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Letters from Downunder

The dragon in the room

Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses,
and dragons in their pleasant palaces. (Isaiah 13:22)

(10/2015) Much has been written about the depiction of violence on TV and in games, and its power to inure us to its presence in society. See someone murdered on screen enough times, they say, and we will accept it as normal when it happens in our street. This has been extended to other prevalent but unacceptable things so that society seems to have become a dangerous, awful place to grow up in.

Like most sweeping statements it’s basically untrue. A very small percentage may succumb to scenarios like this when they see them over and over, generally because they have been born with, or have developed, mental aberrations that make them insensitive to the suffering of others. Upbringing can foster this if both genetics and a violent home are at work, but most of us recognise how wrong and terrible such actions are, no matter how often we see them on a screen. The few that do not present the rest of us with problems that seem insoluble, especially when powerful lobby groups are determined to gloss over those facts. The gun lobby is one such, much of the popular media another (because anxiety sells product).

Regretfully, while the percentage of people who abuse the use of guns is tiny, the numbers are large: 0.1% of the 320,000,000 population is 320,000, and if only 1% of these are sufficiently deranged to spray bullets into a group they dislike without regard to the consequences, the result is near to the current situation. That is, 3,200 individuals spread across most states (doesn’t seem to happen much in Hawaii or Alaska) produce at least one mass killing or injury every day.

The claim by the gun lobby that the only safety is for everyone to carry a gun is so stupid it is a wonder they are not pilloried in print, legislation and public opinion. Apart from the fact that even more crazies would be on the prowl, the idea of shooting someone who is possibly attacking or even abusing you, and who also carries a weapon, is an invitation to mayhem. Yes, public opinion, (that ‘best of all possible worlds’ in Voltaire’s Candide), is ramping up against the gun lobby which remains entrenched behind a wall of political disdain and sentimental appeal to an outdated part of the constitution – but so far has been no match for it.

Apart from the opprobrium emanating from the rest of the world, you have allowed yourselves to become both a laughing stock and purveyor of distress. The chances of a tourist being injured or killed is far higher than in any other country in the world; the possibility of this happening to a citizen is at least 100 times higher than that, so no wonder your anxiety levels are also the highest on earth. Six million new firearms were manufactured in the US in 2014, 95% sold domestically, and another one million were imported, mainly from Brazil. The firearms industry generates about 210,000 jobs, and pays about five million in taxes. Smith and Wesson’s profits have grown by 140% since Obama came to power, while over 50,000 people were killed by firearms between 2006 and 2010, with the number increasing annually. 0.05% of attempted purchases were blocked by the FBI on the grounds of mental instability, whereas 4% of all Americans suffer from serious mental conditions.

Well, you would have to be blind, deaf and dumb to not be aware of this, (though facebook is better reading), but such is the power of spin that you may not care enough to become active in its reduction. As a matter of contrast, for every million residents eight Australians are killed by guns each year, (seven being gang related), whereas you have about 108 per million. Well, guns are legal and theoretically controlled by government regulation, but the crux is that to the gun industry human lives are valuable only when they buy a gun, and are indifferent to what they do with purchase even while wringing their hands at the nightly news. Their advertising is cynical, putting out a caring stance when in the public eye. They are a scourge on your country, and need to be reduced and eliminated so far as is possible.

You may say that things are worse in other places, and you’d be right – parts of South America and Eastern Europe are under the thrall of the mob and thus of porn and drugs – but in the much of the rest of the western world the opposite is true. There, they have never embraced guns as a way of life; their social structures are such that the overall welfare of their citizens is still their main goal; they limit the hype and spin by denying that the worst these are a part of normal free speech, and they are not afraid of taxing their citizens to accomplish this rather than expanding armaments.

They tend not to breed terrorists, as governments who are reluctant to take reprisals against their citizens generate less hate among the disadvantaged and marginalized. They make it much harder to obtain weapons – no village gun shops, only illegal sources - and weapons are so little discussed that they do not rate among the young except in games.

But then you mostly don’t care about what is the norm in other countries. After all, America is tops, America does, America is the leader. And whatever wrong is done, it is done in the name of freedom and democracy. But it also means that Americans are essentially narcissistic, as shown by in the movies about you glorious wars. The natives don’t rate – see any of the Vietnam sagas – as the wars are about reputation and commerce, not lives. And the terrorists know it. It’s what motivates them. When you look at someone of colour, do you consider them equals? It’s all part of the same attitude. You may have a big house, but there are dragons in the rooms spitting fire from guns seeking reprisals. Not just home produced , but middle eastern ones too.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:52 are still true, especially for you: ‘Those that live by the sword will die by the sword.’

Lindsay, Melbourne, Australia

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker