home Crime, Human Rights, North America, Politics, Racism, Religion, Terrorism On the Year of the Semiautomatic Firearm: Guns in 2012 America

On the Year of the Semiautomatic Firearm: Guns in 2012 America

So, where will next week’s public shooting(s) happen, America?

Or should I be asking about tomorrow? This afternoon perhaps? What precisely is going on these days?

I spent several hours yesterday looking for a timeline that includes every attack we’ve seen since mid-July. I couldn’t find one. I can’t figure out why. Are we certain – or uncertain – in our conviction that these are all isolated incidents? Arrogant or afraid?

“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

Well, obviously this is true. Guns just make it a whole lot easier for people to kill people. Quick shot to the head, no need for sustained stabbing, bludgeoning, strangling or suffocation. And we do like our instant gratification in America, do we not?

***

London burned in 2011. But here in the United States, where guns are criminally easy to obtain, we’re more likely to shoot up crowds. The London riots, however unjustified they may have been, were prompted by legitimate feelings of alienation and injustice, not unlike the riots in our own history.

But collective action (whether violent or non-) is “communist” in the new America, so we’re more likely to feed ourselves bigoted conspiracy theory and fundamentalist religion and deep isolation – and then turn our guns on innocents. A nation of possible terrorists in a land of plentiful guns.

Those Occupy Wall Streeters were just an aberration, a throwback to the non-violent collective action of the sixties. The tear gas and beatings made sure of that.

Bless you if you think your free speech is protected to the ends of the earth per the national mythology. “Corporate personhood” has far more import than your humanity at this moment in time. And that’s doubly true if you happen to be poor.

***

Be careful. Be safe. Avoid writing words that may catch the attention of Homeland Security, especially if you are a Muslim or a vegan. But if you’re a fundamentalist Christian militiaman amassing automatics at your bunker in West Virginia and hoping to help usher in Apocalypse, Homeland Security is unlikely to notice. Carry on.

As of yesterday, there’d been eight attacks on US mosques in the past eleven days. In the United States in 2012, the second amendment trumps the first if you’re not a Christian. Of course you have religious freedom in America – you’re allowed to be a Muslim, and that makes us an exceedingly tolerant and humane country. One that values diversity to its core.

But things being as they are, you really shouldn’t practice your faith in public. And if you’re an atheist or agnostic, well, you probably won’t get shot for it, but you might want to refrain from mentioning it in polite society anyway.
Look, the paranoid alienated masses hiding with guns in their underground shelters are going to assume you’re a Muslim if you’re brown or olive-skinned anyway. And since they’re in the business of conspiring to take you down, the assumption is that you must be out for their blood as well. Take off the hijab.

For god’s sake, take off the turban. Did you actually think Americans knew what a Sikh was?

One nation. Under God. The one true God, not yours.

***

The first in the long American tradition of school attacks, for its part, took place in 1927 in Bath, Michigan. It involved three bombings in which 45 people died, 38 of whom were elementary school students. While the most notorious – and deadly – homegrown terrorist act in the US was of course the Oklahoma City bombing, guns are our weapon of choice. They’re so much easier to obtain than bombs.

There is something profoundly American about both our cultural devotion to guns – and the terrorist acts they are used to carry out. They hearken back to Old West nostalgia and the country’s historic culture of individualism. Lone heroes outside the law, doing what must be done. People who make a mark on history: Martyrs, villains, saints. Without this, we’d never have known their names.

School shootings aren’t exactly a new development. They’ve been happening for over ninety years, but of course saw unprecedented escalation beginning in the nineties. And the crisis economy we got in 2008 isn’t helping.

***

I can’t tell whether or not it’s Americans or our gun lobby who made gun control a career-ending issue for politicians. But this is a “chicken or egg” sort of question at this point. Only 26 percent of Americans supported a handgun ban in 2011.

Maybe mass support for easy access to guns is what all the handwringing and calls to “stop politicizing the Aurora tragedy” were about in July. Everyone wanted to feel compassionate by way of saying nice words rather than doing anything of substance.

But if you’re more concerned with protecting your right to start a paramilitary group in the United States than with stopping random gun violence, you do not get to call yourself “compassionate” anymore.

Speaking of paramilitary organizations, ever notice how we only use the term to describe drug cartels in Mexico or Colombia these days? American militias are exercising constitutional rights, thank you very much.

And (white) American terrorists are “bad apples” who “struggle with mental illness.” How silly to suggest otherwise. Everyone knows by now that you have to be a Muslim – or at least look like a Muslim in order to be a real terrorist in America.

***

Do something.

Demand that our morally bankrupt politicians answer questions that people are asking about gun violence.
Support the Brady Center. Remember them? I haven’t heard much about them since the early nineties.

I used to laugh when I’d meet foreigners who expressed fear of getting shot should they ever travel to the United States. But fear of going outside seems less and less ridiculous every day. Time to retool, America.