It’s The Culture Of War, Stupid!

Twisted Gun Statue

by Joshua on December 23, 2012

Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
-Bob Dylan, “Blowin’ In The Wind”

In the wake of the slaughter of 20 children and 6 staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, many Americans are asking the question “why?”

Why is it that a deranged young man was able to walk into a school and mow down a classroom full of first graders? Why is it that every week we hear reports of another massacre of innocents by a gun toting crazy? For all of its greatness, why does the United States have such an overwhelming problem with gun violence?

Stated simply, Americans kill each other at a rate that far exceeds any other developed nation in the world. Americans are 20 times more likely to die by gun violence than are citizens of every other developed country.

Some have argued that all of this violence is the direct result of impressionable young kids watching violent movies, listening to violent music lyrics, and playing violent video games. That argument just doesn’t add up when you look at the facts. Japanese youth play just as many violent video games as American youth, yet the Japanese don’t seem to have a problem with gun violence. (Probably because they don’t have many guns).

Consider the fact that in 2010, Detroit had 310 homicides, while Windsor, ON, Canada had zero. This despite the fact that the two cities are less than one mile apart. And youth in Detroit and Windsor largely watch the same movies and play the same video games. In fact, there is little evidence that video games, or any other media stimulant, lead to violent reactions. It is much more likely that violent individuals are drawn to violent stimuli than it is that movies, music and games are generating violent reactions.

If it’s not the culture of violent movies, music, and games, is it the culture of gun ownership?

It’s true that Americans own more guns than citizens of any other developed country. And yes, a prevalence of guns typically leads to more homicide. However, that doesn’t fully explain the shockingly high rates of gun violence in the United States. Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Serbia all have relatively high rates of civilian gun ownership and low rates of gun violence.

If other countries have high rates of gun ownership and play violent video games but don’t have the staggering problem of gun violence that we Americans have, then what is the difference?

It’s the culture of war, stupid!

America’s culture of violence and America’s culture of war are two sides of the same coin.

The United States supplies three quarters of the world’s arms trade. Under President Obama’s administration, U.S. arms sales have tripled. The U.S. sold $66.3 Billion worth of arms overseas last year. Russia was second at $4.8 Billion.

We supply the world with weapons and then look for reasons to wage war with the very people we helped arm in the first place. We’ve been at war for the past eleven years with no sign of slowing down. We have an entire generation of children who do not know of an America not at war.

And the reasons for our wars are generally sketchy (remember President Bush’s case for WMD in Iraq?) or not explained at all to the public (think of President Obama’s perpetual drone wars). Leaving aside the idea of rule of law, these drone strikes are so blatantly immoral in that they kill far more civilians than they do potential bad guys.

The United States is a war mongering, violence loving, narcissistic nation. It’s time for an intervention. As much as I love my country, someone has to say it.

Our first reaction as a nation to problems overseas is often to “bomb the other side back to the stone age!” So, why are we surprised that our schools, shopping malls, and movie theaters have turned into shooting galleries? Until we are able to resolve differences using non-violent methods, the fabric of our very society is at risk.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kevin December 23, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Thank you for speaking on the cult of violence in America. We are indeed a “statistical outlier,” with a homicide rate that is very low compared to that of Syria or Iraq, but practically off the charts when compared to that of our Canadian neighbors.

I can’t help but read your column, transposed against recent events, and think of Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine. Because by and large, we are safe in our homes, in our schools, in our public malls and movie theaters. And yet we have a culture of fear that causes people to stockpile on weapons.

We also have run-down inner cities due to failures of national policy. In Windsor, Ontario, every citizen is covered with single-payer health care, which relieves the extreme burdon of employee health care costs for employers. In Detroit, an entire industry was nearly bankrupted because of legacy costs–all because the United States failed to adopt universal health care since Harry Truman first proposed such a plan over sixty years ago. In Windsor, one sees a city with jobs in manufacturing, government, fine arts, and tourism. In Detroit, it looks like the city just endured an attack from the Luftwaffe.

How can we recover? We must love each other, or we will perish. Lyndon Johnson said that in 1964, and he would have been wise to take his own advice. It is not too late. Not now, not ever.

Here’s to the promise land. Merry Christmas!

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