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KILLING OF CHILDREN December 17, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Nonviolence, US Politics.

Why is it that the killing of children in Connecticut seems more immediate to me than the killing of children in Waziristan? In terms of physical distance, Waziristan is closer.

I don’t have a television. I don’t want one. As it was I pre-occupied and did not get the news until Saturday Then I began to read the reports. I immediately identified. American ABC reported on the events providing the usual explanation of a disturbed and isolated individual:

There was no mention in this report of gun control, or of the statistics that show the disproportionate numbers of gun killings in the US. The pattern of massacres is to be expected and will continue. Given the passage of some more months, we will be hearing about the next massacre, with the same features of a disturbed individual with access to firearms and a need for empowerment. Normality will prevail.

Similarly, normality prevails in Waziristan. As Ahmed Wali Mujeeb reported for the BBC:

Pakistan’s tribal region of Waziristan, constantly watched and regularly bombarded by US military drones, has been called the most dangerous place on earth. The relentless assault exacts a huge psychological toll on the people who live there.

The US missile-attacks destroy militant training compounds and cars but they also hit mosques, homes, religious schools and civilian vehicles.

I witnessed the fear, stress and depression this causes for the tribal communities on a visit to the region in May.

The drones do not suddenly appear over the horizon, carry out the attack and leave. At any given time of the day, at least four are hovering in the sky, emitting a distinctive and menacing buzzing sound.

The “Taliban” cannot stop the drones, although the Pakistan Government is blamed for complicity with the Americans, so they try to stop the spies who identify the targets. As Juan Cole writes:

The US government continues to rain drones down on the tribal belt of Pakistan. While the Washington narrative is that these drones are precision machines that only kill terrorists, this story is not true.

The drone program is classified, and so it cannot be publicly debated. It cannot even be acknowledged by President Obama and his cabinet members. Drones are operated by civilians and sometimes by contractors. That is, we are subcontracting assassination.

Americans who were upset that the president did not seek congressional authorization for the enforcement of the no-fly zone in Libya are apparently all right with his administration bombing Pakistan without explicit authorization (the 2001 one authorizes action against perpetrators of 9/11, not their children.). The Obama administration has declared that no judges or judicial process need be involved in just blowing away people, even American citizens.

Of the some 3000 persons killed by US drones, something like 600 have been innocent noncombatant bystanders, and of these 176 were children. In some instances the US drone operators have struck at a target, then waited for rescuers to come and struck again, which would be a war crime. Obviously, children may run in panic to the side of an injured parent, so they could get hit by the indiscriminate second strike.

We don’t know the exact circumstances of the children’s deaths because the US government won’t talk about them, indeed, denies it all.

Murder is both instances is a form of empowerment through violence, and under the cover of justifiable war and self defence, terror is integral to public policy. So I think the diagnosis that identifies cultural assumptions is pertinent, as much as it is one to be studiously ignored.

Lucinda Marshall is on to something, but perhaps like others she is a voice in the wilderness. The Sandy Bay Elementary School massacre she said was not just about the need for gun control but a culture that condones and teaches killing. Drone attacks are mentioned as specific examples. She concludes:

Sandy Hook did not happen because of a lone, disturbed young man and it is not an isolated incident. It is an epidemic and we are all to blame. And today (and tomorrow and every day after that) is the time to confront this self-inflicted tragedy.

Michael Lerner at Tikkun sets out a prescription to address the diagnosis:

1. A constitutional amendment to ban all guns, and to create special holding units for hunting rifles to be held in control of locally elected officials in every neighborhood who keep the rifles under lock and key except when given to hunters during a hunting season and to be returned immediately thereafter, with all necessary criminal controls and penalties for those who do not return them in a timely manner and those who continue to hold on to their guns privately. No private ownership of guns of any sort. Police must similarly be disarmed, and allowed only to use billy clubs and mace, except in emergencies in which a judge signs a warrant for the temporary use of lethal force against someone who is using lethal force. Lesser measures (background checks, banning only extreme assault weapons, etc.) are insufficient and will have only slight impact.

2. We must create a track of education in every school and every grade level that teaches nonviolence both as a philosophy of life and as a practical way to live one’s life. This track must also teach nonviolent communication skills. Moreover it must teach children and teenagers and college students:

How to value and care for everyone else on the planet including their parents, teachers, neighbors, friends, and future lovers or partners.
How to deal with depression, anger, feelings of alienation, powerlessness, stress, and isolation.
How to give support to those who are not functioning or are psychologically or spiritually impaired and how to find the correct help for people who need professional help.
How to recognize and appreciate all the beauty and miraculous wonder of life itself, of the universe, and of human beings.
How to appreciate and protect the planet from all those forces that are inadvertently destroying it.
How to end poverty and share the resources of this planet with everyone equally in a planet-sustaining way.
How to develop one’s own capacities as a spiritual, ethical, aesthetically and emotionally developed, mature and loving human being.

I notice Abe Cohen commented:

Rabbi” Lerner is an alltime shmuck. The 2nd Amendment was drafted to provide the U.S. citizenry with the effective means of opposing a tyrranical federal government. If “Rabbi” Lerner wants to work for a Constitutional Convention, that is his right. Both the Nazis and Communists had very strict “gun control.” Listening to folksongs of love and peace is nice but inefffective at saving human lives. Grow up, Rabbi Moonbeam.

Such logic is actually irrefutable because it is marinated in the cultural assumptions related to the effectiveness and necessity of violence. No to see that is obviously childish – even when children are the victims.

Michael Nagler has a challenging analysis:

What will keep this from happening again? The only answer — which we have yet to consider — is to identify the underlying cause behind such tragedies, and resolve it. This won’t be an easy fix; it will need some soul-searching; but it will feel a lot better than our present helpless drift punctuated by these unbearable, numbing shocks.

Let’s begin with the fact just mentioned: that the gun murder rate in our country is an order of magnitude higher than that of all comparable societies. This statistic should sound familiar. Our country also has a shockingly higher rate of incarceration than comparable nations (and is one of the very few holdouts that still practices execution). We also spend more on war fighting and weaponry, and do more cross-border killing with all that weaponry, than most of the rest of the world combined (and are one of the few holdouts still practicing torture — though we’ve begun backing a way a bit just recently). Seeing this pattern it is hard to gainsay the prophetic words of Martin Luther King, Jr. when he bemoaned the fact that “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” was his own government.

Unfortunately, violence is the kind of goods where the greatest purveyor is also the greatest consumer. That is a law of life and no amount of misplaced pride or arcane ideology can help us avoid it. We cannot rely on violence to save us from violence — that is the elementary logic gun advocates dare not face. We cannot go on relying on violence to keep our streets safe, or our nation safe, or our schools safe, without more and more of us dying by the same sword.

For when we “buy into” the logic of violence, we buy it at a deep, cultural — we might almost say spiritual level, namely by buying into the myth that we are separate, physical objects, and ignoring the deep, spiritual connection that in fact makes us human. We now know the exact caliber of a weapon the deranged killer used to kill his mother and take a swath of young life with her, and we are trying to ascertain his motive. But the caliber of the weapon is irrelevant and the motive that the police will be looking for is secondary. What we need to know about Adam Lanza is that he was deeply, deeply alienated and that he lived in a culture that is alienating every one of us. For him, other people were not people, but ciphers in his own tortured drama; but we who have been practicing violence in so many ways created an environment that not only failed to win him back to reality but resonated with his illness — and gave him all the weaponry to act it out.

However necessary, nothing is easy about these prescriptions. While useful in discovering truth, becoming aware of assumptions and challenging them is difficult. The political challenges in the greatest democracy on earth that has effectively disempowered the majority of people is formiable, if not impossible. No president can simultaneously oppose violence at home, while simultaneously and cravenly advocating it abroad. And yet despite everything, perhaps this time the determination to stop the gun slaughter might well prevail. The suggestion made, for example, to arm elementary school teachers is bizarre beyond belief. Otherwise there will be more slaughters in the American future, as there will be in Waziristan.



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