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Issue #1716      January 27, 2016

Culture & Life

Guns and the USA - again

The United States of America. The majority of the people who live there will tell you it’s the greatest country on Earth. Even the ones without a job or a home! (Brainwashed? You think?) Thanks to the inadequacy of their education system (which paradoxically they think is the greatest in the world), plus the control of their mass media by a cabal of billionaire press barons, and the way their population has been ruthlessly brainwashed since the Second World War, Americans have no comprehension of how people in other countries actually live (or think).

Contrary to what Americans are repeatedly told, people in other countries do not spend their time envying the inhabitants of the USA. Sure it’s a rich country, but most Americans don’t see any of that wealth. They scrape by on minimum wages. Poverty is rife and getting more prevalent every year. And people in other countries know this.

They also know that US corporations backed up by the US military looted the wealth of Latin America as well as a lot of other countries and siphoned it into US bank vaults, making America (as distinct from Americans) rich. But America can’t do that any more, at least not as easily as it used to. Now, the Latin American countries have their own trade deals, and Brazil part of the BRICS group of major economies that excludes the US and the EU.

Thanks to the way the countries of Latin America were looted by the US over many years, there is still a big wealth gap between them and the US, but not nearly as big as Americans think it is. Nevertheless, when the poor in Latin America get desperate enough, they try to cross the border into the USA, the “land of the free” in search of work that is denied them at home by companies whose head office more often than not is in the USA.

The national symbol of the USA is the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, celebrating the way the USA welcomed refugees and the poor from Europe when it needed settlers to build up its economy. Today the statue is a 93 metre tall sick joke, as would-be refugees and immigrants are hunted down by police and returned across the border. They are treated not as refugees but as criminals.

A plaque on the base of Miss Liberty, as Americans call the landmark statue, proclaims: Send me your huddled masses yearning to be free.

But unless the huddled masses are white and well heeled, there is no welcome for them in the USA today. Except, that is, as part of the thriving black economy, which depends on the cheap labour of illegal immigrants to provide the rich with all the services they take for granted, from house cleaning to waitressing to working in their non-unionised sweatshops.

Most Americans are aware of this situation, but they are not prepared to do anything about it, regarding it as basically just a “fact of life”. Like that other US “fact of life”, namely that there are approximately four million guns in the country. In fact, the presence of illegal immigrants in the country is often used as an excuse to justify the huge number of privately-owned guns. One has a right to protect oneself, doesn’t one?

Well, that’s what the gun nuts in the USA say all the time, but it doesn’t make them safer. The USA is rife with mass shootings at schools, shopping malls and movie theatres. Compared to other countries, life in the USA is not safe by any definition of the term. And Americans know this. Most of them just won’t accept it. They prefer to cling to the gun lobby’s macho myths about “the right to bear arms” and fantasies about how all the victims of the latest mass shooting would have been saved “if only I had been there at the time with my gun”.

There are millions of guns in America, and yet you never hear of a gun nut pulling out his trusty Winchester and saving a school full of kids or a mall full of shoppers. One in three homes with children in the United States has a gun. Despite the headlines, most shooting deaths occur in the home or some related place. In fact, official statistics show that a gun in the home makes the likelihood of homicide three times higher, suicide three to five times higher, and accidental death four times higher. For each time a gun in the home injures or kills in self-defence, there are 11 completed and attempted gun suicides, seven gun criminal assaults and homicides, and four unintentional shooting deaths or injuries. The children of the oppressed in America – poor Black, American Indian and Alaska Native children and teens – are disproportionately likely to die from a gun.

Thanks to the lobbying power of the gun industry and those corporations with a financial or political stake in maintaining the paranoia prevalent in the US population, the US Congress won’t even permit federal funding of research into gun violence, prompting the question: Why is the National Rifle Association so afraid of the truth?

If the USA were a person rather than a country, its behaviour and attitudes would indicate the presence of a severe level of mental illness. How disturbed does a country have to be to make the assertion that “a much more coordinated and concentrated research effort is crucial to make gun violence reduction one of the first major public health goals of the 21st century”?

That “reducing gun violence” even needs to be seen as a public health goal, should be worrying enough. Just as worrying is the realisation that millions of Americans think “reducing gun violence” means you are a wimp.

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