Tag Archives: Guns

A Stampede Against Time

It’s inspiring to see so many young people in the United States rise to action against gun violence, especially in response to the mass shooting phenomenon which has dominated news cycles and the American psyche itself. But unless the link is made to militarism, police brutality, ecological destruction, economic disenfranchisement and state violence it will be reduced to mere spectacle and cynically used by the Democratic Party, that infamous graveyard of social movements, for political advancement.
The so-called “March for Our Lives” was emblematic of this. Held on a weekend, permits were easily granted. The corporate media portrayed it favorably. There were celebrities, pundits and political hacks galore. There were no major police incidents. And nothing was disrupted politically, economically or socially. Essentially, it was a state sanctioned “day of rage” which did not upend anything nor have any consequential effect on the underlying societal inequities or maladies that create a violent society in the first place.
Compare this weekend’s events to the reaction of the state to Black Lives Matter rallies, the Occupy Movement or Standing Rock Sioux and you get a clear picture of which movements are allowable or even smiled upon and which ones they will brutally crush. The Democrats showed little interest in those latter movements because they represented a real threat to the repressive capitalist, ecologically devastating and thoroughly racist status quo of which they are a part.
And then there is the privilege. The very name “March For Our Lives” reflects a kind of cooptation in relation to Black Lives Matter, and this is especially troubling since most of the participants have been largely from the white petit bourgeois (middle class). Similar comparisons can be made to the #metoo movement because although it was founded by a Black woman (Tarana Burke), it was co-opted by a white celebrity (Alyssa Milano) and gained steam via an exposé on the powerful producer Harvey Weinstein. And thus far it has shown few, demonstrable, real life benefits for working class women of colour because the systems of class exploitation persist undisturbed and unabated.
But highly organized and moneyed events like the one this past weekend are not really meant to effect change. They take place only within the confines of acceptable dissent, rattling few cages and causing no one (especially the wealthy and powerful elite) too much inconvenience. And they often mask more nefarious and insidious motives of the state for increased control and the suppression of actual dissent.  For instance, the main focus of animus at this weekend’s march was the National Rifle Association, arguably a lobby group that actively defends white nationalist terror. But nothing was uttered about Grumman Northrup, or Lockheed Martin, or Halliburton, or the Pentagon, or the Department of Defense, or the police for that matter, all of which cause substantially more deaths globally. And this is by design. These “movements” generally act as a valve to let off steam; and the action they call for all too often come in the form of draconian legalism, surveillance and authoritarian overreach.

Indeed, the US has always been supremely authoritarian but it is rapidly slipping into outright fascism with each passing day. Military analysts and generals are running the show behind the scenes of the narcissist in the Oval Office and are salivating at the next geopolitical assault (see quagmire) be it against Iran, North Korea, Venezuela or even Russia or China, all while a complex police state has been meticulously constructed domestically.

It is an empire where the ruling class create a narrative to serve the purpose of maintaining their power while they continue to hack through what is left of the rag we call a social safety net and fill their already bloated private coffers with stolen public coin. And it enforces it all through coercion, intimidation, marginalization and violence, both at home and abroad. This is why social movements cannot have real success if they are largely generated and sustained by members of the elite or the establishment.  They serve only as an illusion of agency, not true power; and often end with more terrifying results.

It is my sincere hope that many of the young people rising up today make this crucial connection and the #NeverAgain movement will grow to encompass US militarism, the prison/surveillance/police industrial complex and systemic economic inequality, because the failure to do so will only speed them toward an even more terrifying totalitarianism within a deeply unequal and warrior society neutered of its political agency and chomping at the bit for more war and a militarized world. But they will need to do this quickly. This isn’t simply a march for their lives; it is a stampede against time for us all.

Kenn Orphan, 26 March 2018

The Cracking Mirror

Survivors comfort each other following the Aurora mass shooting. Photo Getty Images.      The statistics are staggering. From Columbine to Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook, the United States, according to a recent study, leads the world in mass shootings. This year alone there have been 294 such incidents.  It should be noted that it does not take into account gang related gun violence or family slayings through the use of firearms. But the response is equally mind numbing. After each incident there is feigned outrage from the mainstream media and meaningless platitudes from politicians. Nothing is done to stem this epidemic in any meaningful way, shape or form. Some make claims that a dearth of morality and the removal of religious references in the public arena are the root causes, and that more guns are the answer. While others focus on a lack of mental health services and lax gun regulations. But in truth, the United States was founded on gun violence and it continues to underpin every one of its institutions.

Mass grave of Lakota following the Massacre at Wounded Knee. The Dead Indian Act justified scores of massacres like this, in a state sanctioned genocide of the indigenous people of North America.Early on, illegal settlers of mostly European origin cleared the land of its indigenous population, and maintained centuries of slavery largely through the use of guns.  And while the Empire expanded on this continent, it entered into wars for over 200 of its 239 years of existence.  Indeed, violence has always been exalted in the culture of this country, from a military that is impervious to reproach or criticism, to a popular obsession with punitive and draconian law and order. It is a culture that can take a mass murderer like the late Chris Kyle and re-cast him as a national and cinematic hero.

In this atmosphere dissenting from the modern, reactionary interpretation of the sacrosanct Second Amendment might find you getting death threats which, in the current climate, can never be dismissed as merely rhetorical. As in any fundamentalist ideology, questioning the foundational belief system is viewed as a threat to be dealt with harshly or eliminated completely. But unless this historic reality is faced, the current situation will only continue and grow more brutal and terrifying.

A gun on the Bible with the Constitution. Source San Diego Free PressThe American way of life, by its very nature, is incapable of responding coherently to mass shootings since practically all of its communication and transactions are based upon the currency of violence. This permits the powerful to exist within a bubble of hypocrisy, where a sitting President can chide the nation on its gun obsession while not grappling with the irony of his ‘kill list,’ or his justifications for using the ultimate, modern firearm, the combat drone, to bomb wedding parties, hospitals and grandmothers picking ocra in their fields abroad.

At home, the powerful have steadily armed a corrupt police force with military grade weaponry. These forces serve as occupying armies in cities across the country, protecting the property of the ownership class, and preserving the status quo. And as the empire crumbles and ecosystems begin to crash they are not about to dismantle the very institutions that will provide them cover in the impending social unrest.

FERGUSON MISSOURIThe arms industry, too, will stop at nothing to maintain a certain level of rage and paranoia for the sake of their bottom line. It drives the American economy; and, with the help of Hollywood, has deftly stoked racist and misogynistic hatred to convince countless young, white men that their way of life is threatened by lawless minorities, powerful women or foreign terrorists with Arabic sounding names. Fear is the industry’s profit maker, and in a nation where income disparities are growing and opportunities for meaningful advancement are shrinking, their business is booming.

Gun show in Utah. Photo Rick Bowmer, Associated Press.All of this has contributed to turning the United States into a wasteland of alienation and emptiness for millions of people. And for many young, white, straight males, whose agency to control their lives is fast slipping away, this desolate landscape unhinges them. They are disenfranchised from their own lives, raised on the liturgy of cut throat capitalism and the oxymoronic “free market,” and fed a steady diet of jingoism and military conformity. They are conditioned to respond to all things with the language of aggression, and view competition as the only legitimate way of life. If you are poor, damaged or incapable of participating in this theater of cruelty you are mocked and ridiculed or, worse, rendered invisible.

Occupy Movement protestor. Source Gawker.Tragically, there are bound to be more mass shootings. Within the hypermasculine climate of modern American culture, cooperation and empathy are viewed as character flaws and fatal weaknesses. This, combined with the losing game of neoliberal capitalism, has become a recipe for rage among huge swaths of young people who, no matter how hard they may try, can never hope to succeed within a rigged system.

Homeless in America Associated PressThe United States is a nation that is awash in guns and filled with angry, mostly white, young men. It has been this way since its inception. It is its character and how it defines itself. But now gun technology is far more accurate and lethal.  And the US, along with the rest of industrial civilization, is teetering on the verge of economic and ecological collapse. Hoping that the powers that be will take reasonable and responsible actions to address this will only guarantee disappointment. If there is any solution it would be in the American people’s courage to reflect and recognize the true face of aggression and its endemic nature.  But time is fast running out for that.   And the mirror is beginning to crack.

Kenn Orphan 2015