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.

May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s Slurs Against China
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail