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Gun owners at gun-rights rally - Washington State - 15 January 2015

Gun owners at gun-rights rally
Capital, State of Washington – January 15, 2015
Photo Credit: The Washington Times/Associated Press
[See The White House Press Release, January 4, 2016, for
New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence]

Violence sells. Violence wins book and movie awards. When Jamaican author, Marlon James, won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2015 for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, I was elated. I had to read it. Set in Jamaica and New York (1976-1991), it’s a literary masterpiece on the nature of human violence and the forces that fuel it. It’s not reading for the faint of heart.

In his article, “Gun Culture and the American Nightmare of Violence,” Henry A. Giroux notes: “Popular culture not only trades in violence as entertainment, but also it delivers violence to a society addicted to a pleasure principle steeped in graphic and extreme images of human suffering, mayhem and torture.” The inculcation of such make-believe violence as a normal part of real-life, especially among our youth, concerns him. Addressing the roots of America’s culture of violence becomes more difficult.

In 2015, over 270 mass shootings occurred in the United States. Every other day, a child under twelve years of age dies from gunshot wounds. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that “2,525 children and teens died by gunfire in 2014; one child or teen death every 3 hours and 28 minutes, nearly 7 a day, 48 a week.” Yet the carnage continues unabated, thereby giving, as Giroux notes, more support to “guns and the hypermasculine culture of violence…than young people and life itself.”

Giroux explores the disquieting roots of violence in America that drives the arms industry, our wars overseas, and militarization of our police force. Since the Cold War (1947-1991), the US has morphed into a military state. Our defense budget for 2015 totaled $598.5 billion and accounted for 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending. With about 800 military bases worldwide, at an annual cost of $156 billion, we are a force to reckon with.

“A war culture now shapes every aspect of society as warlike values, a hypermasculinity and an aggressive militarism seep into every major institution in the United States, including schools, the corporate media and local police forces,” Giroux laments.

In using their economic wealth to seize political power, giant corporations are well-positioned to promote their own agenda. The military-industrial complex thrives on warfare. Protecting gun owners and sellers increases their profits. Politicians they endorse whip up an irrational fear of terrorism, while ignoring thousands of children within our borders who die from relentless gun violence.

“In fact,” says Giroux, “the fear of terrorism appears to feed a toxic culture of violence produced in part, by the wide and unchecked availability of guns.” Proposed reforms, to date, do not get to the root of the problem.

Giroux calls for an end to “the dominance of gun lobbyists; the reign of money-controlled politics; the proliferation of high levels of violence in popular culture; and the ongoing militarization of US society.” He concedes that only a mass political movement can restore our broken democracy. Are we up to the task?