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Sunday, July 22, 2012

AMERICAN INTOLERANCE




I'm not interested in the gun rights argument the same as I'm not interested in capital punishment issues. Capital punishment is set and gun laws are set. It is a truth that the American passion for guns is a bit out of balance, but then so is everything else. Now the guy in the movie theater playing dress-up in a SWAT outfit walks into the movie theater and blows away as many people as he can in a given time. How American is that? It happens here so frequently, it has become a particularly American "crime." Who is surprised anymore? If the American populace were aware that there is a valid world beyond American borders, we'd be collectively ashamed. But who is? A lone gunman who doesn't represent anybody but himself. Whatever. I can't argue with the availability of guns and ammo. Guns are American as Barbie.


I've wondered for a long list of years about American collective karma, like what is the return on the wholesale slaughter of a continent of people? What about the return on the slaughter of the buffalo? What about the return on willful ignorance? What about the return on the collective attitude---if it's living, kill it? What about the indifference of the corporate world in the well being of the peasantry? What is the karmic return on white people keeping black people down? These random public shootings by frustrated people strike me a return so particularly American as to have a great deal to do with our collective karma. I'm thinking these particularly American crimes against humanity have their collective return, like identifying the natural world with the devil, looking at everything living a target. The return would be particularly American too. And the arrogance of the white man? What kind of return does that bring to the white man? Contempt from other races, for sure.


In 1972, I was riding a train through (then) Yugoslavia, (now) Bulgaria, the only American, and behind the Iron Curtain. Pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. Sometimes, people in clusters talking a language I didn't know would sometimes say to me, "President Nixon," and everybody laughed with derision at the American stooge. They were not friendly. Not hostile either. I realized they were subject to propaganda through news media just like we are. It would not have done me any good to say, and have translated, that I dislike him more than they do, for what he's doing to my democracy. If it were an American train and a Russian who didn't know English, I've an idea he would have been outside his comfort zone too. Such experiences are memorable. There is nothing like being looked at with suspicion by two Eastern European men in dark olive green coats to the floor, black boots, green hats and a red star on the forehead, black gloves. Kinda intimidating. They meant no intimidation. I was an outsider passing through.


It was inwardly exciting to me riding a train across a corner of the Iron Curtain that was once the Ottoman Empire, the only trace I was aware of being the scent of Turkish tobacco in the air from Trieste east. From Trieste west, the scent in the air was Virginia tobacco. I knew very few people who had been behind the Iron Curtain. In the time of the Cold War, it was not a fashionable place to go. It was a part of the world with a history I knew nothing about. The signs were in both Yugoslav and Russian. It was the most foreign environment I believe I've been in. Mexico is awfully foreign, but in a familiar way. Those people were not allowed guns and they lived in a police state. We are allowed guns and we live in a police state. What's the difference?


Americans are held in contempt all over the world now. In the Fifties, we were the Ugly American. Since then, we've gone through the hideous American, through the Reagan era of starting civil wars in 3rd world countries to keep them under control. CIA ops all over the world have grown into what we now call "terrorism." Poor countries with minimal resources and no defense are reduced to the civilian population becoming militarized. We drop bombs from the sky and that's called a good thing. They make IEDs, plant roadside bombs and that's a bad thing. What do we do? We go on watching television and wanting more things. A war on the evening news is essential for keeping the right wing pacified, has been throughout my lifetime. Our passion for guns is turned inward on ourselves. In Michael Moore's film, Bowling For Columbine, he asked some Canadian teenagers why they supposed the murder rate by firearm is so incredibly much higher than Canada's. One boy said, "Americans must not like each other." That rang a bell.


I'm recalling a visit with someone I've known a few years. His living room window overlooks Main St and a big parking lot. Periodically, he'll complain about people making noise at 6am or some odd time. He makes a mock gesture like with a high-powered rifle, a sniper to take care of the problem. I mentioned a couple of good Tom Berringer Sniper films. He said, "No, man, I'm not into violence!" I had to laugh. I said, "Every time I'm here, you talk about sniping people making noises at odd hours. I thought you were ok with violence." I don't think he's seen himself get into a minor emotional passion acting like he's sniping offenders. He's not the only one. It's become commonplace to exhibit intolerance toward anyone not self. How quickly we call somebody an idiot or stupid for something so minor as to be unworthy of notice. In America, the right wing has been so provocative over the last 30+ years and so divisive, so intolerant of anybody not a Limbaugh devotee, they're activating the people they hate into hating them in return. Karl Rove's Alice's Tea Party is division for the sake of division. The right wing is so aggressively fascist that sometimes it looks like civil war is where we're headed. Why? It makes good tv.  


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