I had every intention of writing a polemic on the American Empire’s latest shit show in Venezuela this week, another erudite contemplation on the sour virtues of imperialism in some violent dirt floor theater, time zones away from my small town tranny middle class existence. But this week violence came to visit me through the all too common place spectacle of the active shooter situation. It’s so fucking cliche that I bite my tongue just saying it out loud but you really do feel like that’s a problem that happens somewhere else but not here.
‘Here’ for me is Central Pennsylvania, in the foothills of Appalachia where the Rust-Belt gives way to Amish country. It’s an area where the most heinous thing on the evening news is typically some meth-pocked trailer urchin shaking his girlfriend’s baby to sleep or maybe the latest round of kids coming public about their sexual debasement at the hands of Penn State or the Catholic Church. But last week was different. Last week an angry young veteran came to a Ramada Inn bar with a gun and his girlfriend. He only left with one in his hand. After badly wounding his lover and brutally murdering two innocent bystanders, the 21 year old killer raced off in his Mazda only to crash it at an intersection in front of my grandmother’s nursing home. In a daze, he stumbled away on foot and murdered an 84 year old man next door before turning his weapon on himself and blowing his own face off.
For what? Four people dead, another grievously injured. And why? Nobody seems quite sure. We may never be. The shooter had a common story. White, middle class, no record aside from a recent DUI that may have put his hopes for a future in the military and law enforcement in jeopardy. Always a quiet kid, no violence, no broken home, no tour overseas. What possesses such a human being to obliterate himself and everyone around him? What is the source of this hidden vein of black rage that could only come to the surface in a irruption of senseless savagery?
I’m not some reactionary ninny looking for a simple solution to a traumatic experience in a thick government envelope. I have always believed very strongly in the right to bear arms. I am not currently a gun owner but I grew up in an area where an AR-15 was a tool to put supper on the table when the factories fucked off to sweatshopland. I’m also a Marxist and an anarchist who believes that tools like firearms are necessary to secure truly democratic societies. As long as there are assault weapons, proletariat’s will require them to remain sovereign. So I’m not about to hand over the proverbial gun safe to the feds. Last time I checked, their body count was far higher than the gross domestic product of this nations booming industry of rampage killers. If anything, I’m more likely to start window shopping for affordable revolvers now than ever. Charter Arms still makes a cheap and sturdy maniac reducer, don’t they?
But this does nothing to answer the fundamental what-the-fuck? of this tiny slice of blood spattered American pie. The harsh reality is that, regardless of your view on the Second Amendment, these active shooter tragedies are becoming so common that they’re quite literally coming to a Ramada Inn near you. What makes this fact even stranger is that violence over all in this country has dropped to near all time lows. There appears to be zero correlation between the meteoric rise of the mass shooter and gun regulations. These events continued to metastasize during the last Assault Weapons Ban. Columbine was committed primarily with weapons that would be legal in San Francisco, let alone Middle America. So why then do these bloodbath continue to spread? On this, much like Venezuela, I can only speculate.
The rise in these events may not correlate with gun laws but they do correlate pretty devastatingly with two other often overlooked trends; The rise of the 24/7 news circus and the fall of the American Empire. At a time when Americans have never been less certain about the economic prospects of their future, at a time when social media has made us simultaneously more visible and more socially isolated, the mass media has created a cottage industry out of crisis porn, shamelessly covering every last gruesome detail in real time of tragedies that they shamelessly pimp out like Hollywood blockbusters while slyly pontificating on the price of one of the last amendments left relatively unmolested by the police state.
Who was this guy? Who are all of these guys? White, middle class, the strong silent type. A poster child for the American experience. A lonely, disenfranchised, and quite frankly endangered class of people. Just wealthy enough to feel the full impact stemming from the collapse of American primacy but not wealthy enough to cushion the blow with Wall Street Voodoo. Marginal people like me are use to being the proverbial faggot or nigger but not these wholesome all American boys, and they’re not taking it very well. These are the same guys voting for demagogues like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and for the same reasons they pull that trigger. They’re scared, they’re desperate, and they just want someone to look at them for five goddamn minutes before they blow up the world.
As tempting as it may be, we need to fight the urge to vilify and dehumanize these post-modern Frankenstein monsters. At the end of the day, they have become victims of the same system that once rewarded them with privilege. They’re one of us now and their energy is wasted on the pointless nihilism of random violence, both physical and electoral. I talk a lot on this blog about the amazing possibilities provided to us by a post-empire world and I stand by these dreams because they keep me going. But this is the flip side of collapse. Karl Marx once mused that violence is the midwife of any society pregnant with a new one. I guess you can call these mass shootings contractions. As a derelict society tares apart at the seems, the best thing we can do is put down the goddamn cellphone, tare up some clean bed sheets and do our damnedest to foster a nest where the new one can be nurtured by the better angels of our nature rather than the tabloid orphanage of what passes for journalism in these all or nothing days.
It’s not too late, dearest motherfuckers. It never is. Divided we self-destruct. United we are heavy.