On Breaking the Social Contract.

I heard a really ridiculous analogical defense of the 2nd by a ‘guns rights’ advocate that necessitated a response.  He said that he didn’t hear anyone advocating that we ban flying after 9/11 because it is not the modus operandi of a crime that matters but the motive behind it.

In a sense he is right.  As a matter of fact, George Bush got on T.V and encouraged everyone to fly after the twin towers fell because flying was still safe.  However, it wasn’t our right to fly that was taken away, but something of much more consequence.

After 9/11, breaches to the constitution were commonplace.  I boarded planes many times under ridiculously absurd pseudonyms; I think Mickey Mouse was my favorite.  “Here you are, Mr. Mouse.” laughed the woman selling me my ticket as she handed it to me with about 30 minutes to spare before my flight boarded.  Those days are now long ago and far away.  Today, aside from showing up at least two hours prior to boarding and waiting in absurdly long lines, we endure hazardous body scanners that, while courts have found them not to violate the 4th amendment, undoubtedly since they don’t want to interfere with the lucrative security contracts that former Homeland Security officials will profit from, civil rights groups, and even a GOP lawmaker, disagree.

Of course the post-9/11 abridgements didn’t stop there.

We all remember the FISA scandal.  Yet since that time the security state has only grown more trenchant, especially under Obama, when it comes to upending our 8th amendment rights.  Everyday our phone calls are listened to and recorded, our texts and emails read and stored and we are filmed under NSA, DHS, FBI, CIA and countless other government surveillance programs, and all in the name of security.  Even medical professionals have been asked to spy on us by our government.  Increasingly, we are even incorporating drones into domestic policing.  Added to the cost of our regular military budget, we pay about $1 trillion dollars a year for the privilege of being subjected to espionage.  And meanwhile, if state secrets are revealed, the government reprisal against their former intelligencer is relentless.

This brings me to my last point.

We have a right to both a speedy and fair trial as well as protection from cruel and unusual punishment—read torture—under the 6th and 8th amendments, respectively.  Nevertheless, since the PATRIOT (2001) and Homeland Security (2002) Acts anointed the security state supreme, we routinely hold people in detention both arbitrarily and indefinitely.  Moreover, since the 2006 Military Commissions Act and the more recent NDAA, we also torture them, and do so legally.  Nor does such state criminality apply solely to so-called “terrorists”.  It also applies to American citizens—not that there should be a merited distinction.

I feel like these points are so often cited that they have become banal and platitudinous, which is all the more frightening given that there is so little sustained public outrage against abuse of state power.  But when I hear people touting the second amendment with such vivacity, or more often with such vitriolic fear of governmental encroachment into our private lives, I fail to understand why they don’t see that the state has already purloined the bulk of our rights and why they don’t show as much oppositional vehemence to these abuses?

I think it is safe to say that we when a major bank that has laundered money for terrorist organizations and drug cartels can get a free pass from the government yet we incarcerate 2.5 million citizens a year, mostly for non-violently using the drugs sold by these cartels, we already crossed the line in the sand that frets 2nd amendment exponents long ago.

On a Culture Predicated Upon War.

It was a horrific scene to think of: a massacre in an elementary school.  To kill is unthinkable; to kill a child in antithetical every fiber of our beings.  In the tragic aftermath of today’s shootings, FaceBook rightly light up with both condemnations of the perpetrator and expressions of love and gratitude for the safety of ones’ own child.  It was both disheartening and heartening at the same time.  I don’t watch T.V. but assuredly the media is disingenuously asking, “How can this happen?” while politicians can’t even mutter the words “gun control”.

Yet there is a deeper, more structural and more pernicious, component at work here.  This is something that the controlling of small arms can’t prevent.  In fact, in many ways I feel that gun control makes little to no difference at all.

We live in a society that is predicated upon war.  It saturates every aspect of our culture, from how capital is accumulated to how we entertain— or better yet how we inculcate— ourselves.

At a very young age we learn of war and killing.  T.V. and movies, like the recent Bond film, are replete with violence and gore so that we learn that some killing is good, i.e. the bad guy, the terrorist, the thief, whereas some killing is bad, i.e. the good guy, the freedom fighter, the stalwart hero.  We play with action figures; at least I did as a child, which is designed for us to imitate war.  We begin to mentally put ourselves in a killer’s shoes, and then we heed the call for dinner.  Today we play surreal, life-like video games that not only closely emulate war but literally prepare one for the preferential mode of killing: Drone warfare.  Meanwhile we will standby idly as education budgets for our children are slashed while military spending staggers to rates unprecedented in human history.  Then when another war rears its ugly head, the same media chorus that is puzzled by today’s tragedy is all too ready to put a pretty face on war in an attempt to corral the necessary public support.

And so it is that when we hear— or so often we don’t as the case sadly is— that from one of our one thousand military bases around the world a child in Yemen, Gaza, Pakistan,  Afghanistan or Iraq is killed, or even that a child may be starved by sanctions as in Iraq yesterday or perhaps Iran tomorrow, it is little more than collateral damage.  If we as a people can either openly or, perhaps worse still, tacitly, condone our President murdering an American citizen, who happened to be a child, then how can we express principaled disgust at what happened today?

I think that we need to capitalize in times of crisis, to take stock and reevaluate our social relations, because clearly they are not working.