Pointing Barrels, Pointing Fingers
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Never one to shy away from a fight, especially one about guns in America, the National Rifle Association (NRA) on Friday called for the ultimate solution to violence in American schools, more guns. Yup, you read that right. Or to be more precise, the NRA suggested we need armed guards in every school. Here’s the logic from NRA President Wayne LaPierre:
“The media perpetuate the dangerous notion that one more gun ban — or one more law imposed on peaceful, lawful people — will protect us where 20,000 others have failed.” (Full text here) It’s clear LaPierre doesn’t live in a major urban metropolis like New York, or he would know that armed guards in public schools is about as common as falafel vendors on 5th Ave. In other words, they’re everywhere, yet school violence in New York was at near-record levels in the past year according to several source (see here, here and here for detailed data). Here’s what some NYC educators had to say about the NRA plan. And while I’m no fan of our major, his response to LAPierre was right on point.
“The NRA’s Washington leadership has long been out of step with its members, and never has that been so apparent as this morning. Their press conference was a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country. Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe. Leadership is about taking responsibility, especially in times of crisis. Today the NRA’s lobbyists blamed everyone but themselves for the crisis of gun violence.”
The long and short of it is that basically everyone other than the hopelessly pathological NRA gung wackos think this is the worst thing since As Seen on TV products hit the cornerstore.
And if the NRA idea wasn’t not bad enough, all we need to do is look at the slow but creeping Plan B responses to the continued lax attitude in American to social violence–armored backpacks for your kids! That’s right, armored school backpacks, they’re the new back to school rage. According to at least one source, armored backpack sales have jumped 500% since the recent Sandy Hook school shooting in CT. And for those fashion conscious paranoid parents, Amendment 2 even sells bulletproof fabric by the square inch so you can make your own custom designs. Call me crazy, but I just don’t see bulletproof backpacks as the answer to the real problem here. It’s like blaming violent video games, it’s just a diversion from dealing with the actual deeper social problem that spawns this violence.
So what is this deeper social problem? I’d suggest the answer is deceptively simple–the long history of American exceptionalism and its political manifestation–American imperialism.
I know what you’re thinking, what the #$&% does American exceptionalism and empire have to do with gun violence in schools today? The answer is deceptively simple–we just need to look at American history. Put simply, American global hegemony was built, and continues to be maintained today, with massive amounts of normalized, structural violence. In other words, without violence as a social norm, American would not exist as we know it today. Consequently the lesson every young American learns today, whether consciously or unconsciously, is that in order to be the best of the best, you have to crack a few eggs. In fact, this logic of acceptable oppression is so pervasive that is is nearly invisible to the average person–it’s what German philosopher Hannah Arendt referred to as the “banality of evil” in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem.
“The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.”
Whether we are talking about the genocide of the native peoples during the early colonization period and still continuing today; the many and nefarious American imperial adventures over the past few centuries; or the ongoing violence waged in the name of the ‘War on Terrorism’ that was inaugurated by GW Bush and continues unabated today under President Obama, the lesson is the same–American get what it wants through the use of force.
The only real difference today is that we can now wage digital and economic warfare in such as way as to make it appear that overt American aggression is only to be found as a relic in the history books of the past, and not a continuing reality today. Nothing could be closer from the truth. And it is precisely this underlying structural violence which forms the seedbed from which social and cultural violence blossoms in American today. We have even developed an set of languistic practices to help in this process of normalization, as documented by Larry Ashley in his article “The Language of Violence“:
- collateral damage=murdering civilians
- acceptable risk=other people dying
- area denial munitions=land mines
- physical persuasion=torture
- security contractors=armed mercenaries
- shock and awe=indiscriminate destruction of civilian areas
- wet work=assassinations
So we can talk about banning assault rifles or high-capacity magazine or imposing more stringent background checks on gun sales, but at the end of the day none of these will address the real issue, which is this deeper structural violence that forms the very waff and weave of American society. And that is a discussion that even the most vocal anti-gun advocates are not likely to welcome, because that means taking a hard look at their own privileges and lifestyles, and not just pointing fingers at the latest big baddie in the news. A final thought worth considering–the top selling toy in 2012 on Amazon was Cards Against Humanity. (It was actually in the top 10 3 times, one for the game, and 2x for the expansion packs.) The Amazon description reads as follows:
“Cards Against Humanity is a party game for horrible people. Unlike most of the party games you’ve played before, Cards Against Humanity is as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.”
Here’s a sample of some of the cards from the game.
Yup, that pretty much says it all folks…
Until next time…remember, when you point a finger at someone, four more are pointing right back at you.