Tag Archives: Militarism

Guns, bombs and social distrust

I don’t generally have much to say about the “mass shootings” which perhaps half of America regards as an ongoing First Order National Disaster while the other half has hardened its hearts and minds to the phenomenon completely. My view of it remains rather like my view of those other violent episodes, which (unlike domestic mass shootings) everyone agrees to call “terrorism.” They are lamentable, and a civilized society ought to do something about them, but neither one ranks nearly so high on a list of dangers to life and limb that the obsession which our culture chooses to experience is reasonable. As I pointed out a while ago, the “reality” that a handful of people killed by bullets is a tragedy while tens of thousands of people killed by errant automobiles is a statistic is a choice.

Still, I’m not indifferent to either of these phenomena, if separate phenomena they are. It simply frustrates me that we seem to do too much about one, and (in practical terms) not enough about the other. For a while, I have been toying with the notion that America’s embrace of organized armed violence (i.e. the military) as not only the universal answer to terrorism but as the premier guarantor of “our freedom” represents a kind of deeply lazy passivity. The ubiquity of this vague conviction that heavily armed men and women in uniform are “protecting our freedom,” in a society where most people frequently decline to exercise any part in self-government, suggests a kind of self-indulgent outsourcing. We claim to love freedom so much, yet apparently don’t believe that we have any direct personal responsibility for its maintenance, finding it much more satisfying to believe that someone else putting on a special uniform and blowing up some “bad guys” somewhere takes care of the job adequately.

This is tempting. But yesterday, it occurred to me that maybe abdication of personal effort isn’t really the key concept. There’s that strange dichotomy, after all, in America’s broad-based freak-out over terrorism and the determined resistance of maybe half the country to any significant policy response to mass shootings. It occurs to me that in the latter instance, abdication of personal effort is arguably the exact opposite of what’s at work, given that resistance to disarmament seems largely motivated by the idea (however unrealistic) that personal safety is best ensured by an individual wielding firearms in his or her own self-defense. Thinking about this, it further occurred to me that perhaps the key concept uniting these otherwise irreconcilable attitudes is deep societal distrust.

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Sanctimonious hypocrite in chief

“Our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” President Barack Obama declares on Friday. He is tired of the empty ritual of being consoler-in-chief after one mass shooting after another. It is not enough to express sympathies and bemoan as “tragic accidents” what are, in fact, the consistent outcome of intentional policy. That was yesterday.

Today, a Doctors Without Borders hospital is blown up in Afghanistan, with no one really suggesting any explanation besides U.S. airstrikes. Which are an entirely plausible explanation, as American bombs and missiles murdering people for no other reason than their being in the way is not unusual. It is, indeed, the consistent outcome of intentional policy.

The comment of the U.S. Embassy, which reports to President Barack Obama? “Doctors Without Borders performs terrific work throughout the world, including Afghanistan, and our thoughts and prayers are with their team at this difficult moment.”

The comment of U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who reports to President Barack Obama? “While we are still trying to determine exactly what happened, I want to extend my thoughts and prayers to everyone affected.”

It would almost be funny if it weren’t sickening and plain evil.

“Support the Troops” Reconsidered

Another archive item. To some extent the phenomenon about which I wrote the following, four years ago, seems quieter. In comparison with the intense volume of this century’s first decade, it probably is. I’ve wavered on reposting this in fact, but reading this persuaded me that it’s still worthwhile.

It’s that time again. Yesterday, the MMQB column of vacationing Peter King was turned over to First Sergeant Mike McGuire for some July 4th, rah-rah boosterism about America’s activities in Afghanistan.

Criticism of this, particularly on our most exuberantly patriotic, flag-waving All-American holiday, would no doubt be very poorly received by many, were they to read any such remarks. Despite the fact that the very document which makes this day a holiday, as the anniversary of its adoption, objects repeatedly to the government of the day’s expansion and elevation of the army within American society. America’s founders were indeed, like much of the nation throughout its early decades, suspicious of and opposed to standing armies in general, British or American. Hardly much precedent for an obligatory “support the troops” sentiment, then.

All the same I’m sure that King, who has sort of “adopted” McGuire as a patron hero during the past several years, would probably at least question my timing in making critical comments, if nothing else. Which is fine, since I’ve long questioned the active and energetic embrace by King, and many others, of “the troops” as a sort of all-purpose, all-weather, nonpartisan, unifying cause for unequivocal celebration.

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