By Saswat Pattanayak
Most of those who just woke up to realities asked how could it happen here? The decent folks who would not kill a fly declared that the killer must be crazy. The believers in the good things to come prayed to God so that it never happens again and the innocent souls are blessed. The politically docile were as always moved by witnessing the President and his White House staff burdened to tears with grief. The good liberals who don’t shoot people whether or not they possess guns demanded that guns be controlled. And amidst all the mixed responses, good, bad and some outrightly evil, all of us are still intrigued by the difficult question that seeks an uneasy answer: why did that man kill those children?
In all likelihood, such a question shall not be addressed earnestly by the powerful elites. Not because they do not know the answer already, but because the answer is all too obvious to them. And in attempting to answer the above question, rest of us might feel unsafe to go beyond the surface, again not because radicalizing it is unproductive, but because we know addressing the roots of this crisis will amount to upheavals in the status-quo which we are not prepared to give up.
But we must dwell on this today, even if it implies that American lives are more precious than peoples’, rest of the world. Does not sound ideal, but sounds factual, for it took decades to finally end Vietnam War not because that war was not immoral, but because the accurate number of American deaths was not registering with the American public until it was too late for the latter. Thousands of Vietnamese people raped, tortured and killed were not sounding to be enough a rationale. Only when American bodybags were shipped back home were the American rage against the war was truly felt. Only when “bring our boys home” slogan was raised, the war came to a halt.
And yet, not so for long. The anti-war agenda was eventually repressed. And American empire proceeded to attack Grenada, Libya, Nicaragua, Panama, Albania, Iraq, Afghanistan…That list continues to this day with additions of new territories, and new dead.
How could it happen here?
This is perhaps the silliest of questions, usually posed by the politically conservatives, but also by some good liberals. The idea is United States is nothing but a moral artifact, the invincible power that resonates solely with mercy, the land of the free, the brave and the forgiving. Within such a worldview, it is quite possible that every heinous act committed by an American is an unbelievable exception, the heinous-ity of which is to be determined by convenient modalities of social/geographical locations.
The reality is if atrocious crimes and senseless murders do not take place in the United States, they have no reason to take place anywhere else in the world. This is a country founded upon bloodshed, selfish pursuits, greed, competitions, occupying and colonizing ethics, the largest prison system in the world, and finally, it uses violence as the ultimate tool for societal solutions.
The US spends more on its military than any other country in the world – spending 41% of military spendings all over the world. In fact, it spends more on its military than the next ten highest spending countries put together. A country which prioritizes violence and warfare thus, can only boast of a citizenry that also seeks solutions through those very means. If President Obama, the Nobel Peacenik can solve national safety issues by presiding over drones and killing civilians and innocent children in faraway Pakistan, it is not such a stretch to imagine why his beloved American citizens cannot fall for such violent methods to address their own safety issues back home.
Constantly fed with falsified versions of history, and shoved to the collective mindset grossly misplaced pictures of the founding fathers, deliberately misled about the roots of slavery, practice of colonialism and continuance of imperialistic tactics, the large majority of American public is even finding itself excited about the ritualistic elections that is rigged from the beginning by two parties with same principles of militarism guiding their visions – this is a country that is not only founded upon false and evil premises, but flourishes upon the same. Violence is the path chosen by its government, and violence is the path chosen by its citizenry.
Only if folks were sleeping until now and will go back to sleep after a day (sleeping in this instance is no more than harboring false consciousness), they would ask questions such as “why here”.
Killers are Crazy
Then there are foolproof declarations that the killers are insane, crazy psychopaths. This is a comfortable conclusion made by those of us who think we are perfectly sane, normal people. Keeping aside the fact that none of us are actually “sane”, casting such an allegation against people who murder others is nothing but stigmatizing the already marginalized group of people who have deviated from the norm in significant ways. If the social normative is filled with violence, racial hatred, misogyny and warmongering, then those who have deviated from the norm are probably people worth emulating, not candidates for condemnations.
It gets even more sinister when the race factors in. If a black person is accused of murder, it immediately becomes a case about his/her race. Already segregated neighborhoods are further patrolled by the police. Academic papers are authored about the propensity for violence among black teenagers. And yet, when its a white man on a killing spree, it is no longer a question of race. It merely becomes a question of mental illness.
Alas, accusing someone of having mental illness is not a “mere” issue. The direct and unapologetic associations that people make between mental illness and crime is just wrong at all possible levels. Disadvantaged people consuming prescribed drugs for a lifetime are already doubly oppressed. They do not need another tag – that too, one of a criminality. Following the Connecticut school tragedy, invariably every news channel kept repeating their conclusions on how “insane” this killer must have been.
As if they ever would accuse President Obama of being “insane” for the drone attacks on Pakistan. As if they would ever accuse the gun manufacturers of being “insane” for creating products that are designed to kill. Lack of such obvious sensitivities on part of the mass media should concern us all. The truth is so-called sane people murder all the time. So-called sane people abuse children and spouses all the time. So-called sane people write unjust laws and practice racism all the time. Killing people, just as conducting scientific experiments, requires great deal of planning, subjective assessments, careful selection and elimination procedures and finally successful experimentation. And killers are invariably among all of us, the so-called sane people of the world. The sooner we realize, the better we can address the crisis. By running away from ourselves and blaming the invisible is inherently counterproductive.
What is seemingly out of discourse in this case is the fact of domestic violence. It was not by mere accident or sheer coincidence that Adam Lanza picked up the gun to kill his mother. Hatred for women run deep in American capitalism and it manifests itself numerously. And more often than not in cases of domestic violence, men are depicted as experiencing a temporary insanity, than privileged byproducts of patriarchy. What is endemic to a class society that treats women as commodities gets frequently overlooked as an incredible oddity. And after dismissing the shocking news, we take recluse in our privileged blessings that we translate thus: we are well, and so will the world be.
Pray the Gods and Drop the Bombs
We are constantly praying our respective Gods. Some on a weekly basis, some on a daily basis, and some even a few times in life. This has been going on for centuries now. I am not going to address the creation and sustenance of the God factor in this essay. What is pertinent, however, is the fact that no amount of prayers to Gods can ever stop reactionary violence in this world. It never has, it never will. But it will certainly prevent us from actually uprooting the causes of such behaviors because by trusting in God, we invariably give up on our own capabilities to creatively control the prevailing situations.
And by praying God, we take this one step further: we actually justify the status quo of violence. If we believe that a God is going to set things right in future, we also admit that God has failed to set things right in the present – which casts real doubts on the divine infallibility. And if we believe that the world is according to God’s plans, then we mere mortals cannot really mess around with his plan, and hence must submit to what is happening instead of rejecting the notion that anyone else other than ourselves have to take responsibility for the present and future of this planet.
That the God will somehow punish the criminal and save the innocent souls is not just far-fetched imaginings, it also speaks of our inability to construct pivotal questions around the global crisis. Only a society that devalues human beings is one that produces the criminals. And without addressing the root causes of the devaluation, and by wishing that God will set things right, we allow our children to eventually suffer while we project our twisted goodness through reactionary gibberish.
Good people weep
Another false assertion is that good people weep. And when President Obama wept, most journalists started recollecting their professional careers to heap praises over this man who was soon hailed as the first American President to display such level of empathy and concern.
The reality is all of us are raised in selfish units called families, where we are led to believe that the pains and sufferings of family members should affect us more. There may or may not be anything inherently wrong in such an understanding, but it has nothing to do with morality. It is pure selfishness. Of course President Obama cries because children of his country were killed. But such sentimentalities have no bearing on him as a human being. He was just acting the consoler-in-chief of the specific grieving family, in this case, the country he heads. As an empathizing human being, however, Barack Obama would have been shedding tears every day of his life in the White House considering his own actions have led to murders of thousands of civilians, including a significant number of children all over the world – and that, he personally supervises a notorious kill-list.
America weeping when a 9/11 takes place or when a shooting takes place in Connecticut school premises says nothing great about Americans other than the fact that as a society America revels in its indifference towards others. The reality is we do not want to internationalize what happened in Connecticut because that would only cast aspersions on the warmongering society America has become, inside out. By publicly shedding tears to gain media friends is an approach to humanize violence we perpetrate on children in rest of the world. We send out a message to the world about our own vulnerabilities, our own sensitivities, our own humanism through such tears, while deep inside we are filled with intolerance, warmongering and inhumane tendencies that have defined American hegemony since decades, if not centuries.
The people who got moved by Obama’s tears yesterday are the same people who got moved by Obama’s tears during his reelection bid. They get moved by rhetorics of hope and positive changes while their leaders merely sustain the machine of avarice and assault. If we are truly seeking the answers to why children have to die this young, anywhere in the world, we must locate the American presidency as part of the ever-widening problem, not as part of the emotional solution we wrongly seek.
Finally, Gun Control!
The good liberals never cease to amaze. They want the wars abroad, but they don’t want the wars at home. They want other children to die, just not theirs. They want to be able to buy the guns themselves, just not allow the rest. They want to suppress facts about the Fast and Furious operation that landed guns across the borders. But they still don’t want people to own guns at their homes within the borders.
They clamor for gun control, but fail to see that guns are actually controlled.
If guns should be banned, why not within the military ranks and the police services, to begin with – because they are the ones who use and misuse weapons the most?
Most point-and-shoot murders are caused by racist police departments inside the United States. How many times have we demanded to disarm the cops? Most organized terror acts are committed through military servicemen of the United States. How many times have we demanded to disarm the military? Instead, we keep loving them all the more. “Support our Troops” stickers paint the cars all year around and police departments get clean chits in case of clear murders. When a young black man Sean Bell was shot fifty bullets by racist cops on the day before his wedding, there were rare protests against the NYPD. But no demand to disarm the police. In fact the officers who shot this young man fifty times without any evidence of a single crime, freely abound today without guilt, remorse or punishment. And our media still do not declare those cops as “insane” or the NYPD unworthy of flaunting guns around.
When Fidel Castro came to power he said guns for every household makes the country more democratic than those societies where only the rich and powerful interests monopolize over guns. In fact the dictatorship of leader ends the moment people have guns to decide their interests. Guns on their own do not create revolutions just as on their own they do not cause reactionary violence. Individualistic, unemployed and viciously alienated people are those that commit selfish murders. Black Panther Party members had guns by their side, and yet they were not on a rampage to kill people. They in fact trained themselves for self-defense against a racist police force and to empower communities with social justice education so people could locate themselves within the higher goals of revolutionary ethics rather than remaining ignorantly submerged within capitalistic orders. No revolution that has replaced the world order for the better during its time – be it the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution or the Chinese Revolution – has taken place without guns. When the masses arm themselves equitably, they do not automatically pose threats for each other. They become threats to any unjust ruling class which seeks to consolidate power through controlling the militant potentials of the masses it subjugates. But the underlying conditions must enable everyone to possess guns, or prevent everyone from possessing them.
Gun control is not the key. Gun abolition is. That can be attained by gun democratization. Quite simply, it means: guns for all, or guns for none. People must have equal means available with them to resist and demand changes when needed. Not as individual bullies, but as revolutionary collectives. This is especially true in a police state. Towards that extent, capitalism must be challenged in all its manifestation via critical socio-historical education that empowers the people to identify their class interests. And towards that extent, the prison system must be abolished and the police/military units must not prevail upon the masses. And in American context, both the First and the Second Amendments are worth further amendments, not because they actually work, but because they actually have never worked. Both the free speech and right to bear arms are jeopardized in the United States because both of them are controlled by the ruling class. Free speech is disproportionately controlled by those who own the media just as arms are disproportionately owned by those who can afford them.
Reactionary violence is a structural problem, not a spiritual, psychological or individual deviation. And a structural problem requires a nothing less than a revolutionary overhaul. In its current phase, our world requires both pen and the sword, both ballot and the bullet – simply because the ruling class controls us militarily. Until the ideal stage is reached, people must not be deprived of their rights to organize themselves. Gun rights, like expression rights must be collectivized. At no point an individual should feel disempowered enough to resort to selfish crimes and at every juncture, the masses should feel empowered enough to revolt against tyrannical injustices represented by torture cells of the world’s largest prison-military-industrial complex, that the United States of America has today emerged as.
The present instance is not an exception. The killer is not a “crazy insane psychopath” with a gun. For all we know, and his motives suggest, he was driven by a need to kill his mother. The issues at hand in the Connecticut murders clearly include domestic violence and gender oppression. Young men driven by pursuits to control women in a highly individualized society that rarely ever includes its subjects within a collective process of consciousness-raising can only declare a structural/societal failure of capitalism to be nothing more than an individual aberration resulting from gun misuse, and then move on to glorifying patriarchy normative, without altering the status quo – to the next impending tragedy. By declaring with tearful eyes that, those killers are not us.
While, we continue the business of killing just about anywhere else.