FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands

Ten people were killed and seven wounded recently in a mass shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon. Such shootings are more than another tragic expression of unchecked violence in the United States, they are symptomatic of a society engulfed in fear, militarism, a survival-of-the-fittest ethos, and a growing disdain for human life. Sadly, this shooting is not an isolated incident. Over 270 mass shootings have taken place in the US this year alone, proving once again that the economic, political, and social conditions that underlie such violence are not being addressed.

State repression, unbridled self-interest, an empty consumerist ethos, and war-like values have become the organizing principles of American society producing an indifference to the common good, compassion, a concern for others, and equality. As the public collapses into the individualized values of a banal consumer culture and the lure of private obsessions, American society flirts with forms of irrationality that are at the heart of every-day aggression and the withering of public life. American society is driven by unrestrained market values in which economic actions and financial exchanges are divorced from social costs, further undermining any sense of social responsibility.

In addition, a wasteful giant military-industrial-surveillance complex fueled by the war on terror along with America’s endless consumption of violence as entertainment and its celebration of a pervasive gun culture normalizes the everyday violence waged against black youth, immigrants, children fed into the school to prison pipeline, and others considered disposable. American politicians now attempt to govern the effects of systemic violence while ignoring its underlying causes. Under such circumstances, a society saturated in violence gains credence when its political leaders have given up on the notion of the common good, social justice, and equality, all of which appear to have become relics of history in the United States.

In the face of mass shootings, the public relations disimagination machine goes into overdrive claiming that guns are not the problem, and that the causes of such violence can be largely attributed to the mentally ill. When in actuality, as two Vanderbilt University researchers, Dr. Jonathan Metzl and Kenneth T. MacLeish, publishing in the American Journal of Public Health observed that “Fewer than 6 percent of the 120,000 gun-related killings in the United States between 2001 and 2010 were perpetrated by people diagnosed with mental illness.”

It may not be an exaggeration to claim that the American government has blood on its hands because of the refusal of Congress to rein-in a gun lobby that produces a growing militarism that sanctions a love affair with the unbridled corporate institutions, financial interests, and mass produced cultures of violence. The Oregon community college shooting is the 41st school shooting this year while there have been 142 incidents of violence on school properties since 2012. Yet, the violence continues unchecked, all the while legitimated by the cowardly acts of politicians who refuse to enact legislation to curb the proliferation of guns and support legislation as elementary as background checks–which 88 percent of the American people support.

Americans are obsessed with violence. They not only own nearly 300 million firearms, but also have a love affair with powerful weaponry such as 9MM Glock semi-automatic pistols and AR15 assault rifles. Collective anger, frustration, fear, and resentment increasingly characterizes a society in which people are out of work, young people cannot imagine a decent future, everyday behaviours are criminalized, inequality in wealth and income are soaring, and the police are viewed as occupying armies. This is not only a recipe for both random violence and mass shootings; it makes such acts appear routine and commonplace.

President Obama is right in stating that the violence we see in the United States is “a political choice we make that allows this to happen.” While taking aim at the gun lobby, especially the National Rifle Association, what Obama fails to address is that extreme violence is systemic in American society and has become the foundation of politics and must be understood within a broader historical, economic, cultural, and political context. To be precise, politics has become an extension of violence driven by a culture of fear, cruelty, and hatred legitimated by the politicians bought and sold by the gun lobby and other related militaristic interests. Moreover, violence is now treated as a sport, a pleasure-producing industry, a source of major profits for the defense industries, and a corrosive influence upon American democracy. And as such it is an expression of a deeper political and ethical corruption in American society.

As the United States moves from a welfare state to a warfare state, state violence becomes normalized. America’s moral compass and its highest democratic ideals have begun to wither, and the institutions that were once designed to help people now serve to largely supress them. Gun laws matter, social responsibility matters, a government responsive to its people matters. At the same time gun lobbyists should not matter, money controlling politics should not matter, the mad proliferation of mad violence in the popular culture should not matter, and the ongoing militarization of American society should not matter either.

Gun violence in America is inextricably tied to economic violence and the violence reproduced by politicians who would rather support the military-industrial-gun complex than address the most basic needs and social problems faced by the American people. When violence becomes an organizing principle of society, the fabric of a democracy begins to unravel suggesting that America is at war with itself.  When politicians refuse out of narrow self and financial interests to confront the conditions that create such violence, they have blood on their hands.

More articles by:

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and is the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy. His most recent books are America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013), Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014), The Public in Peril: Trump and the Menace of American Authoritarianism (Routledge, 2018), and the American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism (City Lights, 2018). His website is www. henryagiroux.com.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
R. G. Davis
Paul Krassner: Investigative Satirist
Negin Owliaei
Red State Rip Off: Cutting Worker Pay by $1.5 Billion
Christopher Brauchli
The Side of Trump We Rarely See
Curtis Johnson
The Unbroken Line: From Slavery to the El Paso Shooting
Jesse Jackson
End Endless War and Bring Peace to Korea
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: What About a New City Center?
Tracey L. Rogers
Candidates Need a Moral Vision
Nicky Reid
I Was a Red Flag Kid
John Kendall Hawkins
The Sixties Victory Lap in an Empty Arena
Stephen Cooper
Tony Chin’s Unstoppable, Historic Career in Music
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bruno Latour’s Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime
Elizabeth Keyes
Haiku Fighting
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail