteed career suicide for our political class. Members of Congress might as well come out for making Gay Jesus Day a national holiday for all the traction they'd get addressing this epidemic, even if they were only doing something as ridiculously sane as trying to ban assault weapons.
If planetary destruction is not sufficient to move the government to curb even slightly our aristocracy's relentless imperative toward greed, what chance do murdered nine year-old girls have of doing so?
The answer to that question appeared this Friday on the front page of the New York Times. There was a photo of Christina Green's parents at her funeral service, looking stone-faced and drained, their bodies present but their grievously wounded spirits somewhere else, perhaps hunkered down in a fetal position of self-preservation within some emotional bomb-shelter, somewhere far away.
Not so Christina's brother, however, who sits next to his parents and openly weeps in grief.
And then, just under the photo, lurks the headline to a related story.
It says, "Sadness Aside, No Shift Seen On Gun Laws".