Monday, April 6, 2009

Made in America

I wonder if Americans are more violent than people of other nations? It probably depends on how you define violence. We certainly have a history of state-sponsored or -supported violence on a pretty grand scale. I’m thinking of slavery; of the attempted extermination of the Indigenous Peoples; of our post-WW2 military actions, overt and covert; of our extensive use of incarceration, especially against the poor; and of our high murder rate relative to other industrialized nations.

I’m wondering too if the recent spate of murders here—three cops and one parolee in Oakland, California; eight people in a nursing home in Carthage, North Carolina; thirteen at an immigrant center in Binghamton, New York; three cops in Pittsburg, PA; five children by their father in Graham, WA; and countless others that did not make national headlines—are just business as usual here in the USofA or if the recent stresses have pushed us to some kind of collective breaking point?

I’m tending to the latter opinion. True, the NC and the WA murders are acts of domestic violence, committed by men who were acting out their frustration with their wives, which occurs with depressing frequency. And it’s not unusual for men in fear of their government to act out against the police, which is what happened in CA and PA. Even the staging of the PA murders is precedented. But the attack on the immigrant center seems especially ominous because the perpetrator did not act out against people with actual power, like the police, or people with perceived power, like a wife, but against people whose situations were remarkably similar to his.

I am particularly struck by the fact that he barricaded his victims in the building before attacking them. I imagine that he himself was feeling trapped and obviously, quite desperate. In psychoanalytic parlance, he made the passive active.

Actually, as I think about it, three of these murders play out some feeling of entrapment: Robert Stewart shot people confined to their wheel chairs and Richard Poplawski barricaded himself in his house.

I don’t think that this could possibly be a uniquely American phenomenon. But it is happening right now in America.

What I fear is that we are just on the beginning of massive violence as more and more Americans feel the walls closing in—as the jobs evaporate and their houses are repossessed and their marriages disintegrate in the face of social and economic stresses.

No comments:

Post a Comment