In Today’s America #LivesDon’tMatter

We can talk about gun control all we want, but it ignores the deeper problem that has metastasized American society.
PAUL ROSENBERG
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In America today (I hesitate to continue using the term “United States”, which in my view is now anachronistic at best), driving your car, going shopping, or even sitting in your front yard can get you shot and killed should you be in the way of the wrong person. This reality is shocking enough, but for me it is no distant thing, happening to other people in some other place. It is happening on the streets where I live, in Chapel Hill, NC, and in all the cities and states around me. 

In Chapel Hill, NC three graduate students were shot and killed in their apartment by a neighbor over a disagreement about a parking space. In Durham, NC, along a stretch of road that I used to travel on frequently, a man was shot in the head and killed by someone in another car behind him while he was on his phone trying to call police about the other driver threatening him – because he had pulled in front of him on the road and angered him. In Chapel Hill again, on that same road, a man shot someone in another car with a rifle, again ostensibly over a traffic dispute.

Road rage, parking spaces – this is what people are dying for where I live.

It’s all too easy to point at guns as the problem, and there is no question that gun policy in many American states, which have aggressively pushed for open carry laws that allow unlicensed gun owners to carry any weapon they choose wherever they want to (schools, churches, hospitals, you name it – any limit is painted as an infringement on a near divine right) has opened a Pandora’s box of violence. However, as the NRA used to be fond of saying, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, and the simple truth of that statement, beyond its incredible success at blocking any gun control legislation, begs an equally simple question: why are so many Americans willing to kill people?

I suggest that the answer to that question is this: in America, lives don’t matter. 

This simple yet clear message has been absorbed and internalized by the whole population, not as a result of gun violence, but (again, I am suggesting) because the condition of American society itself tells them this every day, in many brutal ways that seemingly have nothing to do with gun violence. Some examples:

In America today, children buy pills on the street to get high and then die from accidental Fentanyl overdose, every day. 

In America today, hundreds of thousands of people have already died and continue to die from this epidemic of opioid poisoning. Meanwhile just recently their families learned that CVS, Walmart and Walgreens, the three biggest drugstore chains in the country, have all been found legally culpable for the epidemic – not just the drug manufacturers. Those companies will pay a fine, albeit a big one, but I have yet to see anything resembling an apology from any of these companies, for whom many of those same people even work. Why? #LivesDon’tMatter.

In America today whole cities go without drinking water because local governments have allowed aging infrastructure to poison their own citizens. #LivesDon’tMatter

In America today you can work two jobs and still be forced to live in a tent under a bridge in some of the largest and most prosperous cities in the country, not to mention the world, because you can’t afford to even rent a room. In trying to survive this way you stand a good chance of dying from exposure to the elements and pollution, and nobody will intervene. Why? #LivesDon’tMatter

In America today, if you’re sick and can’t afford insurance, you suffer and/or die. Your #LivesDon’tMatter.

And finally, in today’s America, disagreement with a political policy or election outcome is justification for ignoring the rule of law, breaking into statehouses and threatening elected leaders, even when the policy is simply designed to protect people from a clearly dangerous and life-threating new virus. In America people would rather brandish guns than wear a mask, because #LivesDon’tMatter.

In America today the process of dehumanization is well underway. We call each other “animals” “deplorables” “morons” and “enemies of the state” when we don’t agree with each other. The poison has undermined families, the workplace and every personal sphere of life as we line up with “Team Red” or “Team Blue” and dismiss the “others” as hopelessly misguided, if not as actively threatening.

American society is literally being torn apart at the seams.

Now America is living with the results. It is simple for anyone who is upset or disgruntled or even genuinely aggrieved about something to take up a gun and take it out on a few of their fellow citizens. And why not? Society is certainly not stepping in to make their lives any better – education, health care, environmental conditions, working conditions, you name it – all of them have only declined, and in some areas quite precipitously. Everything tells us that our lives don’t really matter. And if my life doesn’t matter, why should yours? 

I don’t have prescriptions for what ails American society, and the fact that I am writing about this from here in Venice rather that at home in Chapel Hill can and should be taken as an indication of my faith in America’s future. However, I think it’s important to look beyond the rhetoric about guns and gun violence and to see them for what they truly are – the bitter fruits of a society that has radically dehumanized itself and is continuing down that path with gathering speed. 

Why do Americans keep killing each other? In America, #LivesDon’tMatter.

In Today’s America #LivesDon’tMatter ultima modifica: 2022-11-27T19:17:18+01:00 da PAUL ROSENBERG
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