Son of a gun: Shed hypocrisy, not tears

gun control cartoon
By Ameen Izzadeen
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)
America was a land of peace where native people lived in harmony with nature. But since land-and-gold greedy European invaders set foot on this beautiful continent in the 15th century, its history has been one of violent conflicts. Millions of native people were killed in a clod-blooded genocide and probably human history’s first germ warfare.
Some three centuries later, in 1789, a country called the United States of America was born after a violent independence struggle. But before another century passed, the United States witnessed a bloody civil war over slavery.
It is quite natural for a people of a country founded on violence to be apprehensive of violence and arm themselves to protect themselves from violent elements. Therefore, the right to bear arms is constitutionally guaranteed under the Second Amendment, which is part of the US Bill of Rights. “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” the Second Amendment says. From the time of the adoption of this amendment in 1791 till John F. Kennedy was killed in 1963, the call for gun control in the United States had only been a whimper in comparison to the bang from the barrel of the powerful gun lobbies that want to protect the citizens’ right to bear arms.
However, in the aftermath of last Friday’s horror at a school at Sandy Hook in Connecticut, the call for gun control has once again become a hot topic in a country where firearms account for some 68 per cent of all murders. According to FBI statistics for 2011, of the 12,664 murders in the US, 8,583 were caused by firearms, while statistics maintained by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the anti-gun group Small Arms Survey, say 88 of every 100 people own guns in the United States. And a staggering 270-300 million guns are now in circulation. Thus the US is the world’s number one country armed country. Yemen, the number two country on this list, comes a distant second with its gun ownership figure being 55 for every 100 civilians.
In the past, the US has taken some legislative action in the direction of gun control, but such laws have many loopholes. Besides, the Second Amendment supersedes all such laws and upholds a citizen’s right to keep or bear arms for self defence.
Although calls for tougher legislation aimed at gun control had been made every time a gruesome gun crime took place, little action was taken once the heat had faded away. But last week’s ghastly killing of 20 children and six teachers in what is described as the worst school gun crime in US history was shocking enough to trigger some action in the direction of gun control.
If only President Barack Obama had taken effective action in the aftermath of the Batman movie massacre in July this year in Aurora, Colorado, the 20 children would be alive today.
As the call for gun control grew after 12 people were mown down by a gunman at the Batman movie premiere, Obama, under pressure from the National Rifle Association and Republican Congressmen, feared to stir a political controversy, thinking that it might cost him the pro-gun votes at the November elections.
On Wednesday, the US President called for “concrete proposals” on gun control by the end of January, saying words need to lead to action. He said a majority of Americans backed tough gun-control laws that would include the renewal of an assault weapons ban law that expired in 2004, limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines and an end to loopholes allowing gun purchases with no background checks.
However, whether the enthusiasm evoked by the tragedy would translate into tougher gun-control measures is anybody’s guess, because the NRA or the gun lobby, which is indirectly responsible for virtually every gun crime in the US, is still politically and financially powerful to shoot down legislation, even though it has indicated that it would extend support for new measures. At the recent presidential election, the NRA is known to have been one of the highest contributors to both parties throwing in billions of dollars and most of that money came to the NRA from big gun manufacturing companies.
But no new measure will be effective unless the Second Amendment is amended accordingly.
Besides, laws alone cannot end violence or prevent crime. Much depends on morals and values. It is easier to find a shrapnel in a huge arms dump than to look for morals and values in a society steeped in materialism and political hypocrisy; a society that does not sympathise with the Palestinians’ struggle for justice and freedom or feel for the suffering of the people caught up in the US wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan; a society which has not put enough pressure on the government to respect human rights, ratify the Kyoto Protocol, work out effective global disarmament and accede to the Rome Statute that set up the war crimes tribunal.
While the Americans today call for tougher laws to stem gun crimes in their country, the weapons made in the United States kill innocent children in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was only recently that US weapons supplied to Israel killed scores of Palestinian children in Gaza. President Obama shed tears for the innocent tots killed at the Sandy Hook school, but he could not even manufacture a drop of crocodile tear for the little girls and boys killed in regular US drone attacks.
Writing for the Guardian newspaper, political analyst George Monbiot began his article with a quote from Obama’s statement on the Sandy Hook massacre. “Mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts … These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”
Monbiot says every parent can connect with what Obama said about the murder of 20 children. There can scarcely be a person on earth with access to the media who is untouched by the grief of the people of that town.
“It must follow that what applies to the children murdered there by a deranged young man also applies to the children murdered in Pakistan by a sombre American president. These children are just as important, just as real, just as deserving of the world’s concern. Yet there are no presidential speeches or presidential tears for them, no pictures on the front pages of the world’s newspapers, no interviews with grieving relatives, no minute analysis of what happened and why,” the columnist says.
When the President and his military kill innocent people elsewhere, violate human rights, torture suspects and deny justice to Guantanamo Bay detainees who are being kept under beastly conditions, how can one expect the people to be law-abiding?
Famous French sociologist Emile Durkheim called this condition in society ‘anomie’. According to him, anomie sets is when rules on how people ought to behave with each other break down and thus people do not know what to expect from one another. In other words, anomie is a state where norms are confused, unclear or not present. Normlessness leads to deviant behaviour.
Society could be saved from anomie only if the leaders lead by example.
However much critics slam the US and its political leadership in the hope that the superpower will mend its ways, nothing much changes in the self-centred or amoral US policies that smack of double standards.
Even as the (US) National Intelligence Council warned recently that the US power was waning and the global power was shifting towards the East, it is not too late for the US to preserve its number one position. But if US policymakers think that their country’s top position could be maintained only by military means, then they are moving on a road to self-destruction. Instead, they must shed hypocrisy and work towards world peace. Only through moralistic international behaviour can they regain their lost glory as the greatest nation on Earth.
But ground realities indicate that the United States is unwilling to adopt a pacific and moralistic approach to global affairs. Even in the face of the fiscal cliff that is threatening to plunge the country in a severe economic recession, the Obama administration is preparing for a costly war with Iran on the presumption – not on evidence – that Teheran is working towards a nuclear weapon. Paul Craig Roberts, onetime Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, says in a recent article the fiscal cliff requires that the federal government cut spending by $1.3 trillion over ten years. This means the federal deficit has to be reduced about $109 billion a year or 3 per cent of the current budget. This can be done, he says, by simply taking a three month vacation each year from Washington’s wars.
Instead of ending wars and war plans and thereby drastically cutting defence expenditure, the administration is seeking to cut government spending on medicare and education and increase taxes.
In another move that underlined US anathema to pacifism, Washington scuttled an international conference on a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East. The conference was to be held from December 18 to 20 in Helsinki, but the US made a last minute call for a postponement. Though the US State Department gave an explanation that was far from convincing, the obvious reason was to protect Israel, the only nuclear-armed country in the Middle East.
With hawkishness, hypocrisy and double-standards evident at the top, one cannot clean up society.

About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
This entry was posted in Political analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Son of a gun: Shed hypocrisy, not tears

  1. Vaniceno says:

    The root of the problem is capitalism

  2. Karin Badt says:

    Dear Ameen Izzadeen—Your comments are right on, and well-founded. Thank you for writing (as an American, I am particularly moved by this crisis in hypocrisy). I have also read other of your posts on education in Sri Lanka, and have found them very moving. I am a professor and journalist (Huffington Post) based in Paris, and will be in Sri Lanka this January to meet with NGO teaching programs. Might it be possible to meet in Colombo when I am there (January 20th)? I would most welcome hearing your views! all my very best, Karin Badt

    • Dear Karin
      Merry Christmas and greetings of the season.
      Thanks for your words of encouragement. I am glad that you liked my article. I am also happy that you show interest in the education sector in Sri Lanka. You are welcome to Sri Lanka. Please contact me on 0777320422 when you come to Sri Lanka or send me a text message.
      Warm regards

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