FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Violence and the American Mind

by DEEPAK TRIPATHI

Had it not been for the Newtown massacre of twenty children and six adults, before the gunman killed himself, at an elementary school in the United States, this column would have been about the latest events in Egypt, where a struggle is taking place between Islamist and liberal-secularist forces over the country’s future. That struggle for the soul of Egyptian society is going to be long and complex, even when the result of the constitutional referendum becomes known. In America, the killing of so many schoolchildren, by a man just twenty years of age, has so shaken people that consideration of Egypt’s politics can wait another day. This is a time when we are compelled by conscience to reflect on a phenomenon which is both destructive and far-reaching. We should ask whether America’s culture of violence has become like a giant octopus whose many tentacles are destroying itself, as well as lives in distant lands.

When I first arrived to work in the United States in the early 1970s, before moving to Britain three years later, I was twenty-two years of age. My grandchildren now live on the east coast of America. They are as young as the victims of the gunman Adam Lanza. The enormity of his act fills me with horror, particularly because I feel close to America, although I have lived in Europe for more than three decades. So, when I am being critical of America, I am being critical of something that is part of myself. Nonetheless, it is difficult to be silent when atrocities like the Newtown massacre take place.

What happened there was particularly savage, but we should not forget that such violence has become all two frequent in American society. While television channels were focused on the Newtown massacre, there were a number of shootings across the nation, from California and Nevada, Illinois, Colorado, Alabama and North Carolina. And a sixty-year-old man was arrested in Cedar Lake, Indiana, with 47 guns, threatening to “kill as many people as he could” at an elementary school. The country is awash with weapons, the thirst for guns is unquenchable. ABC News reported that Americans tried to buy two million guns in November alone.

Let us think about some of the worst mass killings of the past twenty years. Last September, there was one in Aurora, Colorado, where twenty-four-year-old James Eagan Homes killed 12 people; in November 2009, an Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hassan cut down the lives of 13 victims; a few months before, Jiverly Wong murdered 13 at Binghamton, New York; Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, April 1999; and the Oklahoma City bombing perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh in April 1995. The list goes on.

Then, in the name of maintaining law and order, police officers, often trigger happy, shoot first and talk later. A few day ago, a Chinese woman was shot by a policeman’s Taser gun, as she tried to purchase several iPhones from a New Hampshire store. How many of us can forget Rodney King, the African American, whose savage beating by Los Angeles police officers in March 1991 shocked America, and millions and millions around the world?

While all eyes are on Newtown for a few days, killings continue around the United States without much notice. Trigger happiness is an instinct difficult to separate from the ease with which guns can be obtained. Their availability in America is in abundance, price is cheap, the reasons to possess them many. To show off as trophies, to hunt, to “protect,” to satisfy one’s macho instinct; or because it is every American’s right to carry arms. Such mindset is absolutist. Such faith in the superiority of culture, which feeds on the idea of “American exceptionalism” that gives the United States a divine mission, is fatally flawed. For man cannot remain unaffected by what he does to fellow humans. At this time of sorrow, it would be appropriate to also think of the many young and the innocent killed in America’s foreign wars.

In a Boston Review article titled “The Power and the Glory: Myths of American ” in the Summer 2005 edition, Howard Zinn wrote these words: “Divine ordination is a very dangerous idea, especially when combined with military power (the United States has 10,000 nuclear weapons, with military bases in a hundred different countries and warships on every sea). With God’s approval, you need no human standard of morality.” It is this state of mind that haunts America today.

Deepak Tripathi is a historian whose interests include the United States in the contemporary world. His works can be found at: http://deepaktripathi.wordpress.com and he can be reached at: deepak.tripathi.writer@gmail.com

Deepak Tripathi is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. His works can be found at: http://deepaktripathi.wordpress.com and he can be reached at deepak.tripathi.writer@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Rivera Sun
Blind Slogans and Shallow Greatness
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail