As a nation operating under the concept of self-rule, we the people have to talk coherently about the issues. Mass shootings doesn’t solve our problems, but rather exemplifies our current failures as citizens. How did we get to this point?
Does the 2nd Amendment really grant the right to assault rifles and 100-round ammo clips? No, it does not. Nor do gun hoarders constitute a “well regulated militia.”
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
How did we not understand that waging a drug war against our own people would embed domestic violence in our society? Did we learn nothing from alcohol prohibition when, for fifteen years, underworld gangs selling illegal alcohol used their wealth to purchase weapons and political protection? How could Reagan and Congress think it was a good idea for “surplus” military weapons and equipment to be sold to our city police forces and used in commando tactics within our neighborhoods? How could we not see the horrible outcome of spending more money on prisons than education?
We have to talk about immigration—what will stop the mass migration of people to our borders? For over a century, our corporations have been aided and abetted by our military to plunder Latin America for its natural resources and cheap labor. We have blood on our hands in the same tradition as Spain for its 300-year devastating occupation of the same lands. Doesn’t it make more sense to invest more heavily in helping solve problems in these countries so the people don’t have to leave home in order to have an economic future free from violence? What kind of future are we creating for ourselves by destroying Latino families and traumatizing innocent children?
We have to talk about climate change. How can anyone still believe this is fake news? Are there truly so many people who don’t grasp the science of this issue that our entire nation’s public policy can get away with denying climate change exists? What happens when water supplies dry up, crops die on the ground, and there isn’t enough food?
The impacts of climate change will increasingly affect the daily lives of people everywhere in terms of employment and livelihoods, health, housing, water, food security and nutrition, and the realization of gender equality and other human rights. Impacts are expected to hit those living in poverty the hardest, partly due to their more prevalent dependency on the very natural resources affected by climate change and also because they have less capacity to protect themselves, adapt or recuperate losses.
We have to talk aboutpopulation—we can’t continue blindly producing more people who need food, jobs, and a place to live when all of those resources are simultaneously shrinking.
In 1950 there were 2.5 billion people on the planet. Now in 2019, there are 7.7 billion. By the end of the century the UN expects a global population of 11.2 billion.
In 2015, there were approximately 141 million births. In the same year, around 57 million people died. It’s clear why the global population is increasing: there are many more births each year than there are deaths. Around 2.5 times as many.
If we think we have an immigration problem now, just wait.
Each of us bears a responsibility to learn the facts on these and any other issues facing us as individuals, communities, and as a nation, engage in discussion with others with the goal of finding common ground, and then participate in the implementation of solutions through community action and voting.
The killing won’t stop anytime soon. A subclass of white men can’t find the means to adapt to a world where they are not dominant. They don’t know how to see themselves except as warriors striking down those they perceive as enemies.
The enemies are not just people of color. The “enemies” are thick in the world around these sad failures of evolution. Social change driven by modern science and technology has left them with no fields to plow or wilderness to conquer, no tribal fires. Those were skills living deep in their DNA. Vacant of all but amorphous anger, they sit on their couches, helpless against their sense of violation in a time that requires reasoning and acceptance of Other.
Christian Picciolini, a white nationalist who has stepped away from that way of thinking, remarks on the mind-set: “Typically what I found is, people hate other people because they hate something very specifically about themselves, or are very angry about a situation within their own environment, and that is then projected onto other people.”
Whatever the symbols of Other, they will hate. Their hate will fester. Their testosterone drives them to act. What act will satisfy the hate, the need to eradicate the threat?
But it’s not just a failure to evolve that drives the urge to kill. As a society, we’ve failed to address the impact of rapid technological and social change. Our schools should be teaching logic, debate and rhetoric, critical tools for rational humankind. Reasoning skills are required if we are to control our emotions and peaceably resolve conflict.
Logic: sensible rational thought and argument rather than ideas that are influenced by emotion or whim; the branch of philosophy that deals with the theory of deductive and inductive arguments and aims to distinguish good from bad reasoning.
Rhetoric: the ability to use language effectively, especially to persuade or influence people.
Debate: to talk about something at length and in detail, especially as part of a formal exchange of opinion
Shamefully, today public policy discussed even in the U.S. Senate, the highest arena of government, disintegrates into personal attack. The public square, now virtual instead of physical, suffers the same: personal attack instead of reasoned debate.
Shout down anyone who doesn’t agree with you. Call them names. Unleash rage against the Other.
The more we engage in personal attacks, the less progress we achieve in achieving public policy that works for us all. This time will go down in history as the Great Killing. Whether it’s the unevolving who will die or those who reason is yet to be seen.
Can we look forward to a change in educational programs? Can we retrofit people by demanding they go through some kind of training? Can we require our elected officials to focus on the goal instead of wading into partisan squabbling?
A lot of talk among those on the left focuses on ending war. I’ve heard plenty of Lefties say they didn’t vote for Hillary because she supported war. As if that had any bearing on reality, since so does Trump.
At any rate, I’m seeking input from anyone who can offer a thoughtful analysis on what the U.S. gains in war and why removing ourselves from those situations would be good or bad.
Why is this important? Consider this:
The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs reports that by the end of the 2019 fiscal year, the U.S. will have spent $5.9 trillion on military spending in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and other countries, as well as veterans’ care, interest on debt payments, and related spending at the Homeland Security and State Departments.
It’s not just about the Middle East. We support military forces around the globe.
The 2015 U.S. Department of Defense Base Structure Report states that the DOD has property in 587 bases in 42 countries, the majority located in Germany (181 sites), Japan (122 sites), and South Korea (83 sites). The Department of Defense classifies 20 of the overseas bases as large, 16 as medium, 482 as small and 69 as “other sites.” (Now up to over 800.)
These smaller and “other sites” are called “lily pads” and are generally in remote locations and are either secret or tacitly acknowledged to avoid protests that might lead to restrictions on their use. They usually have a small number of military personnel and no families. They sometimes reply on private military contractors whose actions the U.S. government can deny. To maintain a low profile, the bases are hidden within host country bases or on the edge of civilian airports. (Citation)
So let’s take this region by region. Wikipedia gives details on our involvement in the Middle East where we are actively engaged in the following locations:
Afghanistan – the reason we went there was to retaliate for 9/11 and destroy the Islamic insurgents known as the Taliban. Not sure why we care what happens now in Afghanistan but I do hear there are important rare earth deposits we’d like to monopolize. Yes, of course the Taliban still exists but anyone who has taken even a cursory glance at Afghan history will know that no one ever wins in Afghanistan.
Iraq – the reason we invaded Iraq had to do with the false claim they had developed weapons of mass destruction. The only credible excuse I’ve heard is that Cheney had vested interests in the oil fields on behalf of his company Halliburton. Also, Halliburton was contracted for billions of dollars in field support during and after the ‘war.’ Pretty sure we can all see now that Bush’s ill-advised invasion created a crisis for most religions in Iraq which had previously been more or less protected by Hussein’s tolerance policies. The invasion also created an environment where the long-festering religious conflict between Sunni and Shia Islamists could flare into violence and spawn extremists like the Sunni Al-Qaida.
Yemen – we’re supplying arms and ‘advisors’ to Saudi Arabia (and of course money) for its support of the old regime of Yemen in the face of a rebel takeover. Supposed Iranian support for the rebels reportedly triggered Saudi involvement in this Yemeni conflict. So why does the U.S. think this is so important that we are supporting Saudi brutality and genocide in Yemen? Is it just about Iran? Or the shadow of Russia behind Iran?
Libya – we stuck our nose into Libya because we wanted to get rid of Kaddafi. Now there is chaos and devastation as dueling factions fight for control. What the hell was the strategic expectation in nations like this and Iraq where decades of strongman rule had carved out a relatively peaceful nation? Is our goal simply to create devastation and turmoil in the entire region in order to help Israel remain powerful?
Syria – U.S. ‘advisors’ on the ground in Syria are dependent on Kurdish fighters in this ongoing cluster f**k that began as an uprising by educated Syrians against their dictator Bashar al-Assad. (Evidently despite our partnership with the Kurds, we’re too afraid of retribution by Turkey to advocate for Kurds to have their own homeland.)
Early on, our involvement in the Syrian civil war had to do with atrocities Assad committed against his own people, but then things became more complicated with the rise of Al-Quida/ISIS/ISIL in the war zones. At this point, as far as I know, we’re only trying to get rid of ISIL and allowing Assad to perpetuate his genocide against Syrians who want him out of power.
Israel — Although we are not directly involved in military activities between Israel and Palestine (and other Arab nations who formerly controlled the area where Israel was given land), we’ve funneled trillions of dollars into the formation and sustenance of Israel. I have yet to understand this investment, other than a) sympathy for what Jews suffered during WWII; and b) the usefulness of a fierce U.S. ally in the region.
For the record, I’ll ask why anyone thinks a nation based on religion is a good idea. Catholics live all over the world. So do all other religions. Where is the State of Methodists?
Why take away land from people who have lived there for hundreds of years (Palestinians) and create an ongoing crisis just because Jews once claimed it as their homeland? That was back around 30 BC before the Romans took over. Since then, Jews were a minority in that region, only 10-15% of the population by 614 AD. Jews fared no better after the start of the Crusades when invading European Catholics installed Christianity. In 1517, the Muslim Ottoman Empire conquered the area and ruled until 1917 when the British took over.
So based on what existed 2,000 years ago, the Jews should once again have Israel? By that logic, should all other current nations be subject to occupation by the people who ‘owned’ the place 2,000 years ago? The mind boggles.
Is our involvement in the Jewish state mostly about U.S. Christians, Jews, and Biblical prophecies? Why is Israel important to the U.S., to the extent that Israel receives the following?
P.L. 115-141, the FY2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act, provides the following for Israel:
$3.1 billion in Foreign Military Financing, of which $815.3 million is for offshore procurement;
$705.8 million for joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense projects, including $92 million for Iron Dome, $221.5 million for David’s Sling, $310 million for Arrow 3, and $82.3 million for Arrow 2;
$47.5 million for the U.S.-Israeli anti-tunnel cooperation program;
$7.5 million in Migration and Refugee Assistance;
$4 million for the establishment of a U.S.-Israel Center of Excellence in energy and water technologies;
$2 million for the Israel-U.S. Binational Research & Development Foundation (BIRD) Energy program; and
The reauthorization of War Reserves Stock Allies-Israel (WRSA-I) program through fiscal year 2019.
For FY2019, the Trump Administration is requesting $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing for Israel and $500 million in missile defense aid to mark the first year of the new MOU. The Administration also is seeking $5.5 million in Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) funding for humanitarian migrants to Israel. (Citation)
Note: This problem will NEVER be solved as long as Israel continues to bully its way into more and more Palestinian land. The least we can do is withdraw from the drama and let them all kill each other.
Oh, and there’s this: The top five source countries of U.S. petroleum imports in 2017 were Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Iraq. Hmm.
As for other places in the world where our troops are involved in local violence and imperialist ambitions, consider Africa where U.S. forces are stationed in over 20 locations.
When U.S. troops were ambushed in Niger last October (2017), the widespread reaction was surprise: The U.S. has military forces in Niger? What are they doing there?
Yet in many ways, the Niger operation typifies U.S. military missions underway in roughly 20 African countries, mostly in the northern half of the continent. The missions tend to be small, they are carried out largely below the radar, and most are focused on a specific aim: rolling back Islamist extremism. (Citation)
Might I humbly submit that Islamist extremism in Africa didn’t exist until American evangelists started messing with native African beliefs and European/American colonialists swept in to exploit the natural resources.
Or how about Asia where we have maintained a heavy military presence since BEFORE World War II. A Wall Street Journalreport from May 2017 states that “the Pentagon has endorsed a plan to invest nearly $8 billion to bulk up the U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region over the next five years by upgrading military infrastructure, conducting additional exercises and deploying more forces and ships.”
In Central and South America, the U.S. has a long tradition of meddling with our neighbors’ affairs. Through our C.I.A. and black ops, we have assassinated, deposed, and otherwise destroyed Central and South American governments we didn’t like primarily for their socialist or communist leanings. U.S. policymakers evidently failed to consider the benefits of socialist policies in largely rural countries where most arable land has been taken over by multinational corporations for use as food crop plantations or grazing land for cattle production, or in some cases mining, oil production and other natural resources.
These practices have left the average native citizens without a place or occupation by which to support themselves, creating the need for governments to level the playing field. Instead, any government that has hinted it might take back land for its people has been ruthlessly eradicated.
… the U.S. military school initially called School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), [has fostered graduates] who have tortured and murdered citizens of their countries who opposed their governments’ oppressive policies-in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, Argentina. Some of the most notorious of these murderers that sought asylum in the United States in the 1980s are now being extradited back to their home countries, particularly to El Salvador… (Citation)
(Anyone still wondering why these migrants keep arriving at our southern border?)
Is it naïve to think that in a time of a mushrooming global digital community and escalating economic challenges due to climate change that we could start to look at new world order that’s beyond war?
What exactly does the U.S. stand to lose by stepping back from armed conflict?
Well, there’s the money. The combined arms sales of the top 100 largest arms-producing companies amounted to an estimated $395 billion in 2012. The five biggest exporters in 2010–2014 were the United States, Russia, China, Germany and France, and the five biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, China, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan. (Citation) In the top ten arms producers, eight are U.S. corporations. Among them, they provide 831,000 jobs, one of the primary justifications for perpetuating the industry of war.
Then there are military jobs. For FY2018, these were the following budget items:
Personnel costs: $141B
Family support: $10B
The VA: $178B
That’s a total of $329 Billion. For 1.4 million jobs. That’s $235,000 per job. Per year.
The total number of deaths and the amount of human suffering is incalculable.
To Christians who support war in support of Israel or otherwise, I’ll ask what Christ meant when he said to turn the other cheek. Etc.
Is violence ever justified? Is war ever moral? Is it really kill or be killed? Are migrants seeking refuge a threat requiring military action?
Have we come so far and still remain, at our core, savages?
If gun advocates really want to protect the 2nd Amendment, they would be well advised to disclaim assault weapons. They’ve been banned before and they will be banned again. Why confuse the argument?
The 2nd Amendment is fairly precise in its statement: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The elemental phrase of this sentence is “a well-regulated militia.” We have that. It’s called the national guard. And yes, these well-regulated military units possess weapons. No one is infringing their right to bear those arms.
And no one is calling for a ban on all guns. The only source of that hue and cry is the National Rifle Association which uses that particular lie to strengthen its grip on the minds of a certain type of person. It’s also a useful lie to sell when your primary objective is to profit from the sale of any and all firearms, mass shootings be damned.
Are military-style weapons really so important that gun owners are willing to risk losing even more rights? This is a no-win argument, conflating assault rifles with more traditional firearms. If the objective is to strengthen the 2nd Amendment, a smart strategy would be to distance personal gun ownership from assault rifles.
It bears saying again that at the time the 2nd Amendment was written, the Founding Fathers did not and could not conceive of a gun like modern day assault rifles. Even the most basic revolver was unheard of to the common man. Fast forward to a more crowded, more urban, and more vulnerable population and add in the well-demonstrated threat to human life posed by assault weapons and you face the certainty that the Founding Fathers would have excluded assault weapons from the 2nd Amendment.
And let’s get real. What exactly does anyone expect to do with an assault rifle? They are not sporting guns. They are built to kill as many people as possible in the shortest possible amount of time. So unless you plan on becoming yet another mass murderer, you don’t need one.
It seems that assault-rifle aficionados live in fantasy land, believing that they must have such weapons to protect themselves from a potentially tyrannical government. All one must do to see through this delusion is to look at recent uprisings such as the rebellion in Syria. Entire cities have been destroyed in the government’s willingness to wipe out these rebels—chemical weapons, barrel bombs, white phosphorus bombs, entire populations of men, women, and children killed in their homes, schools and hospitals.
Never think for one minute that an armed insurrection within the United States would be met with less than deadly force. We’ve seen a few minor efforts along those lines. The Branch Davidians springs to mind, you know, that group of armed religionists who ended up burning themselves to death at Waco, Texas, rather than yield to the government. Or maybe the role model would be the Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord, a white supremacist militia group based in Arkansas that was active in the late 1970s and the ’80s.
These bands of brothers with their camo trucks, prepper shelters, food rations, and an arsenal of AR-15s are hallucinating if they believe they can stand against the U. S. military. The idea is laughable. Even illegal grenade launchers and machine guns won’t help them. Will they shoot at the sky as Patriot missiles start flying their way? What happens when a few M270 rocket launch systems rumble into range? They’ll not even see the high-flying jets dropping cluster bombs. They won’t hear the Abrams tanks rolling toward them until the first rounds start blowing them and their shelters into the next life.
The reality is that U.S. citizens with assault weapons will have zero impact as resistance fighters against a government gone rogue. We already have a way to ensure that our government doesn’t go rogue. It’s called voting.
Then there’s meeting with legislators, running for election, and forming cogent arguments to be voiced among friends and neighbors. It’s called citizenship.
And if the scenario is a world where governments have crumbled and nothing is left but little groups of tough men fighting for God and the American Way, who are they fighting? Other Americans who also have AR-15s? What happens when the ammunition runs out? Why not do that first?
Assault weapons do not belong in the hands of civilians. So let’s get past that whole insanity and start working toward a peaceful future for everyone. Enough already.
Some Facebook posts circulating since the Paris tragedy voice outrage that the U.S. and its allies failed to stop ISIS at its inception.
To those I ask what, pray tell, was the beginning?
Was it during the three hundred years of Crusades when Western European Christians invaded the Middle East to drive out Islam?
Was it after WWI when the Western powers reorganized the colonized Middle East, shifting borders to suit the desires of various Western nations regardless of existing ethnic, tribal, or religious boundaries?
Was it after WWII when Western powers again reorganized Arab lands, shoving the Palestinians aside to carve out a homeland for the Jews? Couldn’t we have predicted that Arabs would resist? Perhaps that would have been the best time to nuke the whole region.
Was it when we armed the Afghan Mujaheddin in the 1980s to help them overthrow Soviet occupation? Couldn’t we have predicted that once the Cold War ended, we would abandon Afghanistan and leave tribal leaders like Osama bin Laden to take what he’d been taught to organize his devastated homeland.
Was it when we marched into Iraq, toppling the strong man government of Saddam Hussein and unleashing sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias?
Was it when the 2011 Arab spring spread from Egypt through other Middle Eastern nations and Syria’s President Assad fought back against his nation’s rebellion? The U.S. and allies hurried into Syria with support and secret ‘advisors’ to assist the rebels, bringing in sophisticated arms and other supplies that are now in the hands of ISIS. Gee, how could we have guessed?
The claim that the U. S. could have inflicted a fatal incisive strike against ISIS at any point along this tortured path shows ignorance and a single-minded obsession to heap criticism on President Obama. ISIS has never existed as a discrete target. Any attack on ISIS would result in massive collateral damage.
The entire mess points to one overarching conclusion: the more we intervene in the Middle East, the worse things get.
We’re good at meddling in other people’s affairs. At what point do we have an honest national dialogue centered on the question: Why are we in the Middle East at all?
I can tell you. It’s because of money, oil and religion. And money. Did I say money?[i]
According to a 2013 report, “over the last six decades, the U.S. has invested $299 billion in military and economic aid for Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries currently in turmoil. Egypt tops a list of ten nations, receiving $114 billion since the end of World War II. Iraq comes in second, getting nearly $60 billion from the U.S. (over and above war costs). Far outpacing those ten countries is Israel, an ally that received another $185 billion in U.S. aid in the same period.”[ii]
Why not just hand all that arms money over to the arms dealers and let them keep the weapons?
Are we getting what we paid for? If the objective is to keep the region destabilized so that we can maintain a level of control over the oil, yes. If the objective is to undermine Arab strength in order to further prop up Israel, yes.
We continue to send billions of dollars of foreign aid to the region, larding the already excessive oil profits lining the pockets of the region’s leaders. With all that money, leaders so inclined can invest in distant terrorists or add to their nation’s arsenal by purchasing arms and equipment manufactured in Western nations.
Supporters of Israel dismiss dollar amounts because their agenda is religious. People concerned about U. S. energy profits dismiss dollar amounts because their agenda is oil. Both groups fail to recognize the larger agenda behind their pet projects: money.
According to a 2013 report, “Each year, around $45-60 billion worth of arms sales are agreed. Most of these sales (something like 75%) are to developing countries. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council (U.S., Russia, France, United Kingdom and China), together with Germany and Italy account for around 85% of the arms sold between 2004 and 2011.[iii]
Nearly twenty years ago, an incisive review of our foreign aid pointed to this folly:
“An examination of $13.6 billion in U.S. foreign aid activity for Fiscal Year 1997 reveals that almost half of the aid is military in nature. This assistance, in conjunction with large-scale arms exports, may actually be working counter to many stated U.S. foreign policy objectives such as promoting sustainable development, protecting human health and fostering economic growth.”[iv]
George Washington famously cautioned against the quagmire in which we’re now floundering:
“The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.”[v]
Just six days ago, the columnist citing this wisdom called for an end to all but humanitarian aid to foreign nations. He’s not alone.
Opponents of a hands-off approach will cite the potential for increasing interference in the region from nations like Russia and China. In theory, our presence at the arms trade table balances their influence. But we have to ask ourselves, who was there first? I can tell you. It was us.[vi]
If we want the violence to stop, we’ll have to
stop giving our tax dollars to nations who spend it on arms,
eliminate any and all subsidies to arms dealers and manufacturers,
remove our forces entirely from the region and let them sort it out themselves, and
rescind and renegotiate any treaties with other nations so that any and all foreign aid is in the form of food, educational materials, medical supplies, and other humanitarian assistance.
Is it really any surprise that so much in our nation has devolved into violence? We did this to ourselves. This is our legacy.
We set foot on American shores and through violence eradicated the bulk of the indigenous population. We justified our killing with belief in our superiority, our ‘divine right’ to the land and its resources. Unlike the Natives, we carried a Bible and guns so we concluded God wanted us to have it. Might makes right.
Since the beginning, our westward migration progressed under the rationale that we ‘discovered’ gold and silver, ‘harvested’ virgin timber and furs, and settled the ‘wild’ lands. We wrested wealth from the soil by enslaving not only the surviving Natives but imported Africans and Asians. These ‘lesser’ creatures deserved to be subdued just as a work animal yearns for the yoke. They should thank us.
All to the glory of God, who showed us the path to our greatness.
In truth, our nation became rich not because we’re so clever or God’s chosen people but because we stumbled onto a pristine continent. The world’s civilizations had not risen here, had not built their empires, waged their wars, suffered plague and famine here. The Americas weren’t like the rest of the world’s continents, already ravaged by millennia of man’s turmoil.
We Europeans who invaded this land became rich through accidental opportunity, theft, and violence.
And when the land had been conquered, when the virgin forests had been cut and the hillsides left to erode, when the gold and silver had been mined and the waste pits left to leach impurities into the streams, when the frontier came to a screeching halt at the Pacific shore, we turned on ourselves.
With our eye on the prize, we killed anyone who got in our way. Natives, former slaves, immigrants, those too poor or too weak to stand up for themselves—they were cast to the edges to starve. Or lynched. Taught their place away from our table.
Then the mid-twentieth century arrived with its transformative movements on behalf of the poor, the Black and Native, the handicapped, the gay, and the women, all the people whose subjugation had enabled the white patriarchy to herald its God-given triumph.
The power structure reeled in shock.
Assassinations followed. And the war on drugs, a less obvious form of assassination. It wasn’t drugs that subsequently filled our prisons. It wasn’t drugs who became disenfranchised and even more marginalized. Drugs were the tool, the label selectively wielded against those who threatened the system.
For many in the underclass, the black market in drugs became the only means to reach for the American dream. The bait. The wealth of those markets and the inherent lack of regulation led to the current open warfare in our inner cities. In our war against our own people, we have set our law enforcement against our neighborhoods. We have armed them with military weapons and tactics. We have hidden behind our curtains as they firebombed apartment buildings and battered in doors.
We chose to ignore what we’d learned from alcohol prohibition, that such policies not only failed in their stated intent but also gave rise to even worse consequences. We knew that tax dollars invested in education, in mental health care, and in social support would eventually pay dividends in a healthier more vibrant society. Not prisons. Not guns.
We turned away from what we knew because we were taught fear by those with their own agendas—wealth and power at any cost. Fear higher taxes. Fear the government. Fear programs that help the poor.
Everything we should have gladly given became ‘taken.’
What if we hoard all the guns that can be made? What if our barns, our spare bedrooms, bristle with automatic weapons and crates of ammunition? Does that make us safe?
Safe from whom? From the random madman who lurks unknown in suburbia until the day he pulls the trigger? How will you know today is the day, the school is the place, that you should appear with your loaded gun in hand? None of the mass shootings of the last thirty years have been stopped by an armed citizen.
Safe from gangs roaming the dark streets of a declining city? Why bother? They’re killing each other by the hundreds.
From the government? Obviously you haven’t thought this through. Your spare room arsenal, your heavily armed survival shelter, will last about one nanosecond once the U. S. military decides you’re the target. If the Apache helicopters with Hellfire missiles don’t pound you, the fighter jets, Abrams tanks, and missiles launched from drones surely will. Get over yourself.
Now that we’ve had this friendly chat, can you calm down long enough to talk reason? Let go of the gun. Come, let us sit together.
Poor things, we have become islands of fear. We suffer existential crisis. Torn from our historical and biological roots, we are caught up in a world of machines and corporations. We don’t know our neighbors. Our communities have shrunk to a small circle of friends. We are beleaguered, lonely, and overwhelmed.
We need naps after lunch, long walks in nature, communion around campfires. We haven’t evolved fast enough to keep up with the culture. We’re not ready to travel sixty miles an hour.
We are physically ill—overweight, strung out on prescription drugs, anxious, and undernourished. What we take into our mouths becomes our energy, our blood, our skin. Yet much of our food is short on nutrition and long on adulterants. How can we think clearly or feel anything but cornered with flavored dross in our veins? We use caffeine to put one foot in front of the other.
In this melting pot of a nation, we cling to rituals that have lost their meaning. There’s no passage in our rites of teenage drunkenness, no ‘arrival’ in our coming of age. What is our totem, our spirit guide? Our ceremonies are shells of their former meaning dolled up in slick packages.
Even now, after all this, we have the opportunity to evolve. Live up to our dream. Turn away from our violent past and join together in creating solutions to all that ails us.
We don’t have to create armed camps in our midst. We don’t have to teach our young that violence is the solution. We’ve been too lazy to learn and think, too distracted to look beyond our television. Too eager to label and blame the Other for problems we’ve brought onto ourselves.
Too damn busy trying to stay afloat. Trying to have it all.
Can we save the dream of our nation? Is it too late to make love not war? Too late to treat our neighbors as ourselves? Let’s invest our energy and resources in solutions–interventions for those teetering on the edge of mental illness, for disrupted families and children. Pour our money into schools and teachers, not prisons and guards. Free health clinics in every community with counseling for anyone who walks in the door–that day, that moment. Not after someone brings in proof of income and household bills, not after a two week wait.
We embrace delusions of a past that never was. We got lucky. We got spoiled. We want too much and if we can’t have it, it’s somebody else’s fault. The immigrant’s fault that we can’t buy a new car. The poor man’s fault that our groceries cost so much. The gay man’s fault that our marriage failed.
The police are not yet a force unto themselves but they’re moving closer, fed by fear. Their job is to enforce the laws. The laws are not made by the police. They are made by our elected representatives. Our. Elected. Representatives.
The free ride is over. The trees are cut, the gold nuggets found. The frontier lies within.