The weekend of August 3-4, 2019 was again highlighted by mass shootings of innocent civilians in the United States of America, a nation all too disunited to deserve its centuries old sobriquet. One in Texas and the other in Ohio. One blamed on racist right wing extremism (“El Paso shooting: Border city goes from being target of rhetoric to target of gunman”, MSNBC August 5, 2019) and the other on left wing intolerance (see “Dayton shooter was apparently a self-professed ‘leftist,’ Warren & Sanders fan”, RT News, August 5, 2019).
The politicization of tragedies such as those in El Paso and Dayton is cynical and depraved from whichever segment of our polarized citizenry it spews. Unfortunately, in the anything-at-all-goes-if-it-provides-electoral-returns world we are currently condemned to, such sick manipulation is the norm, magnified by an all too willing mainstream media, although perhaps “orchestrated” rather than “magnified” is the operative world.
How sick is to see the glee from political opportunists every time a mass murder takes place as they jump, through hoops if necessary, to mine political capital, casting opponents as responsible on tenuous grounds at best. That our society seems perhaps terminally polarized as a result is not seen as a bad thing but rather as an opportunity. An opportunity to provide superficial solutions certain to be rejected thus providing additional delicious political fuel. And the victims of the massacres? Well, we have become enured to collateral damage as a result of our “adventures” abroad. Too bad, what a shame, what a pity! Don’t forget to donate to our political campaigns, every dollar helps. Resolve the underlying problems? Are you crazy? Golden geese are not meant to be eaten, even if we’re starving. Instead, the symptoms of our sick society are hyperbolized while the causes are left to fester.
There are real issues involved in the symptomatic reactions flashing across our screens all too frequently, real issues reflected in these heinous acts. Issues that need addressing, complex issues not suitable for sound bites. Issues such as:
- Is the current United States Constitution still relevant as an efficient governing framework, is federalism?
- Are the premises underlying the second amendment still valid?
- Is identity politics a major factor in the mass shooting pandemic we are experiencing?
- Would elimination of one of the tools currently used for mass murder lead to even worse devices, such as, for example, explosions, poison gas, biological weapons, use of vehicles, ?
President Trump and the others who stress that mental illness is the major factor in mass shooting of innocents are obviously right but so are those who find unresolved sociopolitical issues responsible, issues such as the immigration crisis, the healthcare crisis, racism and xenophobia, economic inequity, a dysfunctional criminal justice system, destruction of our environment, the refusal of one segment of the political spectrum to accept electoral decisions (a trend that will most probably become the norm), and the related willingness to convert anything and everything into a tool to attain political power, regardless of how ghoulish.
Is it possible that our society is terminally ill? Merely treating the symptoms reflected by, among many other things, mass murders (and the current tools favored to implement them) will not save us. The only solution would seem to be a shift in paradigm and that would require a political reboot, new political parties and leaders, and real independent, informative journalism. A change in our very souls, tolerance, a rebirth of the Golden Rule. The renaissance of forms of art and culture designed to bring out the best in each of us rather than to merely shock and titillate. Mutual respect rather than mutually assured destruction.
Is that still possible? Is it possible within the context of popular democracy?
Things for us to think about very seriously if we are to survive as a nation, as a People, as a planet.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2019; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen). Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at email@example.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.