Monday, September 16, 2013

Collateral damage and a war of fear

Yesterday on Facebook my friend posted a photo with a caption that said, "Guns don't protect freedom, speech does that."

And as expected, words began to fly. One woman argued that when "our enemies" invade she has to have guns to protect herself. In light of the fact that no "enemy" is likely to invade the US with a "boots on the ground" army, it seems to me that Americans pay an extremely high price for this kind of paranoia.

In 2010, there were 19,392 firearm-related suicide deaths, and 11,078 firearm-related homicide deaths in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that between 2000-2005 on average, one child died every three days in a firearms accident. If you extrapolate those figures to 2013, that's 1,582 little children, collateral damage of a war against an "enemy" which is not there and may never come.

But gun proponents are right in one argument. It's not the gun, it's the society. Gun-related death rates in the US are eight times higher than they are in countries that are economically and politically similar to it; however, all of these countries have more secure social networks, which is an important key to a non-violent population.

In 2009 UN statistics record 3.0 gun homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in the US; for comparison, gun homicides in Switzerland were 0.52 per 100,000 even though they rank third in the world for highest number of guns per citizen. The difference - the Swiss follow the national motto of "One for all and all for one". They take care of their citizens.

And in response the woman said; "..while you are still trying to figure out who our enemies are it will be too late to say Gee, I sure wish I had a gun! Duh! If we get invaded by one of our enemies you won't have to worry about all those social problems we have . You are going to be worrying about saving your own a_s. If you want to live in a socialistic country keep thinking the way you are."

And because I live in a country which is a social democracy I said, "Thanks, I already live in one and love it."

But all this was prelude to point. I look at the US and see so much fear, so much paranoia, and as a result so much violence and hate.

There seemed a chance in the 60s and early 70s to create an equal opportunity America, a land of peace and plenty. But that opportunity was co-opted in the most vicious and cold-bloodied manner possible, by politicians, corporations and institutions determined:

  1. to keep the Black man "in his place",
  2. to continue to exploit the labour of people of colour, whether Native-born or immigrant worker
  3. to break the power of the working class by outsourcing their jobs to Third-World countries
  4. to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, while benefiting from the infrastructure and services built and supplied by tax-paying citizens
  5. to turn Americans against each other, with a special focus on hating and fearing the poor, and revering the cult of wealth and celebrity
  6. instill a deep mistrust in "the government", while politicians exploit trust by focusing on divisive issues.
  7. arm those who have bought into the paranoia that their fellow Americans are "the enemy". I have heard some of these people say the US Military may be "the enemy" they have to fight, which shows how far their paranoia (and their delusions) have progressed. For one thing they may have forgotten that old saying, "Never bring an M-16 to a armoured tank division invasion supported by drones".

Once this hoax that "we have seen the enemy and it is our own government" has been accomplished a corporate takeover of the government is possible. Politicians owned by big insurance, big oil, big industry, big pharmaceuticals, big money can essentially stage a coup d'etat without ever raising a weapon.

The election of Barack Obama was a Godsend to these interests. The presence of this calm, intelligent, thoughtful but often visibly frustrated Black man in the White House was a lightening rod that brought out every fear-mongering, paranoid in Washington, with the agenda of bringing the American government to its knees. And his presence made it so easy to do so with the millions of Americans brought to the brink of madness by the struggle to survive, anxiety and despair.

And many, like this unfortunate woman, are more terrified of feeding a hungry child or 90-year-old widow than they would be of finding a grizzly bear on the doorstep because feeding the hungry or tending the sick have been reframed as "socialist" acts rather than Christian or compassionate ones, and they are ready to shoot to kill the "socialist".

I struggle with this every time we turn on the news. Another mass shooting today. I had to turn it off. I couldn't kill another human being. I can't even kill a spider, or an ant. And even the act of carrying an ant outside. Where is its place, its own hill? If I place it wrongly it will be enslaved, or attacked. I worry about ants. And this huge burden of fear in a country which was at one time a beacon of hope for the entire world, it sends me reeling. I feel it deeply, as a wound in my heart.

Let all beings be happy! Weak or strong, of high, middle or low estate,
Small or great, visible or invisible, near or far away,
Alive or still to be born — may they all be perfectly happy!
Let nobody lie to anybody or despise any single being anywhere.
May nobody wish harm to any single creature, out of anger or hatred!
Let us cherish all creatures, as a mother her only child!
May our compassionate thoughts fill the whole world, above, below, across, –
Without limit; a boundless goodwill toward the whole world,
Unrestricted, free of hatred and enmity! (Sutta Nipata 118)

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