Sunday :: Apr 22, 2007

Thoughts on the VT killings

by soccerdad

I was engulfed by a wave of extreme sadness when I heard about the VT killings; sadness for the bright lives that were so senselessly ended; sadness for the extraordinary pain and lifelong grief to be suffered by their families and friends. However, for some reason there was neither outrage nor much surprise. I’ve been trying to understand my reaction without resorting to clichés.

I think the lack of outrage results from a combination of things. My tank of outrage is nearly empty. It’s extremely difficult to work up the psychic energy to replenish it. I would like everyone to try and forget all the media crap you have heard about the killings and think back to your first reaction when it became clear that so many promising young lives had been killed. Now hang on to that and don’t let the intensity diminish. Now think, 650,000 to 1 million people killed in Iraq over the last 4 years. Killed by the US, killed by Shites, killed by Sunnis, killed by al Qaeda. These people had mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts uncles, etc. Do you really think that their pain at a family member being blown up is any less that a parent of a VT student? Do you think they are so different from us?

And yet so few care. Is it simply that “out of sight out of mind”? We don’t see war footage on TV every night. Talk to someone from Europe, they’ve seen a completely different war. No one seems to care about those being killed in a US proxy war in Africa Corpses 'rotting in Mogadishu streets' Or is it that only American deaths count? Of course we also must remember that the government, the neocons, pundits, and talking heads have performed their usual job of dehumanizing the enemy exceptionally well, making it seem that the genocide of Iraqis is much like Terminx killing termites.

As I have argued here before, I have always believed that there is a basic commonality between all people. That on some level, say a family in America is not that much different than a family in Iraq. They love their kids; want what everyone wants – food, shelter, happiness and a future. People no matter which State they live under have some intrinsic value, some worth. To say that one’s intrinsic worth is somehow determined by the power of the State one lives under, is to implicitly assume that one has no real worth. If the US becomes a second rate power, does that mean all of us now have less intrinsic worth. And whether the State actually thinks you have any worth is a rant for another day.

It seems I have been making these arguments for years now with few listening. So as I said the outrage tank is empty, my store of psychic energy is almost exhausted, but a sense of hopelessness is on the rise.

I also said that I wasn’t very surprised. Obviously, I was in no position to predict the VT killings. But that given the state of our society, the occurrence of such killings is not so surprising and really just represents an extreme of everyday events. What I am talking about refers to the nature of the society we live in today and actually ties in to what I said above. The media has done an excellent job of steering us away from the issues we should be talking about and making sure we all understand that this tragedy was unpredictable and that noting can be done to prevent them in the future. I mean it’s just the workings of an isolated madman, right? Well yes and no. Yes this was the work of a severely mentally ill person and it is difficult to predict when a mentally ill person will turn to violence. But here’s something I heard Robert Reich talk about on NPR. A mentally ill person must go to a doctor to be evaluated, receive a prescription where the doctor discusses the medication with the patient, and then go to a pharmacy which checks the validity of the prescription and again explains the side effects of the medicine. Why, because these medications can have serious side effects. However, that same mentally ill person can walk into a gun store, slap down 2 IDs, and purchase weapons. Tell me that makes sense.

Since Columbine there has been a steady increase in the incidents of either school shootings, not all as epic as VT, or incidents of kids carry guns to school. We’ve had several incidents of students bring guns to schools in my relatively affluent suburb town that on its face has almost no crime.

So let’s finally get to the meat of the issue. What the government and media do not want you to do is question the condition of the society we currently live in. Here in the US we live in the most violent society in the modern industrialized world. Here is a table with data from the WHO that quantifies murder and suicide rates from a number of countries.

Firearm Related Deaths
Country Homocides Rate Suicides Rate
United States 11802 4.4 17432 6.4
England 45 0.1 140 0.2
France 170 0.3 2836 4.1
Germany 155 0.2 906 1.1
Canada 159 0.5 818 2.7
Note: rates are given as deaths per 100,000 citizens SOURCE: The WHO

The basic conclusion that the US is a violent country is obvious, but the whys are no so clear. I think a common mistake made in discussions of the whys, is that they search for THE reason why violence is so high. I believe that there are many reasons, none sufficient by themselves. Its idiotic to say that the easy access to guns plays no role, just as it would be idiotic to say that is the only reason.

I think you also have to consider the extremely high rate of suicides by hand guns. This I think reveals some of the deeper issues that must be addressed. Isolation, futility, alienation can cause suicides or mass kilings followed by suicides. Handguns are the tools. What are the motivations and societal characteristics that help people choose such desperate measures.

So if we step back, stop examining the trees one by one what does the forest look like? What does the American society look like and where is it headed? We live in a society which has become progressively more hateful, more racist, and more defined by class. As David Neiwert has been documenting in tremendous detail, the hate speech of the extremists has been gradually creeping into the mainstream media. We have right wing pundits, such as Coulter, who are seen as important members of their group call for the killing of liberals judges etc. We have religious “leaders” calling for the killing of rulers of other countries. We have a divisive government which clearly cares only about themselves and actively promotes division as a means of staying in power. We have seen the rise of a fundamentalist christian minority which has become intertwined with our government. This radical sect does not promote Christian values, but thirsts for power to impose their beliefs on everyone else. They also believe that everyone else is inferior and won’t be saved. Frankly, if there is a rapture and these people are saved, leave me behind I don’t want to go. There has been a steady increase in negative attitudes and actions against the poor and racial minorities. One needs to look no further than the effects of Katrina and the state of New Orleans today to understand that.

And here is the plain ugly truth. This is exactly what our government wants. There are a couple of reasons why this is so. Promoting distrust and hate within the country that is aimed at minorities, the poor and immigrants deflects attention away from the fact that this government is nothing more than a bunch of thieves and extortionists whose only real goal is to line their pockets with government, read our, money. Secondly, a constant state of paranoia and fear feeds their objectives of continued military actions around the world, once again whose primary aim is to make them and their corporate benefactors rich beyond their wildest dreams.

But I am sure the government would say that the increased levels of fear, hate, divisiveness, disillusionment, and decreased economic opportunity have nothing to do with any of this. Its actually all due to a new video game don’t you know.

We are a violent society, and becoming more so, not less, every day.

soccerdad :: 5:22 AM :: Comments (93) :: Spotlight :: Digg It!