Showing posts with label wars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wars. Show all posts

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Culture of Rage


As soon as the news revealed the horror of what happened in the grade school in Connecticut, the theories began about why it happened. What led to it? What could stop it? Why our country? Although these things have happened elsewhere like Norway last year, they are more frequent here. This one though was as bad as it gets. It is impossible to imagine anything that would more stab the heart of all Americans than what happened in that grade school.  He attacked us all and hit home. In this emotional moment, the words have flown as to what led to it.

Too many guns
need more guns
Assault  rifles
school prayer 
Jesus
NRA
Republicans
Democrats
liberals
conservatives
permissiveness
punishment
abortion
 You name it and somebody said that's what was at fault. I think everyone is clear that it's really the fault of the one who did it (and I would add an irresponsible mother if that doesn't seem too unkind given she was killed), but we are desperate to think there is something we can do because, as it stands, anytime we enter a restaurant, a mall, a theater, send our children to school, drive down a highway, take a walk, go to work, sit in our home, we are vulnerable to it being us or ours. There is absolutely no way to prepare for it and mostly we have to live as though it could not happen-- even as we stop for a moment to listen when we hear a loud noise.

Americans want answers, but the ones I am personally coming up with aren't what anybody on either side wants to hear. People want one simple answer. They want someone/something to blame. My answers are complex not lending themselves to quick fixes. They are more like when we get a disease like cancer and there are multiple factors that led us there. That's what I think this is, and it's a part of our culture not just one group or thing.

I will say that the media's coverage of this horrified me. Yes, we want to know but they gave us misinformation as if it was facts. Mother, shooter, you name it. I don't know if all the networks were as bad, but MSNBC even had interviews with some of the children who had been in the school as reporters asked how they felt about it. Were those reporters nuts? And what led to the network putting it on the air? These little kids did try to answer, but they should have not been asked to make what was already horrible even more difficult. I also didn't like how the networks were trying to calculate if this was the worst in the nation based on numbers-- as though this was some kind of contest. That just seems nuts to me, and frankly I can answer it-- when it targets small children in their schools, yes, it was the worst!

The gun was not illegally purchased.  It is hard to say if we can get a ban on assault rifles, good if so; but the gun he used was purchased by his mother, from all accounts a well-off woman, who encouraged her son to learn to shoot, who collected guns, who was apparently living in fear of economic collapse. Was she feeding her son that kind of fear?

Some have said other nations, like Japan with rigid gun control laws, don't have gun killings. Okay, I can see that but there also are other differences with Japan. It's pretty much of a mono culture. It is not at war. Maybe they monitor the video games/movies that are available  (I don't know this about them by the way).  Could it be they don't have the politics of rage that permeates our country. Maybe they are not caught up in a culture of violence as we justify wars and torture to keep ourselves safe. Moral confusion here is rampant.

I have no idea if this young man watched the news or cared about politics. Isn't it possible though that the politics of rage impacts the energy surrounding us all? And I do not mean just right wingers. You hear it on both sides with the near hate and rabid rhetoric. Talk of overthrowing government does not just come from one side or the other.

From what I read, the murderer was a gamer. What kinds? Most Americans have no clue how very violent, realistic, and oriented to shooting others the video games have become.

And movies-- argh! Last week we watched the last of the Batman movies, The Dark Night Rises.  Part way through I told my husband that this kind of film could incite to violence a mind already unstable. The violence was glorified and used to bring excitement time after time. My opinion is it was a horrible movie, and although stable people could all watch such and not be impacted, what about unstable where it makes violence an exciting solution.

How do we as a nation, where time after time we have used violence as our solution in wars and countries that someone in our government decides threaten us, where over there innocent children have died as we try to kill terrorist leaders, where we have had wars going on now over 10 years, how can we be surprised when the violence becomes an atmosphere that is unhealthy for those unhealthy to begin?

At first I thought how could someone educated, a kindergarten teacher buy those weapons when she knew she had a troubled son. then it turns out she wasn't a kindergarten teacher. Educated or not I wondered how would she have brought such weapons into her home?Others knew her son was troubled. She had to have also and yet she had all those guns accessible to him?

That brought back the memories of the other such events. There was a school shooting in Oregon at Springfield High School in 1998. The teen-age killer's parents (liberals by all accounts) had also bought him guns (his psychologist said it'd be a good thing). He used those guns (and I think stole more) to kill them and then head for the high school where he shot 27 students, killing 2 of them.  When he had to reload, one of the wounded students jumped him and put an end to the carnage.

In my area of Oregon, there have been several families where the parents were murdered by a disturbed son. The last one, the son used a machete to slaughter them both. Once again they had known he was troubled, mentally not healthy, but they were fundamentalist Christians, good people, but naive about mental illness. They paid for that with their lives. He'll spend the rest of his life in prison-- hopefully.

So what am I saying? I have no problem with blocking ownership of assault rifles, ending the right to buy extended magazines, but unless we find better ways of dealing with mental illness, it won't stop such tragedies. Maybe less will die in each assault, but is that okay? Collateral damage? Acceptable to have five children killed but not twenty?

Can we really not find a better way to deal with mental illness? For those who worry about infringement of freedom, it's an infringement of freedom to not know we can safely send our children to school, walk into a mall without fear or be in our own homes.

On MSNBC, a research expert said most of these type of murders are committed by three types of people. One is totally delusional but they are the less common. Another is psychotic like the one who recently committed suicide in Alaska after many serial killings including home invasions. That killer said he did it because he liked killing and knew exactly what he was doing and could plan it out-- that's psychotic. The final one he had as an example were most common-- the clinically depressed.

I would add another level of mental disorder because it takes more than depression to want to kill a bunch of small children. I think that something else is out of control rage. Is there a clinical title for that? Everyone of these killers has had a rage going. What are they mad at? Maybe like the one who just killed his father with a bow and arrow in Casper Wyoming-- he said he was enraged he had been born with Asperger's.

There's a scene in the film Tombstone that might say it well for some of these callous murderers:
Wyatt Earp: What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?  Doc Holliday: A man like Ringo has got a great big hole, right in the middle of him. He can never kill enough, or steal enough, or inflict enough pain to ever fill it. Wyatt Earp: What does he need? Doc Holliday: Revenge. Wyatt Earp: For what? Doc Holliday: Bein' born. 
Read the following story and expect to feel upset as it's what some parents are facing and on their own with no real help from our laws or culture:  


This is clearly, as was the case with our most recent shooter, something chemical or in the DNA which is seen from the youngest of ages. For someone like that probably nobody can do anything to fix it by the time they are adults. But are we researching it? How about those who are better at hiding it? Many serial killers can hide their rage as did Ted Bundy until they have their victim vulnerable.

Are we really ahead as a culture to have this rampant rage that is being stirred up in all manner of ways when you end up with road rage, strangers hitting strangers trying to shop, someone walking down the street bumping into another, or pushing someone onto a subway track? Some murders have a purpose, gangland types, drug dealers, family disagreements. It doesn't make them okay but we understand them better. But killings where there is no purpose only to kill, how do we understand those?

As a culture, we can do something about feeding rage through our words, our choice of media, our acceptance of violent movies and video games, our belief that we can fight wars overseas to keep the blood over there. It doesn't work but even if it did, what kind of people would buy into such thinking? It's okay to kill there as long as I stay safe? I said it during Vietnam and have seen it ever since-- the blood comes home in different ways.

I had an idea about mental illness. What if when it is identified in children, besides professionals, there could be adult mentors, those who had that illness and had learned to live worthwhile lives despite the difficulty it posed? If such a young person saw that it wasn't impossible to live a good life and got help for how to do it, could it make a difference?

In some cases, we might need, as a culture, to force the meds on the person.  I've heard the complaint that it takes away their freedom. They don't like the side effects. Well, it's not so great to end up in prison for life having slaughtered innocent people either.

Why can't we put more into research and treatment for mental disorders instead of regarding them as a shameful thing to hide. If we treated mental disorders as we do diabetes, might the attitude of parents be more open to their child being treated? If, as the mother in the above article said, nobody will do anything until there is a criminal charge, isn't that too late?

Maybe with better treatments for mental disorders, we'd have more families living happier lives and less total loss of life whether from a knife, strangling, poison, bomb, or gun. We likely can't stop all such attacks, but we aren't even trying right now. It's as though we have given up. Not everyone with such a disorder is dangerous but don't we have tests to determine who might be? I know, because of personal experiences with those suffering from schizophrenia, that we do.

To add to this, what if we look at our entertainment and put up some standards where we don't allow what is purposing only to inure someone to the cheapness of life and making it look exciting to kill? When a child of five is already talking violently, it wasn't entertainment that caused it, but a lot of kids today are being fed on a diet of violence because they like it. Their liking it doesn't mean it's okay. And when small children have no empathy for others, isn't that a warning sign?

I don't have a problem with looking at guns, making stricter rules to block instant purchase, government help for background checks, blocking ownership of assault rifles (the resistance will be fierce), but if we don't look at the root cause of the rage, it will be for naught. We will never get all the guns. but we could admit that a culture of rage is not a healthy place for children to grow up-- mentally stable or otherwise. It's not great for the rest of us either.

We are not helpless in this unless we refuse to look at the real causes, unless we give up before we start. Parents like the one who wrote the article above should not be in this alone because someday that child might be the one grown up and wielding a weapon. Using this tragedy as a way to hit on a pet cause like prayer in schools won't get us anywhere. It takes courage and determination to change something. Why can't we do it?

No way am I saying I have the answers. Like everyone else I am trying to sort through it. I think it's more diverse than one easy solution. Go for assault rifles, background checks, etc. but don't ignore the elephant in the room-- mental illness.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wars wars and more wars

Has anyone noticed that since McCain lost the 2008 election, he's been a bitter old man who smiles and uses any possible opportunity to try to convince people what a mistake they made not choosing him and Palin. Figuratively he regularly stabs Obama in the back. Latest example is we should get involved in Syria by sending arms to... well there you go-- which side? Whoever is fighting the dictator except is there only one side doing that?

Should America get involved in more wars in the Middle East? Should we put ground troops or even our weaponry in the hands of anybody in Libya, Egypt, Syria or anywhere else over there? Can we afford to get into another situation that escalates into us having another ground war?

Here's one take on it: Take a deep breath America

We should have learned this lesson before but more powerful nations rarely do. They intervene with what they hope will be a side more friendly to theirs (or profitable) except wasn't that the argument in Afghanistan when we helped the Taliban against the Soviets. Although technically speaking, that was not a civil war but an invaded country. Still look at who we aided-- bin Laden.

So we see these terrible massacres in Syria, and they have been terrible. We read about the election and the argument going on in Egypt with two sides trying to claim power.  

We must do something. 
 Must we? 

That's the debate we should be having. Ours is a nation that claims it has a nearly crippling debt, cannot maintain its infrastructure or care for its weak, cannot even govern itself because of the disagreement between two warring (with words) sides, and yet our people are easily stirred into thinking they need to fight somewhere in the world to right wrongs and bring peace... and you know the spiel as well as I do by now.

Can we even afford to think of getting into the Syrian or Egyptian potential civil wars. Both have a potential to get very ugly fast and pull us into another land war. Good idea or bad?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Eisenhower on war and consequences

The last blog I went briefly into the difference between how a general and a president must see a war or even a battle. This is arising now because many on the right have been saying that Obama should have done whatever McChrystal said was needed.

Obama said it well during the campaign. Presidents and generals have two different sets of responsibilities. A good example would be when MacArthur wanted to use the nuclear bomb on North Korea. His reasoning was that the military had napalmed the countryside and it had the people hiding in caves, but China was still able to supply them. A nuclear bomb of a certain sort would make northern Korea unreachable by land and easy resupplying by China for 90 years.

MacArthur was looking at winning a war. Truman looked at the consequences both in this country and how the world would see the United States for making the nuclear bomb standard tactics in a war. Today we might argue over who was right but one man had a different set of obligations than the other. Truman fired MacArthur and some said MacArthur, for how he had addressed this debate publicly, could have been charged with treason in addition to being fired.

Most likely every president engaged in a war faces the same issues as does every general trying to fight battles with the least possibly losses. Although I have my own doubts about McChrystal (based on his handling of the Pat Tilman friendly fire death, torture in Iraq, and publicly making his case for more troops), he has a set of responsibilities that must be about winning the war in Afghanistan. His reputation and career rest on that. He doesn't have an obligation to figure out the ramifications at home or abroad.

This is why we have a separate military and domestic power structure with domestic over the military-- or have had. Not sure how Republicans would like that in the future. Once in awhile though we have had generals who also rose to the top of the political structure. They offer a unique view then of responsibilities, having been on both sides. Until I got into considering this issue of military and domestic concerns, I didn't realize we have had twelve generals who became presidents. Most came out of the Civil War.

1. George Washington, Revolutionary War; 2. Andrew Jackson, War of 1812; 3. William Henry Harrison, War of 1812; 4. Zachary Taylor, Mexican War; 5. Franklin Pierce, Mexican War; 6. Andrew Johnson, Civil War; 7. Ulysses Simpson Grant, Civil War; 8. Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Civil War; 9. James Abram Garfield, Civil War; 10. Chester Allan Arthur, Civil War; 11. Benjamin Harrison, Civil War; 12. Dwight David Eisenhower, World War II.

Men who have learned to fight wars, win battles, and also take on political power might just have something to teach us for today. The last of those men (for now), Dwight D. Eisenhower was there to see the rise of the military industrial complex and expressed his concern not only about that but about war as a solution. Many of his quotes are well known, but in choosing a few of them to come together as a body, they make a philosophical statement:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.

How far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without?

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.

I have one yardstick by which I test every major problem - and that yardstick is: Is it good for America?

I would rather try to persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him, he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone.

If the United Nations once admits that international disputes can be settled by using force, then we will have destroyed the foundation of the organization and our best hope of establishing a world order.

If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom.

In most communities it is illegal to cry "fire" in a crowded assembly. Should it not be considered serious international misconduct to manufacture a general war scare in an effort to achieve local political aims?

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.

Pull the string, and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all.

The United States strongly seeks a lasting agreement for the discontinuance of nuclear weapons tests. We believe that this would be an important step toward reduction of international tensions and would open the way to further agreement on substantial measures of disarmament.

The world moves, and ideas that were once good are not always good.

There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs.

This world of ours... must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.

Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.

War settles nothing.

We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.

Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America.

When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war.

Think he could be nominated by the Republican party of today?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Let's Talk Politics

Political Rant
For now, I am still reserving judgment on Obama's presidency. I expected him to take some learning time; plus I saw how he ran his campaign. He's not a rush to the finish type of leader. I also have no regrets for having supported him in 2008 given the alternative the Republicans provided. As for whether Obama will be a great president or one I won't even vote for in 2012, time will tell. This article in the New York Times by an Oregon Congressman, Earl Blumenauer, pretty well sums it up for me: Frustrated Liberal Lawmaker Balances Beliefs and Politics.

Maureen Dowd also had a good column on Sunday: Fie, Fatal Flaw! And there was Frank Rich's Goldman can you spare a dime? which concerns me as it did when I saw who Obama put into his Treasury Department. While I am reserving judgment, I won't blindly support whatever he does and end up like those who gave George W. Bush a blank check constantly defending him no matter what he does. There are things progressives want from Obama. We shall see how many he delivers on. Yes, you righties don't like any of it. Better luck with a candidate next time.

There are complaints from the right against Obama that I don't think are fair. What many Republicans claim they dislike most is that he is escalating our federal debt. They point to current numbers to prove what he's done in 9 short months. They ignore the actual facts about the budget, about what happened for the previous 8 years.

Here's the current situation: Debt Clock with some good articles right below it explaining some of how we got here. It didn't start with Obama's stimulus package to help the middle and lower classes. We've been on a collision course with financial disaster since Bush put through tax cuts (weighted toward the richest) in the middle of a war with escalating spending. None of that appeared to worry people from the right-- not enough anyway until a Democrat got in power (assuming anybody there has power).

Two extra reasons beyond current spending for the deficit's escalation this year is because of actually adding in the cost of war that had been kept off line and paying the increasing interest on that debt. I suspect if the real costs of that war had been added in earlier, we'd have had a lot less of the patriotic flag waving. Amazing how popular things are until someone gets the bill.

This year, with the stimulus package, the deficit jumped again because money was given to the states to try and put the brakes on a possible depression. Sure there was pork in it. Yes, Obama should have been more hands on and less turning it over to Congress (both parties) to figure out where to put it; but maybe he figured these legislators, from each state knew best where it could help right away. Unlike the bank bailout, which may or may not have been wise but didn't seem good to me at the time, and makes me even more angry right now with the big bonuses for the investment firms (who make what again to help the economy?) this one was weighted toward the people. Does that worry Republicans more somehow?

I would be far more tolerant of the right wingers complaining about Obama if they had demanded those tax cuts during the Bush years be connected to equal spending cuts; or if they had said, if we want this war, we have to raise sufficient taxes to pay for it. Instead people were told they could fight a war on the cheap and didn't worry that the difference between the rich and middle class was escalated by that tax cut.

Even today when I hear things from the right that Obama should send more troops to Afghanistan, I wonder and who pays for it? Never mind, to the tea partiers-- manna from heaven, I guess. Constantly I hear these anti-tax people say it was the right thing to fight a war of choice in Iraq as they also say they don't want to pay taxes. Talk about faith based wars.

Then there are those who claim Obama should do whatever General McCrystal demands about the war in Afghanistan (i.e. 40,000 more troops). Did a military junta take us over while I wasn't looking? Some hope Petraeus will run for president in 2012 and they might get their chance for for a war president (who knows what he actually supports). As for me, I hope Obama remembers something wise that he said while running for office that a general has the responsibility to determine how to 'win' one war but a president has to look at what is good for his overall country.

Anyone who reads anything at all about Afghanistan's history can see where increasing our troop levels there will lead. Currently it apparently has a corrupt government (that Bush's administration put in place) but more than that, it's been a sinkhole for lives and dollars for its entire history. What plan is in place to make this any different?

I think if Afghanistan had had any chance to work, it would have been finishing it before jumping to Iraq. We lost the window, allowed the Taliban to regroup (and fund themselves from the poppy fields) and now we are facing some pretty ugly choices including their ease of slipping back and forth between there and Pakistan who has the nuclear bomb. No easy options. Nor are there for other big problems.

What I see happening, unless there is a major change, is us heading to a Dickensian world where there are the rich and there are the poor. The right wing seems to only like to spend money on bombs. They are blocking anything that might help the middle class continue to exist. The left wing is so inefficient (or bought off) that they can't do anything they claim to want. How convenient as they continue raking in lobbyist bribes donations. That sucking sound you hear is Congress at the tit.

The middle class is being undermined in health care, education, and jobs. Does Congress not see itself as part of the middle class? I think it doesn't because when these guys leave office, they get jobs in those same big lobbying firms and make millions. They identify with the rich because it's where many of them expect to end up.

The way it's heading right now, our children's children will never know the world we did. I suppose some don't care so long as they don't live to see that day. They very well might.

The photos I chose for this blog illustrate a couple of my thoughts right now. The top one is a waning moon in the middle of the morning. The United States does not have to be a waning power. It can be like the moon, go through this down cycle and build again.

While the moon just does its thing, we have to put resources into changing our course. We can rebuild our cities, fix our health care system, accept that the stock market is not the main criteria we must use for what is right but rather do what is best for people's lives, and pay for what we say we want rather than be always borrowing. Money is not the only standard by which something must be measured, is it?

I believe we can still change things, but if we don't, we will be a waning power that stays down permanently because I believe our power has come through our strong middle class where real things have been made. A vital middle class has been the engine that made this country great. If that disappears, if the hope for the poor disappears with nowhere for them to move up, then it won't be good in the future for anybody but a few rich. If that's the world we want, then do nothing and it'll happen because there are those working to make it happen. Some think they can get more gold by killing the golden goose.


The other photo is a woolly bear caterpillar from last week-end, which if it completes its cycle will become an Isabella Tiger Moth. I grew up being told that you can predict the hardness of a winter by this little guy's bands. A wider brown one means a tough winter ahead (or some say it's just the opposite).

This was the first one I had seen this fall. When I find them on the road, they curl up into a little ball which I pick up and throw off, trying to help them toward the direction they were heading, but this one was in the pasture where its only danger would be the cattle stepping on it.

Its photo is here because it represents one way man looks to guess for what will happen. We can't really do that with life (not sure it works with winter predicting either) but it seems to me that if we keep going as we are, fighting wars elsewhere and forgetting the ones here, we are in big trouble.