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Blood in Our Eyes

“As the business grew, Sturm Ruger CEO Michael Fifer lobbied personally against a Connecticut ban on high-capacity magazines, commonly used with the company’s semi-automatic rifles. “The regulation of magazine capacity will not deter crime, but will instead put law-abiding citizens at risk of harm,” Fifer wrote to state lawmakers in early 2011. The legislation died in committee that April. At the NRA’s annual Corporate Executives Luncheon the next year, Fifer presented a check to the group for more than $1.25 million—$1 for every Sturm Ruger gun purchased the prior year. Eight months later, 20-year-old Adam Lanza used a semi-automatic rifle and a 30-round magazine to gun down 20 children and six adults at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, located just 27 miles from Sturm Ruger’s headquarters. In the year following the shooting, Sturm Ruger’s profits increased 56 percent.”

– Josh Harkinson (Mother Jones, June 2016)

“Researchers at the University of Leeds used two bodies of transcribed, informal conversations among members of the public, comprising five million words in the 1990s and 12 million words in the 2010s. In the earlier conversations, 100 per cent of references to a ‘field’ concerned grass or farmland. That has fallen to 70 per cent, with modern conversation taking in the metaphorical fields of work, gravity or energy. Researchers also found that the following nature words have decreased in relative frequency among young people between the 1990s and 2010s: lawn, twig, blackbird, picnic, fishing, paddle, sand, welly, desert, paw, snow, grass, jungle, sky, path, bridge, bush, land, hill, fish, pond, mountain, soil, branch, stick, park, ground, wheel, tree, stream, rock, bird, road, garden, shell.”

– Anita Singh (The Telegraph, July 2019)

“Magnum Research Desert Eagle: These large-caliber handguns, designed for hunting, have appeared in dozens of films, including RoboCop, The Matrix, Snatch, and Borat. “Here’s a gun that has very little practical usage,” the owner of a prop company told the Baltimore Sun. “The success of that particular weapon owes almost everything to the movies.”

– Dave Gilson (Mother Jones)

It is interesting that amid the fall out from the El Paso and Dayton shootings one hears very little about the gun industry. The Firearms Industry Trade Association writes…

“Companies in the United States that manufacture, distribute, and sell firearms, ammunition, and hunting equipment employ as many as 49,146 people in the country and generate an additional 162,845 jobs in supplier and ancillary industries. These include jobs in supplying goods and services to manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, and those that depend on sales to workers in the firearms and ammunition industry.”

Ninety one percent of guns manufactured in the U.S. are sold to citizens of the U.S. But this is nothing compared to the U.S. defense industry. Defense News wrote…

“Combined weapon sales from American companies for fiscal 2018 were up 13 percent over fiscal 2017 figures, netting American firms $192.3 billion, according to new numbers released Thursday by the State Department. The department previously announced that FY18 brought in $55.66 billion in foreign military sales, an uptick of 33 percent over FY (fiscal year) 17’s $41.93 billion. Through the Foreign Military Sales process, the U.S. government serves as a go-between for foreign partners and American industry. What had not been released until now is the total direct commercial sales, the process through which foreign customers can directly buy systems from industry. Those figures topped $136.6 billion for FY18, a 6.6 percent increase from FY17’s $128.1 billion.”

But this is hardly accurate given that two arms sales packages to Saudi Arabia equaled 287 BILLION all by themselves. It should be noted that the U.K. sold even more arms to Saudi Arabia. But I digress.

Shimon Arad (at War on the Rocks) writes…

“The defense and aerospace industry is America’s second-largest gross exporter. The industry contributes approximately $1 trillion annually to the U.S. economy and employs around 2,500,000 people. On average, 30 percent of the industry’s annual revenue is through arms exports…”

So, its sorta all about how you count. The point is that the U.S. is a machine that makes and sells weapons. We are history’s number one death merchant. Now, arms sales globally has increased over 40% since 2002 (according the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). Britain and France are among those showing the largest growth. The Saudi market includes 31 billion dollars just in armored vehicle purchases. And its growing. (Although because under Obama there were so many fighter jets sold to the Saudis and other gulf state monarchies that sales figures are likely to dip in the near future due to saturation).

The government is essentially a branch of the death industry. Peter Castagno wrote just this year (At Truthout)….

“After the resignation of Gen. James Mattis, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan filled the post as interim head of the Defense Department. Before joining the Trump administration, Shanahan spent three decades working for Boeing — a blatant conflict of interest for the person responsible for overseeing federal contracts with private defense contractors. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, called Shanahan “a living, breathing product of the military-industrial complex,” and asserted that “this revolving door keeps the national security elite very small, and very wealthy, and increasing its wealth as it goes up the chain.” One egregious example of that revolving door is Heather Wilson, who has been secretary of the Air Force since 2017. In 2015, Lockheed Martin paid a $4.7 million settlement to the Department of Justice after the revelation it had used taxpayer funds to hire lobbyists for a $2.4 billion contract. One of the lobbyists was former New Mexico Representative Wilson, ranked as one of the “most corrupt members of Congress” by the nonprofit government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Wilson was later confirmed as Air Force secretary in the Senate by a 76-22 vote. Mark T. Esper, the secretary of the Army, worked as vice president of government relations for Raytheon before joining the Trump administration in 2017. The Hill recognized Esper as one of Washington’s most powerful corporate lobbyists in 2015 and 2016, where he fought to influence acquisition policy and other areas of defense bills. Esper’s undersecretary, Ryan McCarthy, is a former Lockheed executive.”

So, back to El Paso and Dayton. First thing to note is that the narrative (as always) emphasizes the ‘lone wolf’ gunmen idea, mentally unstable, a loner teased by classmates, bad haircut, etc. They might add he takes anti depressants (and often, or hell, almost always, they do) but rarely is the writing or the social connections and influences that shaped these young men investigated. In Norway, the Breivik story still tends to minimize the fascist connections that mass killer had throughout Europe. Whatever the truth of these shootings (as in, some witnesses saw three men dressed in black, etc) the one certainty is that the state will follow a clear storyline and hit home certain key points… lone wolf, mentally ill and now terrorist (more on that below). The second thing that will happen for certain is more calls for “gun control” — you know, that three trillion dollar industry in death led by the United States. Remember here that some seventy thousand plus civilians have died in Yemen since the Saudi/U.S. assault on that nearly defenseless nation. The poorest in the Arab world. Remember the millions upon millions who have been murdered across Africa in wars and conflicts often directly orchestrated by the U.S. And using American made weapons.

“US military aid to the rebels channeled (unofficially) through the illicit market, is routine and ongoing. In December 2015, a major US sponsored shipment of a staggering 995 tons of weapons was conducted in blatant violation of the ceasefire. According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, the U.S. … “is providing [the weapons] to Syrian rebel groups as part of a programme that continues despite the widely respected ceasefire in that country [in December 2015].”

– Michael Chossudovsky (Global Research, 2019)

One of the secondary effects (I suspect intentional) of the government and law enforcement narrative on mass shooting incidents (sic) is one that emphasizes a need to control the mentally unstable (a fluid definition that likely will include you and me at some point). Since the Philip K. Dickian idea of *future crime* is now relatively mainstream the focus on mass state quarantines of those who serve as potential threats is clearly implied in the master narratives on these shootings. The bourgeoisie respond to the death of white people (and OK, a few hispanics, too) with exaggerated horror. They do not show such horror at the atrocities in Yemen or Syria or Libya, committed by US/NATO. But then the lone gunman story is containable and easily grasped by their truncated moral GPS. The white liberal does not scream gun control when cops execute another unarmed young black man (or woman). Just as gun makers are ignored in the gun control logic, so are cops. The anti gun lobby seems ok with the idea that only steroid crazed racist policemen can carry guns. I have to tell you, I’m not so OK with that.

The familiarity of the rhetoric that surrounds these shootings has come to have a numbing effect. Still, it is important to note that as Adorno and Horkheimer observed that anti semitism grew in the U.S. after the defeat of the Nazis. So the love of guns and death seems to grow after each of these mass shootings. But the rise in gun related deaths contains another less advertised fact;

“While much of the public attention is on the intense tragedies of gun massacres in the US – 2017 saw the deadliest mass shooting by an individual to take place in the country in modern history, when 58 people died in the 1 October rampage on the Las Vegas Strip – in fact most suffering takes place in isolated and lonely incidents that receive scant media coverage. Of those, suicide is by far the greatest killer, accounting for about 60% of all gun deaths.”

–Ed Pilkington (The Guardian, 2018)

Gabor Mate, after the attack at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, wrote that the shooter’s “anger [that] has got nothing to do with what they think they are angry about. They are just angry because of what life has done to them as children and then they find external targets.” And this is what Fascism does, too, of course. Its provides an explanation, and a direction for the inarticulate rage. And the U.S. ruling class helps set as a default direction for these disenfranchised young men the fascist ideology of white supremacism. The U.S. is a stunningly sick society. I have grown weary of writing this fact because one finds oneself repeatedly in situations where this obvious truth must be stated..again. That sixty percent of gun deaths are suicide is a stunning statistic. The irrational hatred of the ‘other’ is always equally a self hatred. And you have to see these narrative themes cropping up again and again in only indirectly related issues. I’ve noted the racist eugenics backdrop to the overpopulation fear, a backdrop that finds partial expression in the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation in Africa — where the theme is sterilization. The west as regards Africa, arms conflicts they, the U.S., start and at the same time work to stop reproduction on the continent. Its like the Gates Foundation laboratory for fecundity — or rather sterility. Eradication of the dark skinned other is a theme that cuts across all these white psycho shooters and it cuts across the story of western capital. Jews, blacks, Arabs, Hispanics — this is the legacy of colonialism and Manifest Destiny and European whiteness. American exceptionalism.

The very good Belen Fernandez (Al Jazeera, 2019) wrote…

“the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conducted a test of Rekognition, Amazon’s facial recognition software, which compared images of all the members of the US Congress with a database of mugshots. The results, according to Rekognition: 28 US Congresspeople were identified as criminals. And what do you know: the false matches pertained disproportionately to people of colour. Now imagine the complications that might arise when you have such technology in the hands of US law enforcement officials who have already proven themselves predisposed to shooting black people for no reason. In addition to marketing its product to officials from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other notoriously abusive entities, Amazon has also pushed for Rekognition’s use in police body cameras – which would presumably only increase the chances of pre-emptive misidentification by trigger-happy forces of law and order. ( ) The arms industry comes to mind, which has helped to eradicate countless lives from Iraq to Yemen and beyond. And as Raja stresses, it is important to remember in the US context that “what happens abroad matters and vice-versa”. Case in point: “Technology is often tested on the bodies of Black and Brown people, perfected and then applied locally.” As it turns out, the US is also one of a group of countries opposing a UN-proposed ban on the development of so-called “killer robots”: lethal autonomous weapons systems that use artificial intelligence – think facial recognition-equipped swarms of drones.”

The reality is that the violence of Dylann Roof or Jared Lee Loughner or James Holmes is one with the violence of Fallujah or Afghanistan. The US occupies several countries as I write this, and has military bases spread across the world. Surrounding each base one will find spikes in public intoxication, fights, domestic abuse, rape and drug abuse. Nobody in those places want the U.S. military there. For the military is not only the expression of historical American violence and racism, but it also horribly pollutes the areas in which it is located. For this is only another aspect of the violence. A contempt for the land of others. It is also a psychic pollution, an emotional toxicity that is embedded in the uniform and the various repressions that entails. The military is the violence of the ruling elite made operative.

I am reminded of two quotes of George Jackson’s…

“I’m convinced that it is the psychopathic personality that searches out a uniform. There’s little doubt of what’s going on in that man’s head who will voluntarily don any uniform.”  (Prison Letters)

and

“Intellectuals still argue whether Amerika is a fascist country. This concern is typical of the Amerikan left’s flight from reality. … This is actually a manifestation of the authoritarian process seeping into its own psyche.”  (Blood in My Eye)

Suggesting mental illness as the cause of these shooters violence is to distract from the institutional and class violence that exists all around them. In which each grew up. To focus disproportionately on their isolation or loneliness is almost ironic given they live in a society of acute crippling loneliness and in which suicide is rampant. A society in which isolation is manufactured by the state as only another strategy of control. Collectively breeds radicalization, if people start to talk to each other they might start to dissent from these master narratives. Best to stop all institutions of the collective. Best to deride any political form of collectivity…like, oh, communism. Best to refer to socialism as something practiced by war monger Bernie Sanders or pseudo progressive shill Alexandria Ocasio Cortez… that way the real socialism of a, say, Antonio Gramsci or Rosa Luxemburg will not be investigated. Best to encourage stories of individualism and triumph over social adversity. Not stories of tearing down systems of oppression.

Why is history being re-written? Vietnam, Korea, World War 2. Ask yourselves that rather simple question. Or the history of the Soviet Union, or Cuba, or Mao or Ho Chi Minh?

Treat global pollution and climate change as if it were a Hollywood disaster movie. Stigmatize asking questions, ridicule dissenting voices, shame those who will not submit to the official narrative. And the question here in the shadow of El Paso is not the truth or falsity of the narrative but the insistence on a submission to it. This is the same logic you would find at Jonestown if you went back in time. The very same. Or Synanon, or Heaven’s Gate. People are actually volunteering to stop having children. To stop flying. Voluntarily. Here is a clue, the U.S. military hasn’t stopped flying. And whenever the ruling class is talking to you — you should distrust what they say. Full stop.

And to underscore the racism so incrusted in American society and the climate discourse….

The populace today is encouraged to trust in consensus. Trust in popularity. If a movie is popular, well, it must be good. If everyone says something is true, well, it must be. As Norman Mailer said years ago, Americans are incapable “of confronting a book unless it is successful.”

Are the police who beat or abuse or kill blacks and hispanics and native Americans…are they lonely and mentally ill? I mean I’d say yeah, but that’s not the official narrative. And how many of those murderous policemen were veterans of the American military? The U.S. teaches violence. It glorifies it and romanticizes it and sexualizes it. Of course people are going to shoot each other. As daily life becomes more unreal, and more intolerable, the suffering will find an outlet. And the one that is met with least resistance is the buying of guns. Young men are trained to think in martial terms. And this is where Trump can be seen as the perfect foil for the ruling class and why he will be re-elected. When Trump starts to tweet his concerns about public safety he will (I predict) also begin a normalizing of martial law and internment camps. I mean camps are already mostly in use, albeit in small ways still. But martial law has been tested already with the Boston marathon shooting and subsequent hunt for the bombers. An entire city was shut down with almost unanimous public approval.

Barry Grey (WSWS, April 2013) wrote..

“The events in Boston have laid bare the modus operandi for the establishment of dictatorial forms of rule in the US. One or another violent act carried out by disoriented or disaffected individuals, perhaps with the help of elements within the state, is declared a terrorist event. A state of siege is imposed suspending democratic rights and establishing military-police control.”

And it occurred after Hurricane Katrina when the governor declared an ‘state of emergency’ — evacuations were ordered and people were forced out of their homes and many businesses were closed. People were, in fact, removed to FEMA camps. Trump would meet with only symbolic objections by the Democratic Party. Some hand wringing and measured words of concern from Pelosi or Shurmer or Biden…and no doubt support from ex cop Harris and crypto fascist Warren. It’s for your own good, after all. In fact it’s for the good of those put in these camps. This is a nation, remember, where the government already flies surveillance drones to spy on its own citizens, and helicopters patrol areas targeted as potentially high crime (black and poor mostly) and SWAT teams increasingly are called out for routine offences — and where even small towns and some Universities have military surplus armoured fighting vehicles at their disposal.

On September 29, 2006, President Bush signed the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The law expanded Presidential authority to declare Martial Law under revisions to the Insurrection Act. The law was rolled back slightly in 2008 but Obama then signed a new version of NDAA that would allow the arrest and detention of U.S. citizens without due process. Obama also oversaw a federal policing report (in 2012) that suggested use of the military to supplement domestic police departments in times of social unrest. The creation of NORTHCOM (Northern Command) was really to draw up plans for civil unrest throughout north America. As Patrick Martin wrote (WSWS) back in 2005..

“While Northcom was established only in October 2002, its headquarters staff of 640 is already larger than that of the Southern Command, which overseas US military operations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. { } The reality is that the military brass is intensely interested in monitoring political dissent because its domestic operations will be directed not against a relative handful of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists—who have not carried out a single operation inside the United States since September 11, 2001—but against the democratic rights of the American people.”

The ‘lone wolf’ shooter is now a domestic terrorist. Liberals are way out front on this designation, too. The terrorist tag opens the way to the further removal of all due process. So both a mentally ill misfit AND a domestic terrorist. Much as Osama bin Laden was an evil mastermind AND a cave dwelling primitive.

If martial law comes it won’t be called martial law. It will be called Emergency Protective Sanctuary or some other Madison ave opaque and Orwellian term. Israel has rather perfected this stuff, though they seem today to barely care about global opinion. The climate crises plays into this, too, of course. It is useful to take the time to find the source of whatever dire warnings you are being told. Much of it has direct connections to the U.S. military in all its branches. Mike Pompeo even said, the melting arctic presents a great business opportunity.

Trump is not an aberration or anomaly. He is the logical outcome of a three hundred years of white supremacist values, arrogance, and class oppression. One need look back no further than Ronald Reagan to see the origins of much of what Trump is about. The Democrats are to the right of Trump on most of his foreign policy, and they will increasingly attack him from the right throughout this coming electoral season. Meanwhile the last shreds of civil liberties and due process are being removed. Fear is a great distraction. Its the governments three card monte game — and liberals and democrats are completely behind anything that is labeled green or about safety. Well, the safety of white people, mostly. And that doesn’t mean the homeless of course. They are in fact another health and hygiene threat that needs to be dealt with. For their own good, naturally.

 

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John Steppling is an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theatre, and PEN-West winner for playwriting. Plays produced in LA, NYC, SF, Louisville, and at universities across the US, as well in Warsaw, Lodz, Paris, London and Krakow. Taught screenwriting and curated the cinematheque for five years at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, Poland. A collection of plays, Sea of Cortez & Other Plays was published in 1999, and his book on aesthetics, Aesthetic Resistance and Dis-Interest was published by Mimesis International in 2016.

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