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.