Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Editorial: The banality of mass murder

Another mass shooting in America. Ho-hum. Another routine defense of our bizarre addiction to deadly weapons. Ho-hum. Nothing to see here, move along. These are not the droids you're looking for.

And today we have yet another Courier opinion piece trotting out the same tired old nags that pass for argument about the role of guns in our society, so listless and reflexive that I'm sure the editors have long since stopped bothering to think about them, just as their readers have ceased interest in reading them. Really? Is this all you've got, editor?

The bulk of the piece amounts to criticism of the shoot-from-the-hip segment of the media that got the description of the weapon wrong in the Navy Yard shootings. After that it's the same old argument against "blaming the weapon."

I don't think I've ever heard anyone blame a weapon for a shooting. I only hear that rhetoric from the gun lovers, an infantile non-argument to deflect all ideas for doing anything serious about reducing the numbers of bullets in the bodies of Americans by action on the bullet-supply side.

Good science and common sense agree that fewer weapons leads to fewer shootings. That's not because the weapons are discharging themselves. The argument most of us on the sensible side of the spectrum are usually too polite to make is that needing a weapon is reasonable cause for concern about a person's mental state. "Gun-crazy" isn't a metaphor.

It's right there in the editor's closing: "law-abiding citizens should be allowed to have weapons for use or protection." Leave aside that the true believers will be jumping on his ass for tolerating "allowed" when their right to deadly weapons is ordained by Gad, and look at "for use or protection." What use? To drill messy holes of specific size in wood? And "protection" from what? If one really feels threatened by crime, that should be motivation to move somewhere safer or work with one's neighbors to make the community safer. More likely you need to work on your own head. When you feel that your only choice is to take up a weapon and start watching for people to use it on, you've become the enemy you fear. The mass killers are mentally unhinged, yes, but they develop in the context of a society that is itself unhinged, and their acts are starkly extreme symptoms of a pervasive pathology.

Sensible, responsible thinking about guns by gun fans is over in this society, and we can no longer afford to pretend that Americans have generally healthy attitudes toward them. We can't treat this unhealthy dependence without reducing access to the object of the addiction.

Cantlon: So what is this about?

Tom hammers home the obvious point that keeping Mexican tourists away is stupid and particularly counterproductive where you've set a city policy of reliance on tourism. The headline declares that the proposal to expand the border zone "is NOT about illegal entry." What Tom diplomatically leaves out is what the objections of our local pols are really about, and that's racist anxiety.

As I've written many times, the whole "immigration issue" is nothing more than a political strategy to win the votes of frightened and generally older white people, a 21st-century take on the Southern Strategy that turned the Republican Party away from the slow-and-steady, pro-business policies of the first half of the last century to the fire-breathing anti-everything nutbar tournament we see today. At its core is reaction to the civil rights movement and the fear of  The Other, which has extended lately from black folk to anyone who is not white, Protestant, male, over 40 and Republican. (And now you have to be the right kind of Republican, too.)

Until we as a community face up to the poorly disguised racism that passes for policy decisions among our elected leaders and politically involved citizens and start calling it what it is, we cannot hope to see progress in the quality of life here. Prescott and Arizona in general will languish as an intellectual laughingstock, the Alabama of the West, and descend ever further into kookery and ultimately dangerous insularism.

Did you hear the one about Leith, ND, the tiny village where neo-Nazis are trying to stack the population in hopes of creating a new Aryan homeland? The residents uniformly stood up and said no. Our elected officials think that's what they're doing, fighting off the invading brown horde. Rather, we as voters should be standing up, vocally and resolutely, against the idiotic, racist self-destruction in our midst.