Los­ing faith in gun-happy Amer­ica

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

AS WEEKS go, this last one might take a bit of beat­ing. For sure, any­one about to kick the world’s most in­fa­mous bucket wasn’t about to die of bore­dom in this neck of the woods.

In Utah, five men armed with Winch­ester ri­fles, four of them with .30 cal­i­bre bul­lets loaded in the cham­ber, crouched be­hind a wall in­side a prison and took aim at a dou­ble mur­derer strapped down in a chair with a tar­get pinned to his chest. The sub­se­quent blast sent him into obliv­ion and sent the de­bate on cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment by fir­ing squad, re-in­tro­duced into the US back in 1976, into or­bit.

What­ever the ar­gu­ments be­tween the lib­eral left and rock-hard right, one thing was for sure. The is­sue ex­cited global de­bate, not least be­cause the at­tor­ney gen­eral in Utah thought the best way of pub­licly con­firm­ing the im­pend­ing ex­e­cu­tion and then the act it­self, was on his Twit­ter site.

This be­ing Amer­ica, per­haps we should have ex­pected a free CD show­ing the ac­tual shoot-up in the lo­cal Star­bucks. For as a nation, the Amer­i­cans sure do “in your face”. I fol­lowed a car down a Cal­i­for­nian high­way last week with a vast sticker on the back read­ing “Proud par­ent of a sol­dier”.

Now what­ever your views on the sac­ri­fices of the US mil­i­tary down the years, the pages of his­tory tell us that this nation has been knee-deep in a blood­bath some­where, ev­ery decade of the last cen­tury. The list of mil­i­tary con­flicts Amer­ica has rushed into these last 100 years is ex­tra­or­di­nary.

This lust for blood, this rush to the ri­fle, must surely have an echo in the vi­o­lent life of cit­i­zens such as Ron­nie Gardner, the con­vict despatched in Utah last week, 25 years af­ter he shot a lawyer in a botched court es­cape at­tempt.

The US warmed up for a cen­tury of con­flict by slaugh­ter­ing 300 Lakota In­di­ans at Wounded Knee in 1890. Troops then despatched to the Philip­pines around the turn of the cen­tury man­aged to help kill off an es­ti­mated 600 000 Filipinos.

In Hon­duras (1907) and Panama (1908) US Marines in­ter­vened; in­deed, US in­volve­ment in Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­tries like these and Nicaragua be­came the norm. Then, in 1918, the US fi­nally joined World War I.

In the 1920s, troops fought na­tion­al­ists in Turkey and more de­ployed in China dur­ing the na­tion­al­ist re­volt from 1927-1934.

The 1940s brought World War II, the 1950s war in Korea, 1960s Viet­nam, 1970s Laos and Cam­bo­dia, 1980s the in­va­sion of Gre­nada, the 1990s the first Iraq war and the 2000s, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Amer­ica is a nation seem­ingly un­able to be at peace, ei­ther with the world or it­self.

Yet we are surely en­ti­tled to ask our­selves whether this self-awarded role as the world’s po­lice­man is jus­ti­fied when so much re­mains wrong in the Amer­i­can home­land.

Mil­lions of Amer­ica’s own peo­ple are poverty-stricken, un­em­ployed or sick through dis­eases as­so­ci­ated with obe­sity. The place is fi­nan­cially bust, debt is om­nipresent and the on-go­ing list of ca­su­al­ties from Amer­ica’s cur­rent wars is sick­en­ing.

Fig­ures re­leased last week re­vealed that a shock­ing 245 US mil­i­tary per­son­nel com­mit­ted sui­cide last year alone. The oil pol­lut­ing the Gulf of Mex­ico and the coast­lines of many of the US’s south­ern states, is tes­ti­mony to mankind’s greed, but par­tic­u­larly the US’s greed.

Vi­o­lence at home and abroad; pol­lu­tion, sick­ness, moral de­cay, an ob­ses­sion with ma­te­ri­al­ism and a pres­i­dent who promised to be dif­fer­ent but is al­ready look­ing like just an­other politician. Is it any won­der the world is los­ing faith in the US and the Amer­i­can dream?

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