Daily Kos -- Mon Jul 23, 2012
Aurora: The Sickening Reality of America's Violence
by FishOutofWaterFollow .
Here he is, the killer, totally out of it. We'll blame him. Fuck, he did it. Law enforcement will talk about how he coldly calculated everything as if the deliberate calculations of someone living in a house of mirrors are somehow rational. We'll pump him full of Haldol, then say he isn't cooperating with police. NPR journalists will say there's no evidence that he has a psychiatric problem. "Experts" will say that we shouldn't give him any attention because that's what he wants.
Seriously. They said all of this crap on NPR this afternoon (I'm guessing about the Haldol). NPR is by far the best radio news source eastern North Carolina. The crap on other stations is far worse.
The truth is that mass murder is as American as apple pie.
"We're not going to turn our country into one big fortress," said James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University and one of the nation's foremost experts on mass murder. "People hate when I say this but it's true: This kind of tragedy is one of the unfortunate prices we pay for our freedoms."
If there is one saving grace it is to be found in statistics. Fox has collected data on every mass murder in the United States going back to the mid-1970s and, though we certainly see and hear about these incidents more quickly today, the numbers of such incidents have not increased over time (ed note: This is an assertion not supported by scientific evidence.) He counted 19 in 1976 and 18 in 2010, with the range going from a low of seven in 1985 to a high of 30 in 2003. The FBI defines a mass murder as one in which four or more people are killed.
Why isn't mass murder a price Canadians, Australians or Britons pay for their freedoms? We speak the same language and have pretty similar levels of freedom. Why does the U.S. have more mass murders?
None of the "experts" I have heard on NPR or seen in the traditional media ask what is going on in the U.S. to make mass murder so damn common here compared to other wealthy countries. Michael Moore gave an in depth look at America's environment in "Bowling for Columbine" but the lessons of that movie have been forgotten or ignored by the media.
Let's look at some data:
America is brutal to families. Conservative policies are devastating families.
American conservatives just love to yammer on about the family, as if they invented it. But the US record on family issues is no better than its record on health care. The family indicators are as follows, along with the US rank: teenage pregnancy births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 (28 out of 28); paid maternity leave entitlement as a percentage of annual wage (29/29); public spending on family benefits in cash, services and tax measures (26/29); child poverty rate (25/26); family-time index (22/27); percentage of young people (0-14) living with both parents (21/23); percentage of young adolescents living with both parents (26/26); and divorce rate (30). All together, the US comes in dead last in the combined index of family indicators.
These low rankings are directly related to conservative practices and social policies. Divorce rates and teen pregnancy rates are both higher in "red states", a result of patterns of family formation according to law professors Naomi Cahn and June Carbone in their book Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarisation and the Creation of Culture. Even aside from culture, practices like "abstinence only" sex education and restrictive access to birth control both make for higher teen pregnancy rates. In the US, conservative politicians even opposed unpaid maternity leave - no wonder the US is the only advanced industrial nation with zero weeks of paid maternity leave - and very low rates of any public spending in the way of family support. In short, conservatives really are uniquely responsible for the United States' poor showing in the family category - the exact opposite of what they tend to believe.
And when we have a mental or physical health problem, our safety net is full of holes.
Let's start off by considering the health category, since health care is very much in the news in the US, and what's happening with it now so richly illustrates the value of Fullbrook's austere marshalling of stubborn facts. Republicans repeatedly claim that the US has the best healthcare system in the world. And if you're a third-world dictator - the Shah of Iran, most famously - you would probably be inclined to agree. But for actual American citizens? Not so much. The indicators in this category, along with the United States' ranking, are as follows: life expectancy at birth (24), healthy life expectancy at birth (24 [tied] out of 29), probability of not reaching the age of 60 (25), infant mortality rate (25), obesity (30), practicing physicians per capita (23), acute care hospital beds per capita (25 out of 29), psychiatric care beds per capita (25 out of 29).
There is no indicator for percentage of people with health care, perhaps because universal coverage is taken for granted in the rest of the developed world, which includes virtually all of the OECD members except Turkey and Mexico. On the combined index of health care indicators, the US comes in at 28, just ahead of ... Turkey and Mexico.
But we're number 1 in military expenditures, imprisonment and gun violence (below the orange croissant). .
Americans swim in violence like fish swim in water. We aren't aware of the constant violence because it is always there. America has declared war on the poor and this is one war we are winning. Before 1980 poor families could find housing so virtually no kids were homeless. Ronald Reagan and conservatism changed that. Thirty years later in 2010, 1.6 million children were homeless.
The reasons behind the jump in family homelessness are not complex, Núñez says. "It was the gutting of the safety net. Reagan cut every social program that helped the poor. Then there's inflation so their aid checks are shrinking. Where are they going? Into the streets, into the shelters."
The administration was especially keen to cut low-income housing programs. Peter Dreier writes that Reagan created a housing task force, "dominated by politically connected developers, landlords and bankers." They and the president were in agreement that the market was the best way to address housing for the poor, and instituted cuts in government spending that yielded almost instant results. In 1970, Dreier writes, there were more low-income housing units than families who needed them, but "by 1985 the number of low-cost units had fallen to 5.6 million, and the number of low-income renter households had grown to 8.9 million, a disparity of 3.3 million units."
At a 1985 hearing before the Senate subcommittee on housing and urban affairs, Barry Zigas, the president of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, called the administration's approach toward the poor a "scorched-earth policy." President Reagan offered a sunnier view on the TV show Good Morning America, saying, "What we have found in this country, and maybe we're more aware of it now, is one problem that we've had, even in the best of times, and is the people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice."
But we spent money on wars, guns and prisons.
You live by the sword, you die by the sword. When America practices social Darwinism, why are Americans surprised that some of the losers crack up violently? Nothing will change until America stops living by the sword. It isn't our freedom that causes the unending chain of senseless tragedies. It is our culture of violence that throws children out of foreclosed homes onto the street while war profiteers, corrupt bankers and speculators make billions. And where the desperate are allowed to sink into black waters of powerlessness and hopelessness, where violence seems like liberty, freedom and power.