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Each time there is an outbreak of homicidal mania, whether Columbine, Virginia Tech, or Adam Lanza’s slaughter of twenty eight innocents in Connecticut, the media directs us to stories about gun control and the need for better policing of individuals with mental illnesses.
The larger context—that America is a society brimming over with violence—is entirely lost in the discussion.
Let’s take a look at the forest for a change, shall we:
There are 192 million firearms owned by Americans, more than any other society in the world. Our rate of death from firearms is three times that of France and Canada, fourteen times greater than Ireland, and two hundred and fifty times greater than Japan, where firearms are aggressively controlled.
The U.S. has more prisoners, per capita, than any country on earth—three times more than Cuba, seven times more than Germany—and, indeed, we house twenty-five percent of all the prisoners in the world.
As for media violence, by the time the average American child leaves elementary school, they will have witnessed 8,000 murders and over 100,000 other acts of violence, and, to rub more salt into these open wounds, the U.S. also leads the world in the sale and rental of violent video games.
That litany of statistics comes to us compliments of our gratuitous interpretations of the First and Second Amendments.
But the forest we are talking grows ever larger.
Since World War II, the United States engaged in over fifty military operations abroad killing some four million people (Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iraq, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, the list goes on). If you add in to that total massacres by proxies and surrogates, the number flirts with five million (Indonesia, Chile, Guatemala, and elsewhere).
We are the only country in the world seemingly perpetually at war. In 2011-2012 alone, the United States was killing people in nine different countries: Iraq and Afghanistan with troops, Libya with rockets, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen with drones, Honduras with raids against drug cartels, the Philippines with air support against insurgents, and most recently in Kenya as 150 Special forces started their operations. No other country in the world can boast of so many military involvements.
To remedy the horrors we saw in Connecticut should not be limited to screening mentally ill individuals from purchasing Glocks—which is about as far as our craven mainstream media wishes to venture. Instead we need to recognize the massacres of Jonestown, Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Connecticut are merely symptoms of a much more ubiquitous cancer.
To finally address this problem is to begin a long and arduous process of cultivating a culture of peace. Such collective psychotherapy begins by treating the patient on many fronts and in a multi-dimensional way: To forbid the sale of handguns, nationwide; to ration the sale of ammunition; to prohibit the sale of violent toys to children (Greece already does), to aggressively control the sale and access of violent video games to children (Australia, Venezuela, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Brazil already do), and to prohibit the broadcast of violent scenes, explicit or implicit, on network television during family viewing hours, a practice already in effect in many European countries.
And, who knows, we might even take it one step further and retreat from our aspirations of empire and global hegemony, close down our military operations, and bring our vast armies and armadas home —over 400,000 Americans at last count stationed in almost 1,000 overseas military bases.
Russia has ten overseas military bases. China none.
So much room to grow!
Imagine our progressive President, instead of limiting his compassion to the shedding of a tear at a press conference, actually proposed comprehensive and revolutionary changes and legislation that focussed not on the symptoms but, at long last, finally started to address the disease itself.
Jerry Kroth, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor Emeritus from Santa Clara University and the author of Duped! Delusion, denial, and the end of the American Dream, 2012. He maintains a website at collectivepsych.com