Posted 10 months ago on Feb. 20, 2013, 4:46 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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Gun Crazy: Why Is America Different From Other Countries?
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 10:02 By Joel Boyce, Care2 | Op-Ed
The 1989 school shooting at the École Polytechnique, also known as the Montreal Massacre, was, and remains the worst in Canadian history. 14 people were killed by shooter Marc Lépine, all women, before he turned the gun on himself. This exceeds the victim death toll of the later Columbine massacre by one, though it’s eclipsed by the events in Newtown, Connecticut this past December.
Some people might be surprised that we have school shootings in Canada. It’s true: we’re not immune to those rare bouts of madness that drive a person to do the unthinkable. There may always be people whose minds break in that way, no matter where you live, no matter how much headway we make against society’s endemic problems. And yet the numbers tell a story of gun violence in Canada that is wildly divergent from that of the United States.
The Canadian story begins in the small town of Altona, not far from where I live, where a disgruntled teacher killed several school trustees and children before turning the gun on himself, way back in 1902. It’s one of 11 such incidents in Canadian history, and the second worst. The majority of school shootings here have only had a single death, and the most recent, in 2010, ended without loss of life. The United States, meanwhile, has had school shootings in every decade since the 1850s, and the last two full years to go by without one of these horrific events? 1990 and 1981. Last month alone there where eight gun attacks in schools in the United States. It’s getting worse instead of better, perhaps even exponentially so.
To what can we attribute such a stark difference between two such culturally and economically similar countries? Some hint might be found in the public response to these tragedies. The Montreal Massacre sparked a huge public outcry that became a powerful and ultimately successful movement for tighter gun control. Lépine was armed with a semi-automatic rifle that was legally obtained and registered to him. A few years later, he would not have so easily been able to obtain that type of weapon.
In the wake of Columbine, and more recently, the Newtown shootings, the public response in America has been almost exactly the same — on the left. But it’s also been immediately met by a counter-current from conservatives defending the second amendment and decrying gun-control advocates as reactionaries or un-American. Yet this is only a political issue in the United States. We certainly have conservative politicians and voters in Canada, but the right to carry weapons simply isn’t considered a partisan issue. Most of us don’t argue about gun control because we don’t have a centuries-long history of casual access to guns which we’re afraid to lose. Many of us hunt, but not with assault weapons, and not without proper training and deep respect for gun safety. Beyond hunting, few feel the need to own a gun and are happy to limit their use. And this isn’t just Canada, but virtually every Western country outside of the United States.
Easy access to guns is clearly a critical factor in incidences of gun violence. Before first-person shooter video games and copycat killers and mass media madness, in the middle of the 19th-century, American kids were even then bringing in guns to school and shooting people. Maybe by mistake, maybe as crimes of passion, or maybe as pre-meditated, cold-blooded murder. It was easy to get guns, and so momentary lapses in judgement became irreparable mistakes.
At one time, everyone accepted guns as a ubiquitous tool of rural life. It wasn’t about being gun crazy. It’s just how things were. The part I just can’t figure out is how the idea of needing lots of guns became so entrenched that decent people would actually fight tooth and nail to keep them out there.
Here in Canada, I’ve been threatened with a knife by someone at a party I didn’t even know, robbed several times while tending shop alone, and just recently, almost witnessed a completely pointless and random assault on public transport. We’re not saner up here. But fewer of our crazy people have guns, and that makes a considerable difference.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.
American Assassinations for Dummies
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 09:18 By Mark Ames, Not Safe for Work Corporation | News Analysis
Las Vegas, Nevada: It’s hard to have a serious conversation about America’s drone assassination policy when no one seems to have a basic grasp of recent history. This cultural amnesia epidemic is starting to get me down— which is partly my fault for paying more than two minutes’ attention to Twitter at a single go.
The problem starts with Reagan, as problems so often do. Most people on the left take for granted that Reagan’s executive order 12333 "banned assassinations" — which is not just a false interpretation, but really awful mangling of one of the dark turning points in modern American history.
That same ignorance of the history of assassination policy runs right through today, with the repetition of another myth: That President Obama’s extrajudicial drone-assassinations of American citizens is "unprecedented" and "radical" and that "not even George Bush targeted American citizens."
The truth is a lot worse and a lot more depressing.
When Military Groupthink Condones the Mass Killing of Civilians
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 00:00 By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview
Nick Turse, author of the best-seller "Kill Anything That Moves", talks to Truthout about the US Military's concerted effort over decades to cover up its torture and atrocities in Vietnam, much more common than news coverage of the My Lai slaughter led the public to believe, to create a false narrative of the war.
If past is prologue, then Nick Turse's account of the conduct of the US military in Vietnam, Kill Anything That Moves deserves a large readership.
Truthout talked with Nick Turse about his bestseller.
Mark Karlin: In your introduction you state about tracking down US military atrocities in Vietnam: "I’d thought that I was looking for a needle in a haystack; what I found was a veritable haystack of needles." Why has it taken so long to identify that My Lai was not the exception to the rule?
Nick Turse: That’s a great question. I think a variety of factors, which I try to lay out in detail in Kill Anything that Moves, contributed to this. There were failings on the part of the press and on the part of American citizens, but perhaps most important was the concerted effort of the US military to tamp down allegations, cover up atrocities and create a false narrative of the war. The evidence indicates that this took place at all levels, from troops in the field, through the chain of command up to and including the highest reaches of the Pentagon.
The Secret Rise of 21st Century Democracy
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 00:00 By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Truthout | News Analysis
New economies based on greater democratic control, real representation and citizen participation are on the rise. There is much to be learned from countries like Venezuela that break from the Washington Consensus.
If Americans knew the truth about the growth of real democracy in Venezuela and other Latin American countries, we would demand economic democracy and participatory government, which together would threaten the power of concentrated wealth. The seeds of both are beginning to sprout in the US despite efforts to keep Americans ignorant about them. Real democracy creates a huge challenge to the oligarchs and their neoliberal agenda because it is driven by human needs, not corporate greed. That is why major media in the US, which are owned by six corporations, aggressively misinform the public about Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution.
Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research writes, "The Western media reporting has been effective. It has convinced most people outside of Venezuela that the country is run by some kind of dictatorship that has ruined it." In fact, just the opposite is true. Venezuela, since the election of Chavez, has become one of the most democratic nations on Earth. Its wealth is increasing and being widely shared. But Venezuela has been made so toxic that even the more liberal media outlets propagate distortions to avoid being criticized as too leftist. Venezuela is a front line in the battle between the elites and the people over US-style democracy, as we described in Part I of this series.
We spoke with Mike Fox, who went to Venezuela in 2006 to see for himself what was happening. Fox spent years documenting the rise of participatory democracy in Venezuela and Brazil. He found a grassroots movement creating the economy and government they wanted, often pushing Chavez further than he wanted to go. Venezuelan democracy and economic transformation are bigger than Chavez. Chavez opened a door to achieve the people's goals: literacy programs in the barrios, more people attending college, universal access to health care, as well as worker-owned businesses and community councils where people make decisions for themselves. Change came through decades of struggle leading to the election of Chavez in 1998, a new constitution and ongoing work to make that constitution a reality.