Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Why America Is A Nation of Guns



From Michael Moore, "3 Reasons America Is Falling Apart -- And How We Can Save Ourselves," an article at Michaelmoore.com that offers a few guesses to America's problems with guns.  In Moore's film, "Bowling For Columbine," he offered a paradox, comparing Canada's low murder rate with that of the U.S.'s.  The border separating the two countries doesn't explain a thing - the Canadians own guns, they see the same violent movies we do, play the same video games, and read the same magazines.  So why the difference?  Moore:

"So here's my little bit of holiday cheer for you:

"These gun massacres aren't going to end any time soon.

"I'm sorry to say this. But deep down we both know it's true. That doesn't mean we shouldn't keep pushing forward -- after all, the momentum is on our side. I know all of us -- including me -- would love to see the president and Congress enact stronger gun laws. We need a ban on automatic AND semiautomatic weapons and magazine clips that hold more than 7 bullets. We need better background checks and more mental health services. We need to regulate the ammo, too.

"The sad facts are these: Other countries that have guns (like Canada, which has 7 million guns -- mostly hunting guns -- in their 12 million households) have a low murder rate. Kids in Japan watch the same violent movies and kids in Australia play the same violent video games (Grand Theft Auto was created by a British company; the UK had 58 gun murders last year in a nation of 63 million people). They simply don't kill each other at the rate that we do. Why is that? THAT is the question we should be exploring while we are banning and restricting guns: Who are we?

"I'd like to try to answer that question.

"We are a country whose leaders officially sanction and carry out acts of violence as a means to often an immoral end. We invade countries who didn't attack us. We're currently using drones in a half-dozen countries, often killing civilians.

"This probably shouldn't come as a surprise to us as we are a nation founded on genocide and built on the backs of slaves. We slaughtered 600,000 of each other in a civil war. We "tamed the Wild West with a six-shooter," and we rape and beat and kill our women without mercy and at a staggering rate: every three hours a women is murdered in the USA (half the time by an ex or a current); every three minutes a woman is raped in the USA; and every 15 seconds a woman is beaten in the USA.

"We belong to an illustrious group of nations that still have the death penalty (North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China, Iran). We think nothing of letting tens of thousands of our own citizens die each year because they are uninsured and thus don't see a doctor until it's too late.

"While we are discussing and demanding what to do, may I respectfully ask that we stop and take a look at what I believe are the three extenuating factors that may answer the question of why we Americans have more violence than most anyone else:

"1. POVERTY. If there's one thing that separates us from the rest of the developed world, it's this. 50 million of our people live in poverty. One in five Americans goes hungry at some point during the year. The majority of those who aren't poor are living from paycheck to paycheck. There's no doubt this creates more crime. Middle class jobs prevent crime and violence. (If you don't believe that, ask yourself this: If your neighbor has a job and is making $50,000/year, what are the chances he's going to break into your home, shoot you and take your TV? Nil.)

"2. FEAR/RACISM. We're an awfully fearful country considering that, unlike most nations, we've never been invaded. (No, 1812 wasn't an invasion. We started it.) Why on earth would we need 300 million guns in our homes? I get why the Russians might be a little spooked (over 20 million of them died in World War II). But what's our excuse? Worried that the Indians from the casino may go on the warpath? Concerned that the Canadians seem to be amassing too many Tim Horton's donut shops on both sides of the border?

"No. It's because too many white people are afraid of black people. Period. The vast majority of the guns in the U.S. are sold to white people who live in the suburbs or the country. When we fantasize about being mugged or home invaded, what's the image of the perpetrator in our heads? Is it the freckled-face kid from down the street -- or is it someone who is, if not black, at least poor?

"I think it would be worth it to a) do our best to eradicate poverty and re-create the middle class we used to have, and b) stop promoting the image of the black man as the boogeyman out to hurt you. Calm down, white people, and put away your guns.

"3. THE 'ME' SOCIETY. I think it's the every-man-for-himself ethos of this country that has put us in this mess and I believe it's been our undoing. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! You're not my problem! This is mine!

"Clearly, we are no longer our brother's and sister's keeper. You get sick and can't afford the operation? Not my problem. The bank has foreclosed on your home? Not my problem. Can't afford to go to college? Not my problem.

"And yet, it all sooner or later becomes our problem, doesn't it? Take away too many safety nets and everyone starts to feel the impact. Do you want to live in that kind of society, one where you will then have a legitimate reason to be in fear? I don't.



"Well, there's some food for thought as we head home for the holidays. Don't forget to say hi to your conservative brother-in-law for me. Even he will tell you that, if you can't nail a deer in three shots -- and claim you need a clip of 30 rounds -- you're not a hunter my friend, and you have no business owning a gun."


"On the other hand, Valerie Terico at Alternet.org has her own suggestions in her essay, "Does the Bible Make Americans More Violent?," wondering:



"Americans can be notoriously prudish about sex, yet our entertainments are stuffed with violent acts. Could this go all the way back to the Bible?

"The Motion Picture Association of America has been rating sex, violence and profanity in movies since 1968, with the goal of limiting how much of each children absorb—or at least giving parents a tool that lets them make the judgment explicit sex and violence had both increased over time, but that “ratings creep” affected only violence. Explicit sex is still reserved for “R” rated films; explicit violence is not. call. In 2006, the Annenberg Public Policy Center reviewed the top grossing movies since the rating system began. In fact, they reviewed movies all the way back to 1950. They found that

"Many parents naively trust that media targeted at young children are developmentally harmless even though brain science suggests otherwise. They similarly tend to assume that a G-Rating means a movie is low on violence. In reality, it may mean simply that the violence is less realistic or designed to trigger laughter rather than fear. A Harvard study published in 2000 reviewed every animated feature film produced between 1933 and 1999, 74 in total. At the time, the findings made headlines because they were startling:

"-- Every single film had at least one violent act. The amount of footage devoted to violence ranged from 6 seconds to 24 minutes.

"-- Most of the films showed physical fighting as a means of resolving conflict.

"-- Characters used weapons including swords and guns and every-day objects.

"-- In half of the movies at least one character gave violence a thumbs-up at some point by cheering or laughing.

"A follow up in 2004 showed that G-rated movies, like all others, gradually are becoming more violent. A 2007 study sampled 77 PG-13 films and tallied 2251 violent actions, with nearly half causing one or more death. Researchers classified most of the incidents as “happy violence” meaning it was “cool, swift, and painless.” Today, by the age of 11, the typical American kid has seen almost 8000 murders on TV. Why? Because we like it that way. Movies that are rated R for violence make more money than those that are rated R for other reasons. We are attracted to violence and we are inured to violence. Most Americans...find murder to be more acceptable fare for children than sex or swear words.



"Our peculiar hierarchy of priorities may be due in part to the influence of Abrahamic religion on Western Civilization and the unique standing accorded to the Bible in American Christianity specifically. The Bible amalgamates the mythology and legal codes of a specific kind of culture: a clan-based tribal society in which herdsmen struggling for survival in an arid and increasingly denuded environment. Males competed to control females and territory while maintaining the purity of bloodlines and inheritance; gods that were modeled on warlords competed for fealty. Consequently, while codes governing sexuality and blasphemy were strict, codes governing violence were complicated.

"Yahweh himself originated as a war god. Non-Hebrews were regarded with hostility and indeed, much of the founding story of the Israelite people comprises tales of triumphal genocide. The violence in in the Bible is so extreme that it defines vast portions of the book:

"[Edmund Leach] looked at the Bible through the eyes of a communications engineer and asked: what message are these authors trying to get through to the reader? The answer, Leach thought, was that they were trying to obscure the fact that mankind began through incest (Adam and Eve) and so the strategy was to compile a list of atrocities so heinous that, in the end, the original incest would come to look like a harmless act.

"Whether history or mythology or some fusion of the two, the Bible stories, when tallied, include an estimated 25 million violent deaths. And yet, like any people, the internal narrative of God’s Chosen Ones is one of yearning for peace and prosperity, the dream of an idyllic past in which the lion lay down with the lamb; an idyllic future in which men will beat their swords into plowshares and the lamb and lion will lie down together again.



"Like the ancient Israelites, we Americans see ourselves as peacemakers. During the midwinter holiday season, Peace on Earth is sung from choir lofts and hung in shopping malls. We complain about our role as 'policeman to the world.' And yet, if we could see ourselves as others see us, we would see a people who, like the ancient Israelites have created unparalleled archetypes of violence: the Rambo, the mushroom cloud, the Tommy Gun, the Cowboy. Hollywood ensures that, even independent of the world’s best funded military, violence is one of our top exports.

"In movies, of course, it is the bad guys who do the unprovoked killing. Any violence perpetrated by the protagonist, meaning by us at a fantasy level, is vengeance or justice. Most people are deeply ambivalent about violence. We are both attracted and repelled by it. We enjoy and fear it. It turns us on and it horrifies us. Consequently, to get the satisfaction of a good blockbuster we need those bad guys to instigate things. The violence we like best is righteous violence, and—in movies and stories--most violence is just that. It protects innocence and restores justice. It safeguards women and children and the homeland.

"Ironically, those who most relish the fantasy power of righteous violence are those who in real life are most likely to perpetrate unrighteous violence. Masculinity, the substance of action films, is defined by the Oxford Online Dictionary thus: possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men: a need for men to prove their masculinity through domination over women. Hypermasculine men hit women more, and a woman being pregnant is no deterrent. In the real world, tough guys are good guys until suddenly, sometimes, they are not. In the real world, most murders are triggered by the same motives we find so satisfying on the screen: righteous anger, a sense of violated fairness or honor, the outrage of feeling wronged, the conviction that the one murdered was the bad guy.

"Who of us is willing even, to miss the next blockbuster? In The Hunger Games, the bad people are the citizens of the Capitol who demand that outlying districts provide sacrificial contestants for their high tech version of the Roman Coliseum. Movie viewers and readers root for the kids and scorn those who give them no choice but to kill or be killed, those who watch the blood sport for entertainment. But the books and movie work only because we, as readers and viewers, ignore the disturbing obvious: we arethe Capitol. The Hunger Games were staged for us; we are and always were the only intended audience. Suzanne Collins offered us a chance to watch kids hunting and killing each other, and we ate it up. Did she laugh we flocked to the book stores and theater, as we downloaded DVD’s and shared dog-eared copies and checked sequel release dates? Did she cry? Did she care? Do we?"



When the inspiration for this site was in its infancy, the truths about gun ownership and the spectre of Conservatism was admittedly a minor consideration.  The need for Conservative politicians to protect the bottom line of the gun manufacturers and importers was apparent, and it took an incident like the recent elementary school massacre to awaken many Americans to the same abuses of the Republican Party, the front group for the greediest among us - the American Conservatives.

It will take time to educate gun-loving Americans to the truth about the Second Amendment - see "America's Gun Fetich Revealed," (http://www.criminalizeconservatism.com/2012/12/conservatisms-gun-fetish-revealed.html) AND "Curing America's Gun Addiction (http://www.criminalizeconservatism.com/2012/12/curing-americas-gun-addiction.html), and it will take investigative journalism to show the public how high the economic stakes are for the gun merchants and their lobby, the NRA.



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"I like not only to be loved, but also to be told I am loved."

Mary Anne Evans. (Better known by her pen name George Eliot, an English novelist,

journalist and translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. Wrote
Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Middlemarch, and Daniel Deronda.
1819 – 1880)


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