We recently passed the second anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where twenty helpless children and six staff members were gunned down in cold blood.
Although the targeting of small children is uniquely cruel, school shootings have become notoriously affiliated with America. In fact, there have already been 95 school shootings in 16 states since that fateful day.
As Mother Jones reveals, 21 of those 95 shootings have been deadly. 35 victims have been killed, including the shooters, and 11 more injured. Yet despite their sensational media coverage, they make up only a tiny fraction of gun related deaths. According to the CDC, over 32,000 people died in 2011 from firearms, including suicides.
Still, what is driving members of society to gun down their brothers and sisters, from schools to movie theaters across the country?
Many people will tell you lax gun control. According to a 2013 study, gun ownership is directly correlated to firearm deaths. NPR states “The US had the highest rate of civilian gun ownership, at almost 90 guns per 100 people. The next two countries on the list were Switzerland and Finland, with about 45 guns per 100 people.”
The problem is more than guns though, considering how we aren’t seeing similar mass shootings in Switzerland or Finland.
Others will double down that the issue is solely about mental health, pointing to the fact that many of the perpetrators were on antidepressants known as SSRIs. But it isn’t that simple, considering the sheer amount of Americans taking these drugs.
According to a 2013 Mayo Clinic study, seven out of ten Americans are on prescription pills, and a whopping 13% are on SSRIs. It also found that antidepressant prescriptions are more common among women, so why aren’t we seeing more people on these drugs, including women, going on murder sprees?
America has an identity crisis. This is a relatively new country compared to the rest of the world, yet it’s the bully that fronts to know war and democracy like none other, therefore leading the global arbitration on both fronts. Unfortunately, generations of people have been told by their political leaders that they are more exceptional human beings than the rest of the world – this sense of privilege is incredibly toxic.
Today Gen Xers and Millennials are raised with unhealthy levels of entitlement, and despite the long dead American Dream, continue to assume that if they just “work hard” they too will become millionaires. Too often than not, they end up in soul sucking positions just to pay off college debt. We are coddled like children in terms of our political knowledge and truncated worldview to maintain mindless consumption, yet told to fend for ourselves when it comes to surviving in the real world. What does this kind of cultural vapidity do to a society?
Children of the empire feel entitled to wealth and power, whilst seeing their government pillage countries and commit atrocities with total impunity, killing millions of people with no empathy nor consequence. It’s a recipe for internal disaster, where people are taking out this confused sense of self on innocents before removing themselves from the earth.
Instead of addressing a clear cultural crisis, the debate is about mental health, gun control, or how every mass shooting is staged by the government to “take our guns” (even though more laws have been passed that weaken gun regulations since Sandy Hook).
Clearly gun laws and mental health care should be part of the discussion when it comes to America’s deadly problem, but until we realize the complexities that drive our uniquely disturbing social condition, no law will ever stop the bloodshed.
Abby Martin is an artist, activist and journalist whose work can be viewed at http://www.mediaroots.org/. She currently works as a correspondent, writer and host of RT America’s Breaking the Set.