FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

America’s Addiction to Violence

by MARK GRAHAM

The United States is the number one supplier of weapons on the planet, its military the world’s largest employer.  Violence has become America’s major export to the world and we have reaped the financial rewards.  The only problem is we’re addicted to the drug we’re peddling beyond our borders.  The addiction passes on to the next generation through the discursive bloodstream and into the collective womb of culture.  Throughout their early years we saturate our children with violent images and language:  First person shooter games.  Action heroes.  Military heroes.  Heroes with guns.  Men with guns.  Men using guns on other men and women and children and animals.  We teach them the path of aggression, competition, and the joys of humiliating your opponents.  Our entertainments provide orgies of righteous vengeance and self-piteous victimhood.  And when one of our children unleashes his monstrous hate on other children we should be horrified—but we should not be surprised.  We have taught our children well

As a teacher and a parent, I could readily imagine the full horror of the massacre in Connecticut.  I struggle to keep my children safe from any kind of danger.  At my job, I have had to practice lockdowns and deal with bomb threats.  I also know how fragile our sense of security is.  Inevitably in the wake of tragedies like this, people call for stricter security.  Make us safe, they implore.  Add more cops, more metal detectors, more guns to protect us from guns.  All in vain.  No matter how much we surrender our freedom for safety, how much we try to turn our homes and schools into fortresses, we will never be able to keep death from making that appointment in Samarra with us if he’s hell-bent on being there.

In the wake of the tragedy, my wife and I went out for some mindless entertainment—the latest James Bond film.  Despite the critical accolades, it left a bad taste in our mouths.  Fifty years of James Bond, the film proclaimed in the final credits—and I wondered why I still bother to entertain myself with such tedious and joyless orgies of violence.  It has
become a habit—one acquired over decades of constant exposure—an addiction that no longer provides pleasure or even numbness.  It’s more on the order of a repetition compulsion.  The Dream Machine plays back the same spectacles of hypermasculine bodies and pyrotechnic destruction from one year to the next.  The events in Connecticut make it easier than ever to see these films are lies: Shots fired and no pain, no disfigurement, no real danger.  War with no fear, no trauma, no lingering nightmares.

The most warlike nation with the least number of people ever having felt the terrible impact of war, America entertains itself with killing.  Our sports feel like combat, while the fantasies of combat we consume look like sport.  The mascot of the school district where I teach in rural Pennsylvania is a bullet.  Not a bulldog or huskie or owl or canary.  A bullet—the same thing that killed twenty-six people in another school on Friday.  Where I work many of us try our best to promote peace and tolerance, to expose students to different points of view, different cultures, different visions for the future.  Nearby my school, there’s a shooting range.  When I go for walks during my lunch break I can almost always hear someone firing automatic pistols, shotguns, and rifles, the gunshots echoing off my school’s feeble walls.

Inevitably and appropriately, voices rise up in the wake of these mass murders and cry out for gun control laws, for an end to violence, for America to wake up.  Their counterparts froth at the mouth over the sacredness of the Constitution (which in all other cases they’re all too willing to discount).  The feedback loop stumbles along with the old gun control versus liberty debate.  The intractable points of view make for predictable and quickly-forgettable copy in the opinion columns.  Soon we let the matter die.

The Swedish writer Sven Lindqvist in discussing the origins of genocide wrote, “It is not knowledge we lack.  What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and draw conclusions.” So watch Obama weep as he proclaims: “Our hearts are broken today. The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them…” Then ask yourself why he doesn’t weep for the children who die at his orders from drone attacks in Pakistan—eight times the number of children horribly murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Why are we surprised when the violence we wreak on the rest of the world should plant its poison seeds in the hearts of our children, turning them into murderers of children?  If this tragedy means anything, it’s that America must confront its addiction to violence, to entertainments that equate manhood with killing, and to an entire political and economic system that privileges war-making over the future—and the precious lives—of our own children.

Mark Graham is a high school teacher in the Lehigh Valley. He’s books include: How Islam Created the Modern World and Afghanistan in the Cinema.  

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
Dave Lindorff
Right a Terrible Wrong: Why Obama Should Reverse Himself and Pardon Leonard Peltier
Laura Carlsen
Bringing Mexico to Its Knees Will Not “Make America Great Again”
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey: the Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
Josh Hoxie
Why Health Care Repeal is a Stealth Tax Break for Millionaires
Kim C. Domenico
It’s High Time for a Politics of Desire
Shamus Cooke
Inauguration Day and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
More and More Lousy
David Swanson
Samantha Power Can See Russia from Her Padded Cell
Kevin Carson
Right to Work and the Apartheid State
Malaika H. Kambon
Resisting the Lynching of Haitian Liberty!
January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Ajamu Baraka
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama
David Underhill
Trumpology With a Twist
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail