Friday, July 20, 2012

Heartland Horrorshow

The main story dominating the news here in the States is the horrific mass shooting in a suburban Colorado movie theater. To me, sitting in my safe Northeastern home, the mass killing is a surreal nightmare... a bunch of suburban "heartlanders" gather to watch a violent movie which takes place in a dystopian riff on NYC's outer boroughs, even though New York City is one of the safest communities in North America, and fall prey to an unhinged gunman. It's a weird thing, the discrepancy between where actual violent crimes occur, and preconceived ideas about high crime areas. Meanwhile, the reactionary representatives blame "godlessness" for crimes which largely occur in the parts of the country they hold sway over.

On today's Ed Schultz Show, a psychotic wingnut caller blamed the shooting on "bloodthirsty" liberal gun-control advocates (yeah, what the fuck? was my reaction as well), and spun a typical right-wing fantasy about armed moviegoers taking the gunman down as soon as his spree started. At the mothership, sadlynaught Thread Bear sums up my feelings rather well:


Also, the scene that plays out in my head that the wingnuts just can’t come to terms with is:

A lunatic steps into a dark, crowded theater, throws out a couple tear gas cannisters and opens fire. Unfortunately, this guy picked the grand opening of Atlas Shrugged in the middle of Wingnut City, so everyone in the theater is armed. So naturally a wingnut pulls out his gun and starts firing back. Immediately followed by 60 other wingnuts pulling out their guns and firing at whoever they see firing a gun. It would only take a few minutes for all these armed wingnuts to take down all these armed wingnuts and the only one left standing would be the lunatic who had the foresight to bring body armor. Heck, after the wingnuts do all the dirty work for him the lunatic would have plenty of ammo left over to slip into the next theater at the multiplex and start all over again.

Of course, in the wingnut mind, no real American would ever be confused or scared by the dim light, the smoke or the suddem surprise of such and attack. They know that every God-fearing, gun-toting American would automatically target only the bad guy and with pinpoint accuracy find the weakness in the body armor and bring the lunatic down.



Predictably, the right wingers think the solution to the periodic mass murders which occur in our country with distressing regularity is GUNS! GUNS! GUNS! Any talk of sensible regulation is characterized as tyranny.

The most influential gun lobby in the country is the National Rifle Association, which claims to champion Second Amendment rights, pointedly omits half of the amendment from the facade of its headquarters. Let's take a look at the actual Second Amendment:


A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.


The vast majority of gun ownership advocates ignore the first part of the amendment, the bit about a well regulated militia. Personally, I think that gun ownership should entail stringent background checks and periodic training, preferably handled by state governments. Unfortunately, current interpretations of the Second Amendment throughout much of the U.S. allow for woefully lax standards for the ownership of consumer goods which are, on a fundamental basis, designed to kill human beings. Until our society develops a sane gun policy, these horrific incidents will take place with shocking regularity.

16 comments:

Aunt Snow said...

Horrific. We'll learn more about this young man and his motivations as time goes on. I am assuming he is mentally ill, rather than "evil" but who knows. I pity his family - how awful it would be to know the child you raised could do such a thing.

It occurs to me to be grateful it wasn't a murder-suicide or that the cops didn't take him out - perhaps we can learn more about what makes people do things like this. Or maybe, even, maybe, this young man will someday feel remorse and help us learn how to prevent things like this.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

we live in a country that can't move beyond third world status on how we treat our poor, that is ranked 37th on health care results, that can't meet Jimmy Freaking Carter's standards for election transparency, and that can barely keep our infrastructure functioning, let alone try to keep up with other countries.

shyeah, right. like we are going to learn anything about proper civilized world regulation of instruments of violence from this.

I go back to that George Carlin bit, where he admitted that he long ago gave up any hope for humanity: "I am just enjoying the swirling as we all just go down the drain..."

If I wasn't a zombie, I would feel bad for you breathers.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

sorry, Aunt Snow. America will never learn how to prevent these things in what remains of yours and my life.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

The tactics to prevent these things are obvious and proven; unfortunately, we have the Republican party.

Again, sorry.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Tom Tomorrow
~

mikey said...

Well, for better or worse the approach of "interpreting away" the second amendment - well, that ship has sailed. But it doesn't matter - we already have gun regulations that technically run afoul of the second amendment and yet pass constitutional muster. The amendment does NOT say "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed unless they are mentally ill or convicted felons" and yet we do that. It also does not say "...shall not be infringed except in the case of a list of specific weapons and features listed in the NFA"

So we CAN have legal restrictions. We COULD regulate the manufacturers under the Commerce Clause. Our states and counties could pass all sorts of laws, as long as they don't outright challenge the premise of the 2nd amendment. Unlike much of the country, you can't carry a gun in California, and you pretty much can't get a permit.

So, like everything else, it's a matter of political will. And we live in a nation where the right wing is ascendant, and policies that can generally be described as "liberal" or more generally "humane" or "compassionate" or even in many cases "common sense" are just political non-starters. We'll get gun control the moment the corporations decide that the guns are somehow costing them profits, or whenever there is a groundswell of popular demand for them.

In the meantime, recognize the realities of the world we live in, pay attention to the people around you, get in the habit of noting exit routes and cover, and try to be mentally prepared to act. Because this sort of thing is going to happen again and again in America...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

It occurs to me to be grateful it wasn't a murder-suicide or that the cops didn't take him out - perhaps we can learn more about what makes people do things like this. Or maybe, even, maybe, this young man will someday feel remorse and help us learn how to prevent things like this.

I had the same exact thought- I hope they gain some insight into how this sort of thing happens. Usually, these guys shoot themselves, or go down in a hail of police bullets... this is a unique opportunity for learning something useful.

we live in a country that can't move beyond third world status on how we treat our poor, that is ranked 37th on health care results, that can't meet Jimmy Freaking Carter's standards for election transparency, and that can barely keep our infrastructure functioning, let alone try to keep up with other countries.

Depressing, isn't it?

The tactics to prevent these things are obvious and proven; unfortunately, we have the Republican party.

I'm sick of the pieties and platitudes, we need policy, damnit!

Tom Tomorrow

Pretty much says it all. Pity he can drag it out every year, and it's just as relevant.

Well, for better or worse the approach of "interpreting away" the second amendment - well, that ship has sailed. But it doesn't matter - we already have gun regulations that technically run afoul of the second amendment and yet pass constitutional muster. The amendment does NOT say "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed unless they are mentally ill or convicted felons" and yet we do that. It also does not say "...shall not be infringed except in the case of a list of specific weapons and features listed in the NFA"

It does say "well regulated militia", which can be the basis of all sorts of... uh... regulation. Of course, with our stupid society, it will never happen.

In the meantime, recognize the realities of the world we live in, pay attention to the people around you, get in the habit of noting exit routes and cover, and try to be mentally prepared to act. Because this sort of thing is going to happen again and again in America.

It's funny, because that's pretty much how most New Yorkers live anyway- when you move in huge crowds, you need to know how to exit a subway car or bus or skyscraper. Oddly enough, though, we don't have mass shootings in this neck of the woods. Perhaps it's because there are so many people, it's hard for someone to sneak around with copious firepower. Perhaps it's because we've been forced to learn how to live with other people.

vacuumslayer said...

I don't think Thread Bear has ever made a stinker of a comment, and this is no exception.

This whole thing is just so sad and so infuriating.

mikey said...

Of course, New York also has a set of state and local restrictions that are, at least in comparison to much of the rest of the country, pretty good. And a mayor who's not afraid to tell the truth about the stupidity and destructiveness of unfettered 2nd amendment worship.

Oh. And Stop and Frisk. An extreme and somewhat offensive response, but when you put a community in the position where it can't govern the presence of deadly weaponry on its streets any other way, you have to expect the community to take whatever action remains available...

wiley said...

I don't think there is a direct link by any stretch, but it's interesting that just like Columbine had an arms making industry, Buckley AFB in Aurora is the eye of the biggest mass murder that could possibly be committed.

Don't think of mentally ill people committing mass murder, because that's the least likely cause. Think of mass murder on a continuum that stretches from killing ones family to opening fire in public, to genocide, to omnicide. It's all the same hateful, narcissistic, homicidal, nihilistic, grandiose impulse to be a destroyer.

Some destroyers are respected,if not loved and celebrated during their rule. Others will have to settle for a heavy news cycle, notoriety, and morbid fascination.

mikey said...

Wiley, don't kid yourself. It's not regional, it's not this arms producer and this defense contractor and that aerospace company. America is built on weapons and violence. That's why we live in such a hothouse of murder and don't do a goddam thing about it.

Americans are raised on the righteousness and goodness of warrior, killing in the name of god and country, our great industrial might dedicated to producing fabulous weapons that kill more efficiently.

Sure, the world is a violent place. There is nothing about Congo or Columbia or Thailand that is based on American culture - you can talk about American influence in those places, but people seem to LIKE killing each other, and will happily accept any assistance offered in so doing.

But Americans are uniquely predsiposed to violent conflict resolution, and are unusually indoctrinated in the basic goodness of violent action. You need look no farther than our cinematic exports to grasp how lethal our worldview is and how short our fuse burns. We don't condone negotiation, we don't have truck with appeasement, we kill the people with whom we disagree, and if there was ever a single central organizing principle around who and what we are, it is the gun...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I don't think Thread Bear has ever made a stinker of a comment, and this is no exception.

T.B.'s a smart cookie, to be sure.

Of course, New York also has a set of state and local restrictions that are, at least in comparison to much of the rest of the country, pretty good. And a mayor who's not afraid to tell the truth about the stupidity and destructiveness of unfettered 2nd amendment worship.

We also don't have a gun culture... our particular brand of machismo is unique in the States.

Don't think of mentally ill people committing mass murder, because that's the least likely cause. Think of mass murder on a continuum that stretches from killing ones family to opening fire in public, to genocide, to omnicide. It's all the same hateful, narcissistic, homicidal, nihilistic, grandiose impulse to be a destroyer.

I think the problem is a violent culture, our entertainment, our mythology, our foreign and domestic policy all glorify strength and a disregard for the common good.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Wow, mikey beat me to the mark about the culture of violence by a few minutes.

wiley said...

That's kind of what I'm saying guys. Buckley field is in the business of nuclear war (I worked there). This impulse is very definitely in our culture. MAD is the ultimate expression of the glorification of mass murderousnous.

Though it seems forgotten now, we've spent billions if not trillions on threatening the world with total global annihilation and have called it "security".

Psychopathology can be expressed on any number of scales and involve any number of people to carry it out; but I'm convinced, that for the most part, almost all of it is the same psychopathology no matter how it's spun. The U.S. is not the only country suffering from the sickness, but it does a bang-up job of marketing it.

It seems the public is trained to go into an uproar about the individuals who open fire against the public and condemn it without question; but how did that work for torture and murder in Abu Graib and Guantanamo? Suddenly it was an "issue" to be debated.

The most insidious mass murders and threats of mass murder are too often justified. Shit, the U.S. started supporting Pol Pot in 1979. That's some evil shit that is cynical beyond all decency.

Smut Clyde said...

we've spent billions if not trillions on threatening the world with total global annihilation and have called it "security".

I made a dessert and called it 'peas'. No-one was fooled.

wiley said...

When being admitted to lock down after suffering an hour long night terror about the impending destruction of life on earth, I told the staff that I liked "peace". Had to laugh when I read the records and saw that they had heard "I like peas." as if I really had been "visualizing whirled peas."