“Blame the father” – this is what has been suggested by one of the Republican Candidates, Bobby Jindal, after the mass-shooting in Oregon. He took aim at the father of the shooter and claimed that this man had not been a part of the boy’s life and, as such, must take blame for his offspring’s actions in walking on to the campus of the Community College in Roseburg and opening fire on innocent men and women. Ok. Blame the father.
Of course, the Republican candidates need to be a little circumspect here…after all, the father of the Oregon shooter did at least instil in his child an acceptance of the love of the lord. “Are you Christian?” he asked before opening fire. At least the parents managed to instil some religious belief and appreciation in their child. In the godless society that all Republicans fear, this is to be applauded, surely? Maybe only a one handed clap: it’s so confusing: the boy did do the shooting…but he did acknowledge that there is a Christian heaven…but then he shot…but he admits they will be going to heaven… Yes, a one handed clap it is! A one handed clap; or a slap as they are more commonly known.
That seems about right for the Republican Party, a slap across the face of America and an admonishment for merely considering the notion that perhaps a soupçon of change may be the right thing to do to try and reel in the number of and variety of weaponry for sale in a country that normalises shooting as a response to a situation.
What about the parents of the 11 year old boy who shot the 8 year old girl who wouldn’t let him play with her puppies? Are they to blame too? Are they to blame for the mood in a country that devalues warnings and strategies to eliminate gun violence? Are they to blame for the unbelievable reaction in America after each recent mass-shooting…which is to buy more guns? Are they to blame for the manner in which violence is portrayed – hypocritically demonising violence and violent behaviour on the part of the bad guys whilst eulogising and celebrating acts of violence by the good guy? (Who is the good guy? Who gets to make that decision?) And when a good guy tries to suggest that perhaps having less access to certain types of killing device or tries to limit access to amounts of killing device accessories – magazines that can hold over ten bullets, say – why is this good guy made bad? Are the parents to blame for the pervading belief in American society that the right to have weapons and to use weapons aggressively is a normal thing to do?
The Republican Party response to these shootings is becoming stagnant and despicable. When politician turned Fox presenter turned politician Mike Huckabee starts to link the idea of sin into all this, and decries the actions of the shooter as if he originated in some sort of Gomorrah, you have to ask – just how out of step am I with the way people in America think about this issue? Or, they seem to imply that meeting fire with fire is the best way to save the day (Except when you actually are confronted with a man with a gun, eh Ben Carson!). Attack the shooters! Draw your own guns and blaze away…never mind the collateral damage, you were wearing the white Stetson, you were the Ranger, you were the good guy. (Or, oh, Ben Carson, the gift that keeps on giving, you were one of the now armed members of the Jewish faith in 1930s Germany. He’s brilliant.)
I’ve just finished reading One Summer – America 1927, by Bill Bryson. It is, as with all Bill Bryson’s books, stupendous. It gave me one insight into how I differ in the way I think about arming myself than some Americans do. The bomb threat of the Anarchist movement through the 1920s was something I was completely ignorant of. The fact that there was such agitation in the States in the 1920s was a subject I was ignorant of until Mr Bryson illuminated it for me. The random nature of the bombings, the lack of warning, the nastiness of the bombings perhaps segues nicely into an argument that goes – I could potentially be under threat here…I need a weapon to defend myself: especially if you were a lawmaker or a policeman or an aspiring politician or merely politically motivated. Having said that, the indiscriminate nature of the bombing meant that just being in America might mean you get targeted or get caught in a detonation. I can’t think of anything quite so terrifying as walking down a street not knowing whether a bomb may explode near you; or whether opening a parcel may lead to it detonating in your hands. Actually, hang on…I lived in Britain through the 70s and 80s. I can imagine that. Did I feel the need to have a gun during this time? No. Why? Well, I was a kid – and a kid who loved guns! Guns were fun things at the time…I used to love my SLR with proper firing action and stuff like that (Oh, I was an Airfix soldier junkie!) – BUT I was a kid who lived in a country where not having a gun was the norm. I also reckon that those people living in Spain might also have similar experiences and plenty of other areas of the world where organised terrorist groups have been in action. Because it wasn’t the norm to be armed, the need to be armed never occurred to us.
Is it that it’s the norm for America? Perhaps that’s it. It’s the norm and the fact that a way of life is going to change is too much for most to tolerate. Then again, smoking was a way of life too. Apartheid was a way of life. For some, so was opium. Mass killers all. We’ve managed to adapt to these changes with some success – more so for some than others. And there’s the rub. It can be done, America, trust us…we’re your friends. (Perhaps it’s not a way of life thing, perhaps it’s a reluctance to let go of the now? The UK was built on violence and warfare, invasion and revolution, just like the USA. BUT – the UK was fought over with what are now obsolete weapons. Perhaps when lightsabers are the norm, Americans will be happy to give up their guns as antiquated artefacts from a bygone age, much like the broadsword and crossbow of the Norman age. I mean America did give up the horse in the face of the car… Perhaps not.)
Then again, gun ownership is the norm in so many countries. Where are the repeated mass-shootings of Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada? What is missing in these countries that is present in America? I have a couple of ideas, but I don’t think you’re going to like them:
Waning power. America is a waning power in the world. The industrial revolutions of China and India, and developing economies in other areas of the world, and the increasing influence of Islam as against the increasing devolution away from Christian churches are affecting the global balance of power in a negative way for America. The idea of kowtowing to global reaction to these shootings is too much for some to bear…especially those to the right of the political spectrum.
We’re all stars now. Saturation media now means 15 minutes of fame is never far away – I’m ready to be a superhero or a vox-pops or a victim of society and I will have notoriety for eternity. I mean, it worked for Kim…but I don’t have the body for her preferred method…I’ll own a gun…that may be my way to the limelight!
You can’t tell me what to do. This is a pervasive aspect of society that’s global too and I must confess, I have no idea how to change this. All rights, no responsibility. Saturation media and increasing civil irresponsibility and a bullying mentality appear approved of in this day and age. We watch people suffer and fall and laugh. We call it “car-crash TV”. We judge and feel judged. We spit venom at those we disagree with. This is a world where it is a normal reaction for a boy to shoot a girl because she won’t let him join in the game.
They’re just thoughts.
America must be near a turning point. It is a great country, responsible for so much good in the world and I country and people I admire greatly. It is a country that has a problem. It is time for recognition and action. A new country, a new attitude has to be nurtured. A new norm needs birthing. It can’t be a natural reaction for an 11 year old boy to shoot an 8 year old girl because she wouldn’t let him do something he wanted to.
Some of my reaction is glib. Annoying isn’t it?