Connecting the Crazy Dots: Assange, Recruiting Kids, the Tucson Massacre and General American Bloodthirstiness
There is, it cannot be denied, a tendency on the part of many Americans to grab for their guns, if not actually, then figuratively.
And let’s face it, we also have an awful lot of guns to reach for. The FBI estimates that it’s 200 million, not counting the guns owned by the military, and the National Rifle Assn. says that’s a number that rises by close to five million a year.
And we sure do use ‘em. NY Times columnist Bob Herbert reports that 150,000 people have been killed by guns in the US just in the first decade of this new century. Clearly it’s not just Tucson, a city in the state that's also famous for the old gunslinger town of Tombstone, that is the Wild West. This whole country is gun-crazy.
Back in the 1970s, when I was a journalist in Los Angeles, I witnessed police officers there drawing their guns on people being arrested for jaywalking. One poor guy was shot dead by accident because a cop who had made a traffic stop had his gun out and tripped as he approached the driver’s window. Honest. I reported on a case where a young man, Ron Burkholder, apparently burned badly while making some PCP in his basement so that he had torn off his clothes and run out onto the street naked, was shot dead by a cop. The thing was, Burkholder was a small skinny guy, and he was naked and clearly in pain. The cop, an experienced sergeant, well over six feet tall and powerfully built, blew Burkholder away with, if I remember right, five shots from his service revolver. Not one. Five.
His excuse: He “felt threatened” by the naked, and clearly unarmed, Burkholder.
No charges were filed.
When Julian Assange’s Wikileaks, in conjunction with several large media organizations including the New York Times, the UK Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel, released leaked cables that embarrassingly exposed both the pettiness and the bullying of the US State Department, there were immediate howls from members of Congress and from the right-wing talk radio and TV crowd for his summary execution. The more sedate called for his arrest, trial and then his execution. Now his lawyer in the UK has quite properly made the argument, at a hearing on a Swedish government extradition request on possible sex offense charges, that Assange faces the very real possibility of execution if extradited to Sweden because he could end up being snatched from that country by the US, and brought back to face a death penalty for his exposés, which the US would like to call “espionage.”
None of this bothers a lot of Americans, who seem to think summary execution without even a trial for just about anything is quite okay. Many Americans even say they think the death penalty is not only a good thing, but that we should be executing more people, and doing it faster. This despite recent solid evidence from Texas that innocent people have been executed, and despite fact that some 140 people have, thanks to DNA tests, been absolved of capital crimes for which they spent years on death row, sometimes coming within hours of execution.
That may explain why so many politicians these days, and self-proclaimed pundits like the corpulent druggie Rush Limbaugh and the Vicks addict Glenn Beck, call for the killing of those whose politics they don’t agree with.
It also, sadly, explains why so many young people respond positively to the lures of military recruiters, like the young friend I wrote about in this space just recently.