America’s Epidemic of Violence Is Not New

As the Boston marathon gets underway, there is the unavoidable recall of the horrific bombing last year. It also leads to the inevitable question of why this country is plagued with violence.

Violence has been so much in the news lately that President Obama’s leading hometown newspaper, the Chicago Tribune ran an investigation on shootings in Chicago over a 36-hour period commencing on a Friday evening. The recorded incidents averaged a shocking one every hour. Over 36 people were shot leaving four dead and 33 wounded, some seriously.

The Illinois legislature has recently passed a concealed-carry law granting private individuals the right to carry a concealed weapon. Permit seekers are required to undertake a course and be instructed in safety procedures all of it costing an average of $150. Will it solve the problem? One doubts it though there is limited evidence to the contrary, including a University of Chicago study in Florida showing a decline in street crime after such a law was passed there.

Over the last few months, it seems every week there is a mass shooting, bombing, or a memorial service in the news: The Sandy Hook School shooting has been on the airwaves over discussions about commemoration; Vice President Biden spoke at the anniversary of the Boston marathon bombing last week; the week before, the President attended a memorial service for the Fort Hood mass shooting victims of the previous week; the day following, a Pennsylvania high school student went berserk — armed with a couple of knives, he slashed and stabbed 24 before being subdued; two days later a former Klu Klux Klansman shot and killed three people at a Jewish community center and a synagogue.

There have always been guns in this country but why is it that nowadays people with some relatively minor disenchantment, or a grievance, or even hatred are shooting up innocent people. This is new. Killing innocents has become a way of protest as in the Boston marathon bombing. Does the constant replay of such events put ideas in the heads of disturbed people? Does violence in the news, its glorification in entertainment, in video games and movies, desensitize people to killing and mayhem? Or is it the perpetual real-life violence/war that has been on-going for a generation? It certainly was the proximate cause of the Fort Hood army base shootings — both of them.

General Smedley Butler (1881-1940) was one of just 19 men to win the Congressional Medal of Honor twice and the only one to also receive the Marines Brevet Medal. His oft repeated quote from his book War Is a Racket goes as follows: “I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China in 1927 I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

Sad to see such ways have not changed in the 21st century. The destruction of Iraq under false accusation, the manufactured civil war in Libya leading to the chaos now prevailing, the civil war in Syria, and the coup against a democratically elected government in Ukraine that was leaning towards Russia all follow in a line from the overthrow of the elected Mossadegh government in Iran (oil), Guatemala (bananas), Allende in Chile (copper), to the constant pressure now on the elected Maduro government in Venezuela.

Force and the threat of force, the use of drones for execution at the cost through error or collateral damage of hundreds of innocents all lead to a mind-set viewing violence as the quick and easy preferred solution. It is a reincarnated Rome where TV and movies satisfy the blood lust sated in the past at the coliseum, and the gun is the ever-present answer to problems.

Arshad M. Khan is a retired professor. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Arshad M..