Born of the spirit of willfulness, the United States was a violent land from the first. The recollection of this past evokes vehement denials of any spiritual solidarity with those who perpetrated those horrors. Yet this very reaction abundantly implies that those genocidal memories are not removed; they are rather repressed inwardly where they mutate in order to perpetuate the spirit of violence in today’s world. It is in such a world that such horrors as Newtown witnessed are now common place.
For years, we hid public shame behind the cultural pretense that these crimes are no more common than at other times. But now the mass media informs us when these horrors occur. While our past is certainly a violent one, we took false comfort in the misguided premise that present times are no different from past generations. Not now. A pattern of horror now attests that culture is changing around us.
1995 saw the Oklahoma City bombing. It killed 168 and 19 children. Columbine, Colorado witnessed massacre in 1999 which left 14 dead. Then there was Virginia Tech, where 34 died in 2007. This year alone saw massacres at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado [12 dead, 58 injured], in a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin [6 died], at a sign business in Minneapolis, Minnesota [6 dead]; at a spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin [3 died]; and at a mall a week ago in Portland, Oregon [3 dead].
While these mass murders are reported faithfully, no attempt is made to indict the genocidal spirit that Europeans brought to this continent. We expect connections between our genocidal past and today’s killings to be rejected as a false analogy. The most we can be allowed is to call for ‘national discussion’ of this problem. We are not encouraged to investigate the social roots behind this increasingly common antisocial behavior. And as there are no attempts to trace out its multitudinous expressions, that spirit of genocide lives on in many, unexamined mutated forms.
The American ruling class has no interest in examining the social roots of this and other horrors. Such examination will lead back to itself and its hegemonic rule over our society. The issue is not the need for ‘national conversation’ on gun control. The issue is not the need for empty promises from bourgeois politicians to ‘do more’ to address mental health [while they slash such programs to the bone]. The issue is the persistent spirit of genocide, evidenced in state-sanctioned violence worldwide.
Social adaptation to violence begins early. Even children’s cartoons display violence to resolve disputes. To this are added toy weapons, soon replaced by much more realistic video games, toy weapons and movies/media that exonerate violence by normalized usage, that glorify the soldier-hero, and that proclaim and illustrate the detestable doctrine of redemptive violence. Even as this is imbibed, recruitment officers pressured to meet quotas descend on high schools seeking young, dumb, testosterone-laden kids to ‘sign up’ for the cause of mom, baseball and apple pie.
Do we really think that it is coincidence that these ritualized, mass killings regularly feature military-style weapons born by assailants in combat fatigues? Do we truly believe that the frequent involvement of former soldiers is coincidental?
Government and media praise killings by the US military. Our society sees soldiers who invade and occupy nations as heroes. Navy Seals and Special Ops forces who do the murder work of the US military are glorified. President Obama is the first US president to assert openly the right to assassinate anyone, anywhere, including US citizens. He devotes significant time to pick targets for drone killings. He does so knowing fully that women and children will die as a result. Conservative estimates are that in Pakistan alone, 176 children have died in drone attacks.
Yet President Obama can offer platitudes, stock expressions and invoke religion and God and tell us not to grieve for the slaughtered children! Can one seriously believe that America can inflict violence worldwide and yet suffer no deadly consequences at home? A generation of youths is coming to political awareness that has never known anything but unending war. Do we truly believe that we can imbibe the very spirit of mass murder, let it direct national policies as embodied in the very highest office of the land, and not have this spirit penetrate back into us?
Any ‘national discussion’ on gun control or mental health will be relegated to the private and personal lives of those who commit such crimes. Our society will NEVER look at the class relations which UNDERLY these horrid attacks. Military equipment, drones, soldiers, ordnance along with military equipment and organizations require production and money. This means that the profit motive for Boeing, Halliburton etc. as well as private ‘for profit’ contractors [such as Blackwater/Xe] are at stake.
Describing the wreckage of America’s civil war, President Lincoln said that if God willed it, that ‘every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword,’ then ‘the judgments of the Lord are righteous altogether.’ The 16th President insisted that the tragedies of this world [the Civil War] are products of worldly crimes [slavery].
But the ruling class remains ruthlessly determined to achieve profit. This requires controlling the nations of the world so that the earth’s resources may be raped. For this reason, there will be no in-depth examination of the root causes of the stream of attacks. Those social roots include massive social inequality, an utterly backward official political ideology with no content, a vast level of state-sanctioned violence, a brutalization of society and degradation of the poor and minorities. For the future, there will be more attacks. There have been already.
Unless or until we find the moral courage to repudiate the spirit of violence that, with official approval, is endemic in society, nothing will change. We will proceed from one colonial occupation to another. The drone attacks, rendition, and endless attacks on democratic rights will continue. We will continue to be motivated by all the fear and propaganda that the ‘enemy’ lies just around the corner. Obama drones or Newtown guns, the issue is not gun control but weapons control.
Both bourgeois parties are 100% invested in the 1%. Unless or until there is a mass movement for democratic socialism, absolutely nothing will change. Whatever God talk is postulated by preachers and politicians, the true deity before whom we are directed by the ruling elite is eternal WAR. Only in a democratic socialist society can we begin to redress the real issues and -- God help us -- find answers to them.