Taking Stock After Yet Another Mass Shooting

Photograph Source: Fibonacci Blue – CC BY 2.0

We have constant mass killings in the United States, many taking place in schools and perpetrated by the kids themselves, this week by a fifteen-year-old in Michigan. He killed four students and wounded eight more.  His parents were no help in preventing the carnage.

This blind imbecility just repeats and repeats and nothing changes other than the gradual descent of the American empire.

The fall of empires, like their microscopic counterparts in human breakups, is rarely graceful and never pretty.

So here we are in an America that is turning not less but more violent and hateful, with anger and fear at the top of the list.  On some days the decline strikes me as inexorable and fated.  The ocean liner of America proved too massive to change course and we hit the iceberg. Today the torrents of water and history are bursting in, too massive for us to pump out.

We’ve hit the iceberg of terminal climate insult, demented inequality and economic barbarism, regression to autocratic ignorance and untruth, with no light at the end of the tunnel. To say nothing of a pandemic we can’t stop. The future looms heavy.

Unreason is winning over civic sense and critical thinking. After all is said and done, American society seems to be stubborn about regressing to its brutal origins: exceptional prosperity based on the genocide of indigenous peoples, and on the enslavement of Africans for centuries.

We never have faced and absorbed the full measure of those evils in our history.  We remain arrogant about them, like divas who won’t listen to criticism. And when there is criticism we tend to see it as treasonous, calling un-American and worse anyone who raises such questions.

We need to take stock.

The Germans have faced and absorbed the evils of no less than the Holocaust itself, and in that committed process they created a new methodology in history called The History of Everyday, a more powerful tool of analysis essential for leaving no stone unturned. They are the envy of academic historians around the world. As a nation they’ve come to mature terms with their past.

The French are on their way to dealing with the “black years” of their Vichy government, when they collaborated with the Nazis who occupied them from 1940 to 1944 in WWII.  As a people, the French, in my view, still base their national identity on the French Revolution, but Vichy has continued to make useful inroads towards giving the French greater insight and realism about their well-justified national pride.

This can be done. America has taken some brave steps to deal with its violent origins and their stubborn persistence in today’s society. But so far, these commendable endeavors have not been met by a unified sense of national purpose to take stock of our history so we can move beyond it with renewed strength and honesty.  In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. We are investing in a nation-wide effort to erase history. Unless stopped, this self-inflicted obscurantism will burden our future generations.

There’s no spin to this, no substitute for the hard work of giving ourselves the gift of a better and more humane understanding of ourselves as a nation. Without this unified process, which is mostly based on sound education, we will just go on mechanically repeating atrocities.

Regarding the people in power, their short-term access to extraordinary amounts of money rules the calculus in everything they do. Greed and conquest focus their interests exclusively on achieving yet more profit and non-stop growth. This is obviously unsustainable.

The ultra-rich are deaf to the cries of Nature saying No. Very soon She will roar, and then what? They’re blind to wild fires, droughts and floods, and to the multitudes of people displaced and bereft who roam the world groping for a better hold on the cliff of misery they cling to for dear life.

But the powerful keep not caring. Their wealth affords them the means to live in the bubble of out-of-sight-out-of-mind.  The isolation of their extreme privilege invites distortion, the same way that extremes invite error in statistics.

Do the math. Extreme anything is never the way to sustainable social prosperity.

The persistent ideology of American Exceptionalism today translates into an imperial narcissism that year after year depletes the lives of American citizens. We hemorrhage resources and waste them in useless wars around the world that have killed poor innocent people in the millions.

The same way that many members of Congress forget the interests of the people who elected them, the war industry forgets its mission to protect Americans. It has become instead a lucrative giant institution that lives mostly to feed itself beyond all proportion or need. Its service to the citizens who pay for it comes second. First priority of the security state is always financial.

The words Patriotism and American Democracy are often bandied about in the press. They are said with reverence to keep the momentum going for our defense and surveillance industries whose excesses long ago shot past any sense of proportion or actual usefulness to the commons.

We are now a declining United States in dire need of investing in the development of human capital, a precious resource only exploited and commodified  by the owners of great fortunes. We need to take stock because the pirates of Wall Street will keep indulging themselves in their delusional grandeur, stock buy-backs being but one ugly feature in their depraved and highly diversified game of non-stop self enrichment. They could  not care less for the little people.

The mass shootings will only increase in frequency and severity so long as the entitled egos of the powerful remain unopposed. For them, the rest of us are out of sight and out of mind.