The horrific massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday, May 24, was so awful that it defies description. The 18-year-old gunman entered a classroom and started shooting. At least 21 children and 3 adults died. Sadly, we all know this is no isolated incident. This is the 27th school shooting and the 250th mass shooting (depending on exactly how you define a mass shooting) in the U.S. this year. And we are less than five months into the year!
It seems like things are out of control — and they are. In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, millions of children go to bed hungry every night, hundreds of thousands live on the streets without a place to call home, millions have little or no healthcare, millions of workers’ wages are inadequate to house and feed their families, inflation and unemployment routinely threaten workers’ incomes. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen the health system allow the most Covid deaths in the world by far. The nation’s infrastructure is crumbling. Wildfires, droughts, and hurricanes are out of control. More and more young people see no hope for their future.
All of these things contribute to making people feel helpless, hopeless, afraid, and often uncaring about others who are probably facing the same problems. So, some lash out. Maybe it’s violence against family members or in the neighborhood. Maybe it’s road rage. In some cases, it’s mass shootings.
Although such violence is sickening and horrifying, it is no longer surprising. It is a fact of life in the United States. Violence is essential to the way the wealthy rulers of this nation and their government maintain their control. So, it seems that quite a number of ordinary people take the lesson that violence is acceptable, normal, and right.
The U.S. is Number One in the world in both the total number and rate of people incarcerated. Cops, who allegedly are supposed to maintain order, have always been out of control one way or another. Popular movies and TV shows are often centered on people and government using force and violence to address problems. And they are usually presented as heroes.
The U.S. is Number One in export of weapons and the U.S. Government has by far the biggest war-making machine in the world, with over 750 military bases in over 80 countries worldwide — three times as many as every other country combined. And the U.S. spends more on its military than the next ten countries combined — including spending more than three times what China and Russia combined spend on their militaries.
As Civil Rights Movement leader H. Rap Brown said, “Violence is a part of America’s culture. It is as American as cherry pie.” That was true in the 1960s and 1970s, and it is certainly true today.
But we need to understand that it is not inevitable that things continue like this forever. We need to understand that those who rule the society by force — the One Percent — are a small minority. Rather than lash out at each other, the rest of us need to understand that we can reject the One Percent’s selfish values and fight their power by organizing ourselves against the horrors of this society.