Where Does It End?

I guess it’s somewhat comforting that Congressman Paul Gosar was censured for posting an animated cartoon online showing a character attempting to kill Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and swinging two swords at President Biden.  I mean, that’s one small victory for civility, anyway, although it rings just a bit hollow when his fellow Republicans (with two exceptions) refused to condemn the cartoon, and when minority leader McCarthy warned that his party will exact revenge when they gain the upper hand (likely in next year’s elections).  Gosar claimed that the cartoon wasn’t meant to threaten, wasn’t even meant to suggest anything violent.  No, of course not.  Just our imaginations.  That’s why he retweeted the cartoon immediately after the censure.

Meanwhile, in a stunning development, the jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse of all charges.  I hadn’t watched the broadcast of the proceedings, but I read updates describing Rittenhouse’s supposed meltdown on the stand, and his protestations that he did nothing wrong.  Also read that the trial judge was given to theatrics, seemed to favor the defense, and refused to let the men Rittenhouse killed be called “victims.”  My understanding all along had been that Rittenhouse, underage at the time, illegally carried an AR-15 across state lines and appointed himself a vigilante during the demonstrations in Kenosha, Wisconsin last summer that did include incidents of setting fires and looting.  The circumstances of the shootings have been hotly debated, but the bottom line is that Rittenhouse had no business carrying a rifle into a chaotic, confrontational situation.  He had no authority, and his initial story about being on scene in the capacity of a medic was patently, provably false.  In any case, the upshot is that two unarmed men are dead at his hands.  When asked why he chose the AR-15, he said it “looked cool.”  Nevertheless, despite his unforgivable actions, he’s a free man now.

As if these events aren’t disturbing enough, the trial is proceeding for the three Atlanta men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old.  The men say they “thought he might” be responsible for a string of break-ins in the neighborhood, so they grabbed their guns, jumped in a truck, and pursued him to make a citizen’s arrest.  They chased Arbery down, one man brandished his shotgun at close range, and when Arbery tried to take it away, the man shot and killed Arbery.  The men had no proof that Arbery had done anything, no concrete reason to pursue and accost him, but they believed they had the right to do so, and acted accordingly.  All three men are claiming they’re not guilty because they acted in self-defense.  My prediction is that they, too, will be acquitted.

But there’s more.  About three weeks ago, conservative activist and radio show host Charlie Kirk led a right-wing rally in Boise.  During the event, a member of the audience got up to ask, “When do we get to use the guns?” in reference to the Dems’ “theft” of the 2020 Presidential election.  The man was adamant that he was completely serious as he asked how many elections “they” have to see stolen before they can “kill these people.”  Kirk denounced the remark, but only for the reason that he thinks such talk is poor strategy, because it gives “these people” (Dems/liberals) grounds to go after conservatives and take away their freedoms.

The tragedy at the Astroworld Festival in Houston two weeks ago, which left nine dead and scores injured, is yet another paean to violence.  Rapper Travis Scott is known for whipping his audicnces into frenzies wherever he appears, and has actually been brought up on charges for his outrageous conduct.  At his last appearance in Houston, there was a near-riot.  But city officials saw dollar signs, and booked the concert, anyway.  Attendees had destroyed a VIP entrance during the afternoon before the concert, and the crowd had begun to become unruly several hours before Scott was due to appear.  Before he’d been onstage 20 minutes, safety forces had declared a mass casualty event.  Scott waved away members of his entourage who approached him to try to get him to stop his performance.  At one point, he remarked over the microphone that he could see an ambulance in the crowd.  Shortly thereafter, he shouted that he wanted to “feel the ground shake,” and he wanted to see some “raging.”  People were crushed and stomped on.  Only after eight people were dead and the medical tents were overflowing (a 9-year-old boy was rushed to the hospital and eventually died) was the concert finally stopped.  What kind of a psychopath sees an ambulance and then calls for raging?

And of course, the January 6th invasion of the U.S. Capitol was just a tourist gathering attended by patriots.

This whole roster of violence and death, which encompasses just a few of the events of the last 15 months, comes in the wake of TFG’s relentless campaign to assert that he won last year’s election.  And that campaign follows five years, first during the 2016 race and then during his presidency, of exhortations to commit violence in one form or another, in one scenario or another.  From praising and endorsing a Montana Congressional candidate who body-slammed a reporter, to telling the extremist Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” to urging his followers to “knock the crap out of” protesters, TFG was a walking instigator.  And his party has embraced his mindset, to the point at which almost one-third of Republicans believe that violence is the answer to “saving” the country. 

Guns.com says that, as of about a year ago, there were 434 million guns in this country, of which 20 million were AR-15s.  Such numbers are mind boggling.  How many gun owners have training in how to use their weapons?  How many store their guns safely?  How many consider it perfectly acceptable to assume vigilante roles, especially if their targets are people of color and/or politically different?  How did we get here?

As anyone of a certain age can testify, shoot-’em-up cowboy shows were nightly offerings in the ’50s and ’60s.  Then came the cop shows, a small segment of which prevails to this day.  But I don’t buy the excuse that TV violence produces violent adults; when I was growing up, we knew that TV was pretend, that we weren’t to act in real life the way we saw people on the screen act.  Violence wasn’t widespread in our everyday existences; it would have been utterly unheard-of for any public person to promote physical confrontation, and anyone doing so would have been banished from any possibility of an elected role.  Yet here we are, more than half a century later, and we’re numb to the mayhem that is reported endlessly.  We’ve reached a bizarre place in which such news stories barely even register.  Yes, TFG was a poster boy for inciting turmoil and havoc, accompanied by all manner of harm to people, but how did he get such traction?  How was he able to normalize slugfests and shootings?

There’s no pat answer to these questions.  The extreme individualism that began in the 1980s is surely part of it.  There’s a through-line from the idea that each person is more important than the collective whole, that there is no end to “freedom,” to the concept of going to any lengths to assert such freedom.  Inevitably, violence is one result.

The level of fear generated by the media, mostly of the right-wing persuasion, is another factor.  Fear that, “they’ll take away your guns,” fear that, “the immigrants will take your jobs,” fear that, “they’ll stop you from practicing your religion,” fear that, “the Covid vaccine contains microchips to track you.”  People go around in a state of near-panic, and again, violence becomes the answer, because self-defense is the default mode.  Enemies are lurking behind every bush, and “the other” are pouring into the country at alarming rates.

Perhaps the prevalence of extreme video games figures in, as well, especially when parents let computers be their nannies.  Such games, especially in the virtual reality forms, seem to be more intimate than TV shows, and if parents don’t closely monitor what their children are watching, and diligently reinforce the difference between virtual worlds and the real one, it’s likely that children could become desensitized to scenes of characters being zapped, impaled, and otherwise killed.

Add to this noxious mix the militarization of the police, and violence is ratcheted up yet further.  When people are given guns, badges, surplus military equipment, and, for all intents and purposes, lack of any threat of prosecution or accountability, is it any wonder police shootings are becoming more common all the time?  The almost unchecked rise of militias has paralleled this militarization of law enforcement.  I’m not asserting a connection, but both trends are bad news to ordinary citizens.

Swathes of major cities have been more or less ceded to gangs, becoming centers of violence.  Money and drugs are the fuel there, and it seems as if there’s no way to take the cities back. 

I have no answers.  I do think, however, that the forces that are actually in charge of the country — namely, the corporations and their minions, plus the military — are quite satisfied to sit back in their enclaves and let the rest of us fight it out.  As long as there remains a critical mass of consumers and enough bodies in the workforce, it’s fine with the powers that be that there are brawls in stadium parking lots, murders in alleys, and stand-your-ground “patriots” defending themselves against black people jogging down the sidewalks.  We have to be smarter than this.  Otherwise, we’ll all up living a Mad Max movie.

19 thoughts on “Where Does It End?

  1. we are already there, i fear, at least in the US and in other banana ‘republics’ whose governments have no intention of governing on behalf of its re-‘public’ citizenry’s salubrity. ‘en effet’, they and their corporate sponsors and myrmidons don’t give a flying fuckola about their ‘having no answers’ for the hoi-polloi over whom they exercise power, so long as they are not compelled to abjure their power, relinquish their own drug habits, renounce their armamentaria of choice, or impede their own stock options. putatively, their intentions, tho’ recondite, misleading, and deliberately abstruse, aim toward the genocide of ‘H.s.s.’s ‘garbage population’ who have outlived their relevance.

    your paragraph:

    “Perhaps the prevalence of extreme video games figures in, as well, especially when parents let computers be their nannies.  Such games, especially in the virtual reality forms, seem to be more intimate than TV shows, and if parents don’t closely monitor what their children are watching, and diligently reinforce the difference between virtual worlds and the real one, it’s likely that children could become desensitized to scenes of characters being zapped, impaled, and otherwise killed.”…….

    …reminds me of how there has been exiguous [scanty] change from my era of raising bantlings, beginning in the late 60’s, when my husband and i agreed that we would NEVER allow a television set to cross our domestic threshold, precisely due to the violence, savagery, and brain-benumbing ordure on offer back in the ’60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s [our final bairn, no. 7 was birthed in late1989 when we were 48 and 50 {TMI}]. nothing has altered but the intensity and prevalence of the electronic media’s ‘plugged-in drugs’ [a laudatory bow to dr. marie winn].

    our anti-TV proscription has carried over into the grand bantlings’ generation, but for what promissory future i have no clue. prof. yuval harari’s brain-bending “HOMO DEUS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF TOMORROW” [2016] is relevant here, particularly harari’s penultimate and final chapters on “THE OCEAN OF CONSCIOUSNESS” and “THE DATA RELIGION”.

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  2. I don’t think TV is bad, per se. I think kids’ consumption of it should be closely monitored, but there are some excellent nature and educational programs quite suitable for children. It’s when the TV turns into a babysitter that the trouble starts.

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  3. Reads so true and so sad. Is it really that bad? I’m so glad I don’t live in America but no room for complacency in Britain or anywhere else that apes America.
    Internationally shouldn’t the US be declared a terrorist state?

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    1. w/ unequivocal certitude, trevor… the US is both a banana republic and a terrorist state!. our municipal and provincial govts here in balatero baranguy and oriental mindoro island are far more intelligently, salubriously, and cooperatively run than the US’s cabal of military thugs, robber barons, political myrmidons and sycophants.

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      1. yes, trevor. my husband and i retired to the philippines over 7 years ago, when we were 73/75, first to san juan in la union province on luzon island’s south china sea coast for 2 years, then, over 5 years ago, to balatero baranguy on the verde island passage along mindoro island’s north central coast.

        am curious… did you mean it “would be interesting to meet your bairn” when YOU were 32, or meet our bairn no.7, kavan{augh}, who is now 32, at this nexus in your life when you are…. what age???? if the latter, kavan would be titillated by meeting you, w/ certitude!, whether 32 or 92!

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      2. Thanks for this. I meant the more obvious latter, I’m 75 just now.
        I’m thinking you must be American of Scottish extraction? (Is Mceachern a Scots name?).
        I have two friends married to Filipinas, one for 50 years, the other more recently as his third wife (serially), both with houses in the Philippines (but don’t ask me where – both on or near the coast I think).
        I’m mostly in Spain but in Portugal today and back to Inglaterra via Espanha at the end of the week. Will be down to 0C in Spain so expect you are a little warmer.

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      3. /Users/Jeanie/Desktop/View to NW of Verde Is. Passage from our veranda, 16:05:2020, REVISED.jpg

        do come for a visit post-pandemic. we would be delighted to host you. anytime thsat is convenient, trevor.

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      4. hmmm, any suggestions as to how i can rectify that? i know our fotos can be sernt to private email accts, but am a dimwitted neophyte re. how to load fotos onto a website’s comments section.

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      5. I don’t think you can add images to a wordpress comment. You can put in a link to an image somewhere on the web (I think) but not to a location on your own computer.

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      6. tnx trevor; your explanation is edifying; it serves to enhance my paucity of web conundrums.

        and yes, a mixed-race salmagundi is what we all are, no? the categorization of people by ‘race’ is arrant idiocy. our antecedents miscegenated w/ those of the taxonomic designation, ‘homo neanderthalis’ as well as multifarious other ‘outliers’ throughout our evolutionary history… the means by which our progenitors persisted w/ more roborated immune systems and indurated survival mechanisms. my family’s high cheekbones and slitty eyes suggest there were more than a few DNA contributions via copulations w/ asians and canada’s FIRST NATIONS tribes…. [ooops, drifting off-topic, again; apologies,denise.]

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, we’re a violent society, and it’s getting worse.

    The U.S. could easily be declared a terrorist state. Not only do we export violence: we terrorize each other.

    Want to learn about the USA? Watch Friday Night Smackdown on Fox. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. how delightful we have no TV, wja; the offerings on fox and its kindred troglodyte stations would render me more demented than i am already. yet ofttimes, on the contrary, creeping dementedness can be a survival mechanism!

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  5. responding to trevor’s earlier inquiry re. ancestral fountainheads:

    yes, we are sweltering insufferably here. the sea is our salvation. my husband’s progenitors are scot from the islands of tyree and iona. my maternal grandmother is a menzies from weem, scotland. my maternal grandfather was an immigrant from prague, bohemia. my paternal grandmother sourced from wales. my paternal grandfather’s antecedents derived from norway via iceland.

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