Two weeks ago in Arizona, a disturbed man with a gun walked into a group of people attending a local political event organized by a congresswoman and began shooting. Six people were killed and fourteen were wounded in the rampage.
Since the shooting, the media has been exposing us to story after story about it. Many of them have focused on the shooter, Jared Loughner. As always with these kinds of stories, we are forced to listen to journalists debate their usual list of hysterical questions: Why did Loughner do it? Where did he buy his gun? Is it only a matter of time until we see another “Arizona”? Is the Arizona shooter a “terrorist”? We seem to hear the same stories and stupid questions from the media every time there is some sensational act of violence in the world.
But as awful as these individual acts of sensational violence are, they don’t compare to the everyday terror that doesn’t make the news headlines: the violence inflicted on millions by banks and corporations.
Currently, more than 25 million people in the United States are either unemployed or working part-time when they prefer to be working full-time. And many of those unemployed have been so for months, in some cases years. The number of people who have been unemployed 99 weeks or longer is more than 2 million. And why are so many people forced to suffer through this daily terror of not knowing when, or if, they will ever find a job? Simply because it wouldn’t be profitable for corporations to hire them.
Many of those unemployed have also been kicked out of their homes by banks who are only interested in whether someone pays their mortgage-not whether a family is now terrified about where they will sleep. Since the beginning of the economic crisis, more than three million homes have been repossessed by banks. And for the millions of families who are under the threat of foreclosure, the terrorists are planning another attack in the coming years: in 2011 alone, the banks are predicting that they will repossess more than 1.2 million homes. By 2013, the total number of homes repossessed is predicted to be six million.
As a result of these attacks by corporations and banks, more than 43 million people in the US are now living in poverty-the highest number ever recorded. This increasing poverty is reflected in the record numbers of people who are struggling just to find enough food to eat. In California alone, more than 11 million people live in households where people don’t have enough to eat or have to worry where each meal will come from. Because their growth and development depends on getting proper nutrition, this kind of food insecurity hits young children especially hard. Throughout the country, food banks have been reporting shortages of food due to increases in demand.
But things are great for the banks and corporations. Their attacks have wreaked havoc on millions, but have made them billions in profits. Recently, corporations announced that their last quarter was the most profitable ever. And just last week Goldman Sachs announced it will be paying out more than $15 billion just in bonuses, most of it going to high-level executives.
But the message we hear from the news media day-in and day-out is that we should focus our anger elsewhere or be afraid of crazy individuals lurking around the corner. They tell us we should be mad at the public worker who has a pension. That we should be mad at the undocumented immigrant. That we should be afraid of the “terrorist” who wants to ride our airplane. And on and on.
It is not a surprise that the media do this rather than report on the real terrorism inflicted by banks and corporations. After all, that’s who owns them. But we shouldn’t let them tell us who to be mad at. And we can’t let them distract us from the real story: that it is their system that really terrorizes people. That it is the actions of banks and corporations that is the biggest threat to our well-being and the well-being of the planet. And that we have the collective power to put an end to it.