It's too soon to tell about our rulers and their incestuous bedmates in the mass media. After all, when Gabby Giffords was shot, predictions were that the shooting of a congressperson would finally knock some sense into some thick congressional skulls. It did not. But it does appear that regular people are now speaking out with an outrage, indignation and anguish that we have heretofore not heard. We may finally have had enough of the crocodile tears of politicians who send their prayers and their hugs and their rah-rah stories of our exceptional American resilience in the face of unspeakable tragedy, how we are a good nation at heart, and how we always come together at times like these.
The execution-style murders in an upper-middle class bucolic Connecticut town bear a chilling similarity to the massacre in Afghanistan last spring, when Sgt. Robert Bales took a walk and methodically slaughtered 16 people, more than half of them children asleep in their beds. Official reactions, of course, were chillingly dissimilar.
President Obama, on the Afghanistan mayhem: “This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan."
President Obama, on the Connecticut mayhem: "We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. And each time I learn the news I react not as a President, but as anybody else would — as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do."
I got the transcript of Obama's remarks from his favorite neo-liberal think tank -- the Center for American Progress. The heading for this message of heartfelt paternal condolence was, unbelievably, War Room. That a president who claims to speak as a parent has his PR outfit send out a copy of his speech as though it came from a bunker under siege is proof positive that the imagery of weapons and killing and death and paranoia pervades our culture from top to bottom.
When children are killed abroad by sanctioned military terrorists, we throw bags of money at their families to make them shut up.
When children are killed in the Homeland by unsanctioned domestic terrorists, we throw bags full of prayers at their families to make them shut up.
When children are killed in "tribal areas" by robotic terrorists, we simply deny that they ever even existed in the first place.
And if all else fails, we blame the children themselves for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There's really not much difference between Mike Huckabee stupidly blaming lack of prayer in the classroom for Friday's carnage, and American imperialists blaming dead Muslim children for picking the wrong parents. Just last week, news broke that American and British troops are deliberately targeting children in Afghanistan, because by their very existence in a war zone, they demonstrate "hostile intent." Wow. I must have missed the outpouring of regret from the generals and the outpouring of grief from the commander in chief.
The corporate media coverage of child murders here and child murders there is also markedly different. The lead paragraph in the New York Times story on the Afghanistan massacre:
Stalking from home to home, a United States Army sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children, in a rural stretch of southern Afghanistan early on Sunday, igniting fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility, Afghan and American officials said.And the lead paragraph from the Times story on the Connecticut shootings:
A 20-year-old man wearing combat gear and armed with semiautomatic pistols and a semiautomatic rifle killed 26 people — 20 of them children — in an attack in an elementary school in central Connecticut on Friday. Witnesses and officials described a horrific scene as the gunman, with brutal efficiency, chose his victims in two classrooms while other students dove under desks and hid in closets.The Times didn't get around to adding the horrific scenes and eyewitness accounts of the Afghanistan murders until deep into the article -- and then, only after quoting the president and the generals about what an "isolated incident" it was, after more than a decade of cumulative isolated incidents resulting in the deaths of thousands of Muslim civilians.
What if the Connecticut story had been framed like this: "A 20-year-old man wearing combat gear and armed with pistols and a semiautomatic rifle killed 26 people -- 20 of them children -- igniting fears of a new wave of anti Second Amendment hostility?"
People would have called it tasteless, and worse, to dwell upon the plight of official reputations and special interest groups instead of on the victims and their families. But for all their platitudinous blather, that is just how the White House and all but a handful of our politicians are squeamishly trying to protect their own reptilian hides. Spokesman Jay Carney was rightly castigated for his whimpering that "today is not the day" to discuss gun control.
Roxana Green, whose young daughter was killed in the Tucson shooting that wounded Gabby Giffords, has had enough. As one of the many victims of lax gun laws and presidential prayers, she points out that the day to discuss gun control was yesterday, a month ago, a year ago, 10 years ago. In an accompanying email to a petition for stricter gun laws, she writes
I've heard a lot of promises from politicians since my daughter was murdered in Tucson, Arizona, including President Obama. But I am still waiting for them to act.
And I'm not alone in my frustration. As horrible as it sounds, mass shootings have become common in our country, and 34 Americans are murdered with guns every single day. That means 48,000 people will be murdered with guns in the president's next term. Yet our broken laws remain broken, and our leaders have yet to step forward with a plan to end gun violence.A petition seeking new gun control legislation has been posted on the White House website and garnered 25,000 signatures in the first hour.
Politicians who urge prayer and forebearance instead of acting to protect the citizenry should just resign and ponder their hypocrisy somewhere else. And that includes the paternalist in chief, who recently signed legislation allowing people to carry concealed weapons in national parks and on Amtrak trains. If he can't stand the heat against packing heat, he should just get out of the kitchen.