Live By The AR-15, Die By The AR-15

Unarmed Black victims of police violence (may their families know peace), L-R from the top: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown
Image source: trauma doc Dr. Andre Campbell on Twitter

Live By The AR-15, Die By The AR-15

For AR-15 in that sentence, you could substitute drone, missile, or nuclear bomb.

That the U.S. leads the world in mass shootings, especially at schools, is a fact no one disputes. Regular people see a clear connection between a Pentagon budget that gobbles up more than half of annual expenditures by Congress. Regular people also see the pretense of elected officials who take millions in campaign contributions from weapons manufacturers and pro-weapon lobbying groups like the NRA and then tweet “thoughts and prayers” when the inevitable next mass shooting occurs.

Why then is social media is full of people blaming one of the two corporate parties for the massacre?

With the Ukraine war party in power right now controlling the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives why is our federal government still failing to enact gun control? Fund universal mental health care? Rescue from poverty the 20%+ children without housing or food security?

Who is falling for using the deaths of children to further the false dichotomy our corporate rulers think will deliver civil war (we’re well on our way) rather than the revolution we need?

Though I do support stringent gun control I don’t think that alone will reduce mass shootings. Other countries that are overrun with guns do not see 18 year olds cutting their own faces, shooting their own grandma, and then massacring little kids while local cops let them proceed. 

Did you know that in other countries, people with schizophrenia have auditory hallucinations that may be benign or even loving? In the U.S., people with schizophrenia hear voices urging them to violence.

Of course other nations weren’t built on genocide of indigenous people (not all nations, anyway) and enslavement of kidnapped laborers.

We are a traumatized nation. And trauma begets trauma. 

The vast majority of mass shooters are men, around 98%. Men and boys have no more access to guns and ammunition than women and girls do, so what’s the explanation?

It could be something most analysts overlook: adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs.

Back in 2019, researchers studied every mass school shooting from 1966-2018.  The vast majority of mass shooters in our study experienced early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age. The nature of their exposure included parental suicide, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and/or severe bullying,” wrote criminal justice professors Jillian Peterson and James Densley for the Los Angeles Times.

The ACEs questionnaire and scale were developed to quantify and name the cause that creates such devastating effects: high levels of stress are toxic for our nervous system as humans. If experienced in childhood, they can lead to actual changes in the structure and function of the brain. And researchers say the effects of stress on male brains is different.

Additionally, if high levels of stress lead to acting out behavior, this can often trigger additional stress as authority figures respond violently to the behavior. Ask any teacher if they’ve seen this in their school.

Forensic ACEs reveal that the vast majority of violent criminals have a high ACEs score. Poverty results in ACEs e.g. children experiencing eviction, hunger, or lack of medical care for themselves and their caregivers. Being targeted for one’s race or ethnic identity also raises the ACEs score.

Nearly 1 in 6 people in the U.S. reported four or more ACEs  as adults in a study by the CDC with Kaiser Permanente which found, “ACEs can have lasting, negative effects on health, well-being, as well as life opportunities such as education and job potential. These experiences can increase the risks of injury, sexually transmitted infections, maternal and child health problems (including teen pregnancy, pregnancy complications, and fetal death), involvement in sex trafficking, and a wide range of chronic diseases and leading causes of death such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and suicide.”

One a national level, our ACEs are through the roof. Using nuclear bombs on Japan after letting the Holocaust proceed, producing a zillion big budget films glorifying this and other violence, police murdering Black, brown, and indigenous people with impunity, illegal invasions that killed millions and which the pepetrators later laugh about in public…

I could go on but it would fill volumes.

Live by the sword, die by the sword is an old idea found in the New Testament (an account of radical truth-telling in the face of the brutal occupation of Palestine by the Roman Empire). One translation reads “all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”

The U.S. Empire has some very bad karma. And it’s breaking our hearts that children pay the price.

But as long as violent patriarchy is the organizing principle of our culture, nothing will change.

Delusional Thinking On The Rise As COVID Deniers Block Access To Vaccination Site In Los Angeles

The news that protesters against masking, social distancing, and the COVID-19 vaccine shut down a vaccination site at Dodger Stadium over the weekend is troubling me.* (One of them can be seen in video holding a sign that says, “I only like muzzles in the ♥ bedroom ♥.” Way to build credibility for your anti-science stance, I guess.)

Los Angeles has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic’s winter wave, and people have been willing to line up for hours to be on standby to receive a dose of the vaccine.

(Note: the reason I don’t like name calling was instantly demonstrated when a bot on Twitter responded to this language by claiming falsely that Jewish people are cancers on our civilization. When they go low, let’s not follow them to the bottom.)

The level of delusional thinking that would lead someone to interfere with other people seeking health care is hard to fathom. 

The fact that the protesters were themselves unmasked and undistanced indicates that they either think COVID-19 is a hoax or they think it’s a type of flu that most people recover from. The fact that they’re all white indicates they are from a demographic that has suffered least with COVID mortality. Latinx workers in Los Angeles have a terribly high rate of infection and many families are grieving the loss of a loved one while also scrambling to cope with the loss of a breadwinner. Ditto Black workers and their families.

The first person I know personally who was hospitalized with COVID, an older white man, was intubated in the ICU for 11 days before sort of recovering. Now he’s suffered congestive heart failure and is back in the hospital. I can’t figure out why the protesters don’t know anybody with similar experiences by now.

The level of delusional thinking that would lead someone to mock and harrass the survivor of a school mass shooting event is also hard to fathom.

And these two delusions seem to be more than coincidentally connected.

An extremely numb congressperson from Georgia who I do not care to name harrassed Cori Bush, a Black congresswoman from Missouri, berating her and her staff in the hallway outside their office. While not wearing a mask as required to be in the Capitol buildings. The same congressperson from Georgia is on video harassing David Hogg, a survivor of a mass shooting at his high school in Florida who went on to become a gun control organizer. (Side note: a Republican politician in central Maine lost his job as vice president of a local bank after doing the same, but on Twitter.) 

I know that the parents of first graders who died in the Sandy Hook school massacre have also reported being gaslighted by gun nuts. The pain of burying your 6 year old is almost unimaginable, but the pain of being mocked and harrassed for saying truthfully that your 6 year old was gunned down at school is beyond belief. I’ve always assumed that the NRA was responsible for pushing that cruel craziness, because they protect those who profit from gun sales.

Regardless of who’s pushing the cruel craziness around preventing folks from voluntarily being vaccinated to avoid dying gasping for breath, it’s a sign of the times. Harrassing women seeking reproductive health care has been going on for years and I suppose was the harbinger of things to come.

Unprecedented access to information, both useful and false, has led many down the path to sheer delusion. What happened?

The colonial settler state that became the U.S. has always had cults that held worldviews far from the mainstream: e.g. that the world would end on (fill in the date), or that all computers would crash on January 1, 2000. In 1978, Jim Jones led followers south to Guyana before convincing hundreds to poison themselves and their children, a mass murder-suicide that coined the phrase “drinking the Kool-aid.”

We know about climate change denial, flat earth believers (one of whom is a pharmacist being prosecuted for deliberately spoiling 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine), those who believe the moon landing in 1969 was faked — and then we come to the unfortunate events of September 11, 2001.

It seems to me that since 9/11was used as the pretext to invade and occupy Afghanistan in perpetuity, while taking an ax to civil liberties at home with the so-called Patriot Act, people in the U.S. have become more and more confused about what is or isn’t true. 

In 2003 they were told by news outlets they had relied on for actual facts that Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction. Also that Iraq was responsible for 9/11. Both claims were patently false, but it didn’t matter. Cue another invasion and unending occupation at great cost to taxpayers and great profits for actual makers of WMDs. Bush lied, people died. You get the idea.

Our corporate overlords would prefer that the impending revolution over lack of housing, health care, and even food, be a civil war instead. Getting us fighting over race or political ideologies is preferable to our finding ourselves with grievances in common and organizing mass action to do something about it. 

As long as we’re divided, they’re conquering.

* For those who know me I may seem hypocritical criticizing protesters shutting down an event. I’ve often done so at the “christening” events for the type of warship used to bomb Bagdhad in 2003. People who just want to entertain themselves and their children flock to these events at General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works shipyard, and my friends and I block access to the shipyard gates with our bodies. The difference as I see it: no one is going inside BIW to get access to health care they hope will be life-saving.