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The Tucson Shooting and the End of the Frontier Myth

Hello darkness my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
- Paul Simon, 1964

Jared Loughner with GlockJared Loughner with Glock

The same year the Tet Offensive in Vietnam made it clear that war was a quagmire, there was a spate of domestic political assassinations in America. It was a highly polarized and volatile time when people struggled with issues of race and class. Civility suffered.

Forty-three years later, the similarities are stark. The economy is distressed to the point poor and working class Americans are fearful and uncertain about the future. Meanwhile, the world of high finance has rebounded and is again thriving; and the military budget consumes more than half of US tax resources.

The National Security State keeps Americans in the dark about exactly what it is doing around the world. Citizens are told US troops will be removed from Iraq next year -- maybe -- if everything is stable and leaving is in our interest. Meanwhile, our leaders are escalating the war in Afghanistan and expanding it into Pakistan.

The fact is US military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is not really a “war,” as much as it is an expensive, and virtually permanent, imperial occupation that began under Bush and is continuing with little change under Obama.

Most Americans have no personal stake in either occupation, and a majority of them consistently tell pollsters they're opposed to the occupations. Yet, our military presence continues.

Americans have become cynically acclimatized to this state of affairs, which amounts to a passive moral accommodation to their government’s use of lethal violence in the far reaches of the globe.

The top-down message of these wars that seeps into the pores of all Americans is that violence is an acceptable, even honorable, means to solve problems. We are Americans, and no one pushes us around, and if they do, they will face “shock and awe.” Violence makes things happen. That message inevitably filters down and nestles in the minds of even the most crackpot citizen. Violence clarifies like nothing else.

The rhetorical violence and, now, the actual violence we see today is not coming from left elements frustrated over being unable to stop our military occupations or the excesses of the rich. This violence is coming from the right and seems driven by a need to hold onto or regenerate some past golden age perceived as being stolen by the forces of the left.

Are guns and madness beyond social control?

Two days after the shooting in Tucson, I suggested to a friend that Iraq and Afghanistan might have something to do with the bitter climate in America that produced the shooting in Tucson.

A ridiculous idea, he said. I was a naïve, anti-war leftist who did not understand that, as he kept saying, “There’s nothing we can do about it” – it being the possibility of someone obtaining a gun and shooting a public figure. There were just too many guns in America. Change was futile.

“Security is the only way to deal with the problem,” he said with finality.



story | by Dr. Radut