FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

America’s Gun and Guard Culture

by JESSE JACKSON

America’s gun culture costs lives and feeds our fears. Consider the most recent injustice in Florida, the verdict in the Michael Dunn case, and the most recent news about America’s “guard labor.”

In Jacksonville, Fla., Michael Dunn, a 47-year-old white man, was aggravated by the loud rap music coming from an SUV filled with four black teenagers in a convenience store parking lot. An exchange of insults ensued. Dunn, who was armed and clearly dangerous, claimed that he was threatened by Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old high school senior, and later claimed he saw the barrel of a shotgun coming from the SUV. There was no shotgun; no other witness saw anything that might resemble a shotgun. Dunn opened his door and fired 10 shots into the SUV as it drove away, killing Jordan Davis. Dunn then drove away without calling the cops, and without ever mentioning that the boys had a shotgun.

Under Florida’s inane “Stand Your Ground” law, however, Dunn had the right to use lethal force to defend himself if he “reasonably” thought his life was threatened. Dunn’s lawyer said, “I don’t have to prove the threat, just that Mike Dunn believed it.” The Jacksonville jury found Dunn guilty of three counts of “attempted murder” in his strafing of the car, but they couldn’t come to a decision on his murder of Jordan Davis. In Florida, it is increasingly dangerous to be young, black and male.

In the New York Times on Monday, Samuel Bowles and Arjun Jayadev report in “One Nation Under Guard” that the U.S. now employs more private security guards than high school teachers. Tallying up all of what they call “guard labor,” including police officers, prison guards, soldiers, etc., they come to a figure of 5.2 million, more than all teachers at all levels. The “guard labor” share of the labor force in America has risen dramatically since the 1970s, as inequality has reached new extremes.

Bowles and Jayadev find that guard labor and inequality are connected. We have four times as much guard labor as Sweden, a country of equal living standards but far less inequality. States with extreme inequality like New York and Louisiana have far more of their work force employed in guard labor than states with less inequality like Idaho and New Hampshire. Bowles and Jayadev discount race as a factor, but obviously Sweden, New Hampshire and Idaho are also far less diverse than the U.S., New York and Lousiana, respectively.
Bowles and Jayadev note that social spending seems to decline as guard labor grows. The U.S. is spending more of its money on guards and less on opportunity.

One haunting feature of South Africa under apartheid was the extent to which the homes of the affluent whites were protected by walls, barbed wire and private guards. Fear of crime and of majority revolt pervaded the country.

Our gun and guard culture is, at root, also about fear. We pride ourselves on being the home of the brave and land of the free. But increasingly we are the home of the fearful, and land of the armed. Michael Dunn’s murderous rage was grounded in fear. Our soaring guard labor reflects rising fear. As Jacksonville demonstrated once more, guns can make those fears deadly.

We would be far better off investing in opportunity rather than fear, making the country less unequal and more confident in its diversity. Contrary to the NRA, spreading concealed weapons around makes our streets more, not less, dangerous. Contrary to real estate agents, gated communities and armed guards offer more provocation than protection. In the end, real security comes not from guards or guns, but from justice.

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow PUSH.

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail