Tolerable Terrorism

Another mass shooting by another lone lunatic. 12 lives – 12 families forever impacted. America? America shrugs. America doesn’t care. We have terrorism-scare-porn all day on the insidiously banal 24 hour cable news channels, and absolutely nothing will be done to try and prevent it from happening again. 

Because it takes a special mix of mental illness and access to firearms to plot and execute a mass killing. Luckily, we live in a country with unequal and iffy access to health care services – particularly mental health services, and which permits any person to build a Koreshian arsenal without much effort, thanks to ready access to enough firearms and mil-wank accoutrements to outfit a small banana republic. 

Neighborhood Watch

Neighborhood Watch

2012 saw seven mass shootings, including the mass murder of 20 1st graders. In a normal and healthy society, Sandy Hook alone would have been seen as excessive – something worth doing something about. Given remotely normal civic discourse, we would have taken serious measures at that time to help better balance the legitimate constitutional desires of people to feel safe in their homes and persons against others’ rights to be free from random mass murder. 

We had a discussion, and in the end America’s leaders decided against a weak and symbolic gesture because Barack Obama eats arugula, or something. The same forces that oppose even modest gun reform, oppose the first American effort to implement a market-based universal health care system – a system that might enable earlier and more effective mental health treatment and intervention for more Americans. 

For a week or so after Sandy Hook, the National Rifle Association – the gun manufacturers’ lobbying group – kept quiet, and people thought that was tactful. But when it spoke up, it added insult to the injuries suffered at the barrels of Adam Lanza’s guns. It told us that we need more – not fewer – guns in our society, and that we should spend hundreds of millions of dollars in schools, not on education, but on armament. In a time where communities are struggling to pay teachers, the NRA suggested that they all spend up on hiring gunmen.

We could maybe aspire to be like Jamaica or El Salvador – third world autocracies with massive income inequality where the building blocks of civil society are inept, corrupt, or both. Because more guns lead to more violence and killings. More guns don’t make a polite society, they simply make an arrogant and armed society – a society where it becomes much easier to bring about permanent retribution for even perceived slights. 

“A society that is relying on guys with guns to stop violence is a sign of a society where institutions have broken down.”

More guns means more killing – factually and statistically. Yesterday’s shooter apparently hit the gun fetish trifecta: Texan with a criminal record and a concealed carry permit

The Constitution gives people a right to bear arms, sure. But it doesn’t give you the right to own an arsenal big enough to fight the government. It was written at a time when the US had no standing army. We had no standing army because the Founding Fathers didn’t want one. So, every able-bodied male was a member of the militia. The purpose of the 2nd Amendment isn’t to give Gadsen Flag-wrapped idiots the means to overthrow the government, but to protect the government and the state from attack or invasion. 

Newsreaders’ TelePrompTers prompted them to wonder aloud whether the Navy Yard shooting was “terrorism”. When a lone gunman wanders the halls of an office building, shooting randomly at innocent people, that pretty much fits the dictionary definition. I think they were differentiating between “foreign/Qaeda” or Qaeda-inspired terrorism versus Sandy Hook / Aurora lone insane person. But the combination of poor mental health care, with easy access to guns is only going to bring about more random mass shootings. There is no doubt that these events are terrorism, in that they are random, senseless, and kill innocent victims. But this is terrorism we will tolerate. We won’t bomb anyone, Republicans will vote a 43rd time to repeal universal health care, and nothing will happen with gun laws. Because this is doubtlessly terrorism, but it’s the kind we have, as a society, decided we can live with. 

We have decided to live with it because we have decided that the right of people to bear unlimited arms is greater than the right of average people not to be shot.