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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/4/22

Our Culture of Violence Comes from the White House

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Reactions to mass shootings follow a predictable pattern.

Liberal politicians call for gun control, and they have a point. Countries with gun control have less gun violence. The old assault weapons ban did some good. You have to pass a test to get licensed to drive a car or, in most states, to operate a boat " surely the same could be required of those who want to possess firearms.

Conservative politicians call attention to America's worsening epidemic of mental illness. They have a point, too. Most mass shooters have untreated psychiatric disorders; most are suicidal.

But neither side addresses America's culture of violence. Why would they? They both feed into it.

The ethical norms of a society become broadly accepted after they are defined and propagated by the acts and public statements of political and religious leaders, news and entertainment media, and celebrities. If morale goes from the top down, so do morals. If you doubt this is true, look at nations with low rates of violent crime like Switzerland, Denmark, and Japan. Compared with our political discourse, which is often glib, macho and coarse, theirs is thoughtful, polite, and reserved. Day-to-day interactions between citizens is less aggressive; their drivers are the safest and least likely to succumb to road rage.

American political leaders, on the other hand, revel in cognitive dissonance, flashing a knowing wink at cameras as they call for peace in between indulging their swaggery inner cowboy: starting and prolonging wars, ordering assassinations, and issuing one threat after another.

Is it any wonder that a young man made impressionable by mental illness and desensitized by over-the-top violence on film and interactive bloodletting in immersive video games might draw the message that opening fire on a classroom full of schoolchildren is an acceptable way to express his frustration and rage?

"There's no place for violence," Joe Biden said during the 2020 election campaign. But he wasn't talking about state violence; he was condemning the destruction of property by Black Lives Matter demonstrators who were trying to stop police brutality.

Truth is, there's plenty of places where rhetorical violence is acceptable in America, beginning at the White House podium. Even when reacting to last week's massacre of 19 children and their two teachers in Uvalde Texas, Biden bottom-shelved grief and sorrow in favor of frustration, irritation, and blame: "I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don't tell me we can't have an impact on this carnage " What in God's name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone? Deer aren't running through the forest with Kevlar vests on, (SET ITAL for God's sake. It's just sick. And the gun manufacturers have spent two decades aggressively marketing assault weapons which make them the most and largest profit." (Emphases mine.)

Where American politicians really revel in violent rhetoric at a fever-pitch level unheard just anywhere else on the planet, however, is where it's easiest to other-ize their victims: foreign affairs.

"This strike was not the last," Biden said after ordering an assassination drone to launch missiles into a house in Kabul in August 2021, deploying the butch verbiage of an action movie. "We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack (by ISIS-K at the Kabul airport) and make them pay." Actually, the drone strike killed 10 innocent civilians, mostly children. Imagine a European prime minister talking like that!

On the campaign trail for President Barack Obama in 2012, then-Vice President Biden repeatedly bragged that his administration had carried out the extrajudicial assassination of Osama bin Laden and had ordered the Al Qaeda chief murdered after he was captured alive. "You want to know whether we're better off?" Biden asked a cheering crowd of 3,500 in Detroit. "I've got a little bumper sticker for you: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive." Charming.

For Americans, violence is the go-to solution to many foreign crises even when there are better alternatives. Bin Laden, for example, could have been put on trial, with 9/11 treated as a law-enforcement issue. It would have elevated us, provided answers to the victims' families, and diminished the prestige of the terrorists.

Following the bombastic, high-strung President George W. Bush, Obama cultivated an image of calm deliberation - "No Drama Obama," his staff called him. Still, that didn't stop him from tastelessly normalizing political murder. The president pointed to the Jonas Brothers during the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner and joked - "Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but boys, don't get any ideas," Obama said as reporters guffawed. "Two words for you: Predator drones. You will never see it coming." The thousands of innocent people blown up by Obama's drones, none by legal means, must have found his depravity hilarious.

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Ted Rall, a political cartoonist, is the author of "The Anti-American Manifesto." He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1963, raised in Kettering, Ohio and graduated from Fairmont West High School in 1981. His first cartoons were published (more...)
 

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