It is tragic that six people lost their lives and many more were wounded by a fanatic in Arizona. Indiscriminate killing is a terrible thing. There is no way we can truly comprehend the motives behind this act, nor appreciate the full extent of the pain and heartache suffered by those affected. But behind the pathos surrounding this crime is an ugly truth. Though we profess indignant sorrow for those who died at the hands of a madman in Arizona, we willfully ignore the deaths of innocents which occur every day as a result of our own government’s foreign policies.
When those who support our imperial wars become victims of aggression themselves, they need to examine their role in the acceptance of brute force as a tool of foreign policy. Ours is a nation which glorifies violence. It is taken for granted that our government has the right to kill with impunity. Our President has even declared he can assassinate anyone, including U.S. citizens, whenever he deems it necessary. Yet when a similar mindset results in violence more close to home, when it impacts us directly, we become outraged. Representative Giffords, the primary target of the recent attack in Arizona, is a supporter of war. She has voted to fund the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the so-called war on terror. As a proponent of global violence herself, she should not be surprised when this heritage of belligerence touches her life and the lives of those around her.
Last weekend, 15,000 people flocked to a stadium to listen to Barack Obama tell us how important it is that we speak to each other, “in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.” They were listening to a war criminal preaching hypocrisy. Like every U.S. President for the last 100 years, Obama has ordered the deaths of uncounted numbers of innocent people. He targets whole families and communities using deadly robot drone aircraft. He is the current steward of one of the most far reaching and destructive empires on earth, and we are his enablers. Our Pentagon doesn’t even know how many military bases we have on the planet, and most of us don’t care to ask.
While our unbridled military is “guarding” us from alleged threats in more than 170 countries around the globe, who is guarding the rest of the world from us? We demand protection from random fury such as that which was unleashed in Arizona, yet we seem chronically indifferent to the fury we unleash on other people in other countries. This is neither moral nor rational behavior, only blind, jingoistic denial and self-aggrandizement.
Martin Luther King had the courage to point out that our own government is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. No other nation in history has ever maintained as far-reaching and destructive an apparatus of war as the United States. We invade countries, overthrow governments, install and enable cruel despotic regimes. We imprison people without charge or trial, torture and degrade them. We force feed-them with tubes, denying them even the right to starve themselves to death rather than endure the horror we inflict. We assassinate people extrajudicially, mindlessly killing anyone who happens to be near them, wives, children, friends and neighbors. Slaughter is a great American tradition. Jared Loughner’s actions were prototypical of our system of values.
Our President was correct when he suggested that no one can know what is in the mind of a killer. Indeed, none of us knows what Barack Obama himself was thinking when he last signed an order for a drone attack. Was it weeks, days or only hours prior to standing up before our nation to denounce senseless violence? So-called progressives have fawned over his speech as if it were a new moral manifesto for our times. Innocent people died at the hands of a ruthless killer. We must stand up and condemn the inflammatory rhetoric which encouraged such a tragedy. But perhaps those who would speak so eloquently about the need for a more civilized public discourse should first wash the blood from their own hands
While those who died in Arizona certainly did not deserve such a terrible fate, neither do the millions who have suffered as a result of our behemoth corporate empire’s campaign of hegemony. Barack Obama said that we should, “…make the debate worthy of those we have lost.” How about instead we make the debate worthy of those we have murdered, whose societies we have devastated, whose countries we have vandalized, plundered and “Americanized” with our own special brand of callousness and deceit. The power elite who control our country are themselves maniacs with guns who randomly kill people every day. How do they differ from some crazy person with a pistol at the mall?
Let’s hope that when Gabrielle Giffords recovers, she and all those who so nobly decry the recent shootings will experience an epiphany. Violence against innocents is wrong everywhere. The impact of our killing machine on the lives of people in other countries is just as devastating as the tragedy which occurred in Arizona. The difference is, our government’s shooting sprees could be prevented. Perhaps when Representative Giffords returns to the halls of Congress she will call for an end to the killing being done in our name. Maybe, though not probably, 15,000 people of conscience will show up in Washington D.C. to applaud her courage and determination.
Would our corporate media even cover such an event? Doubtful. They understand that we don’t want to know about the crimes our government commits. We don’t want to hear anything which challenges the notion of American exceptionalism. We would rather celebritize sociopaths who are no more than the predictable by-product of our ethically bankrupt society. And no, I’m not just talking about Jared Loughner.
JOE MOWREY is an anti-war activists and an advocate for Palestinian rights. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his spouse and their three radical canines as well as the fifteen-year old anarchist cat, Mackabee who now has an antithetical feline roommate, Misha, the Velvet Fog. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org