Losing faith in gun-happy America
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?