Why Does America Lose Its Head Over ‘Terror’ But Ignore Its Daily Gun Deaths?

The marathon bombs triggered a reaction that is at odds with last week’s inertia over arms control.

Source: From the Guardian, via RSN

Author: Michael Cohen

“The thriving metropolis of Boston was turned into a ghost town on Friday. Nearly a million Bostonians were asked to stay in their homes – and willingly complied. Schools were closed; business shuttered; trains, subways and roads were empty; usually busy streets eerily resembled a post-apocalyptic movie set; even baseball games and cultural events were cancelled – all in response to a 19-year-old fugitive, who was on foot and clearly identified by the news media.

The actions allegedly committed by the Boston marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, were heinous. Four people dead and more than 100 wounded, some with shredded and amputated limbs.

But Londoners, who endured IRA terror for years, might be forgiven for thinking that America over-reacted just a tad to the goings-on in Boston. They’re right – and then some. What we saw was a collective freak-out like few that we’ve seen previously in the United States. It was yet another depressing reminder that more than 11 years after 9/11 Americans still allow themselves to be easily and willingly cowed by the “threat” of terrorism.

After all, it’s not as if this is the first time that homicidal killers have been on the loose in a major American city. In 2002, Washington DC was terrorised by two roving snipers, who randomly shot and killed 10 people. In February, a disgruntled police officer, Christopher Dorner, murdered four people over several days in Los Angeles. In neither case was LA or DC put on lockdown mode, perhaps because neither of these sprees was branded with that magically evocative and seemingly terrifying word for Americans, terrorism.

To be sure, public officials in Boston appeared to be acting out of an abundance of caution. And it’s appropriate for Boston residents to be asked to take precautions or keep their eyes open. But by letting one fugitive terrorist shut down a major American city, Boston not only bowed to outsize and irrational fears, but sent a dangerous message to every would-be terrorist – if you want to wreak havoc in the United States, intimidate its population and disrupt public order, here’s your instruction booklet.

Putting aside the economic and psychological cost, the lockdown also prevented an early capture of the alleged bomber, who was discovered after Bostonians were given the all clear and a Watertown man wandered into his backyard for a cigarette and found a bleeding terrorist on his boat.

In some regards, there is a positive spin on this – it’s a reflection of how little Americans have to worry about terrorism. A population such as London during the IRA bombings or Israel during the second intifada or Baghdad, pretty much every day, becomes inured to random political violence. Americans who have such little experience of terrorism, relatively speaking, are more primed to overreact – and assume the absolute worst when it comes to the threat of a terror attack. It is as if somehow in the American imagination, every terrorist is a not just a mortal threat, but is a deadly combination of Jason Bourne and James Bond.

If only Americans reacted the same way to the actual threats that exist in their country. There’s something quite fitting and ironic about the fact that the Boston freak-out happened in the same week the Senate blocked consideration of a gun control bill that would have strengthened background checks for potential buyers. Even though this reform is supported by more than 90% of Americans, and even though 56 out of 100 senators voted in favour of it, the Republican minority prevented even a vote from being held on the bill because it would have allegedly violated the second amendment rights of “law-abiding Americans”.

So for those of you keeping score at home – locking down an American city: a proper reaction to the threat from one terrorist. A background check to prevent criminals or those with mental illness from purchasing guns: a dastardly attack on civil liberties. All of this would be almost darkly comic if not for the fact that more Americans will die needlessly as a result. Already, more than 30,000 Americans die in gun violence every year (compared to the 17 who died last year in terrorist attacks).

What makes US gun violence so particularly horrifying is how routine and mundane it has become. After the massacre of 20 kindergartners in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, millions of Americans began to take greater notice of the threat from gun violence. Yet since then, the daily carnage that guns produce has continued unabated and often unnoticed.

The same day of the marathon bombing in Boston, 11 Americans were murdered by guns. The pregnant Breshauna Jackson was killed in Dallas, allegedly by her boyfriend. In Richmond, California, James Tucker III was shot and killed while riding his bicycle – assailants unknown. Nigel Hardy, a 13-year-old boy in Palmdale, California, who was being bullied in school, took his own life. He used the gun that his father kept at home. And in Brooklyn, New York, an off-duty police officer used her department-issued Glock 9mm handgun to kill herself, her boyfriend and her one-year old child.

At the same time that investigators were in the midst of a high-profile manhunt for the marathon bombers that ended on Friday evening, 38 more Americans – with little fanfare – died from gun violence. One was a 22-year old resident of Boston. They are a tiny percentage of the 3,531 Americans killed by guns in the past four months – a total that surpasses the number of Americans who died on 9/11 and is one fewer than the number of US soldiers who lost their lives in combat operations in Iraq. Yet, none of this daily violence was considered urgent enough to motivate Congress to impose a mild, commonsense restriction on gun purchasers.

It’s not just firearms that produce such legislative inaction. Last week, a fertiliser plant in West, Texas, which hasn’t been inspected by federal regulators since 1985, exploded, killing 14 people and injuring countless others. Yet many Republicans want to cut further the funding for the agency (OSHA) that is responsible for such reviews. The vast majority of Americans die from one of four ailments – cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease – and yet Republicans have held three dozen votes to repeal Obamacare, which expands healthcare coverage to 30 million Americans.

It is a surreal and difficult-to-explain dynamic. Americans seemingly place an inordinate fear on violence that is random and unexplainable and can be blamed on “others” – jihadists, terrorists, evil-doers etc. But the lurking dangers all around us – the guns, our unhealthy diets, the workplaces that kill 14 Americans every single day – these are just accepted as part of life, the price of freedom, if you will. And so the violence goes, with more Americans dying preventable deaths. But hey, look on the bright side – we got those sons of bitches who blew up the marathon.”

Emphasis Mine

See: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/416-gun-control-/17076-why-does-america-lose-its-head-over-terror-but-ignore-its-daily-gun-deaths


California Journal: 20 – 30 jan 2010

California Journal

Wednesday 20 Jan 2010

Sharon & I flew Continental from Hopkins (CLE) to LAX., where we walked through a dark, wet area to finally locate our rental Ford Focus, and using – for the first time in our lives a GPS -headed to our LA headquarters, which was the Residence Inn in Beverley Hills.  Ate corned beef sandwiches and chicken noodle soup at Factors Deli (http://www.factorsdeli.com/) – a real (think J) deli across the street.

Thursday 21

Using  GPS again- as well as Google maps – we went to the Petersen Auto Museum.  Supped at Jar on Wilshire($).  The web site said “business casual”, but I’d call hoodies  and jeans “after school casual”.  Worked out in hotel gym.

Friday 22

Raining, so we went to Beverly Center – an indoor mall (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverly_Center).  Bought for me a top at the Ferrari store.  Supped at Grace (also $).  Worked out in hotel gym.

Saturday 23

Sunny.  Went to the Getty Center, a complex of museum buildings in the hills. Reminisced with Rembrandt, made an impression on Monet, etc. Lunched there ($).  Supped at Cafe del Ray in the Marina Del Ray – a location which brought me back to the early seventies.  As we left, a Ferrari, a Bentley, and a Maserati were valet parked by the door, turning green with envy at our Focus’s lower fuel consumption.

Sunday 24

Our motivation for the excursion was a memorial service for my late friend Anne Marie Staas Niedorf, held at a quaint facility called the Ebell of Los Angeles – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebell_of_Los_Angeles.  The service alone was worth the trip.  Among the high points was the singing of K.B. Solomon – http://web.mac.com/kbsolomon/Site/About_KB_Solomon.html.  Many testimonials, much adulation.  In the chapter “Begin with the End in Mind” in “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, author Stephen R. Covey asks us to imagine what our friend and colleagues would say about us at our funeral: Anne Marie was indeed a highly successful person.
See: https://charlog.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/remembering-anne-marie-niedorf/
We ate at the Farm on S. Beverly.

Monday 25

We drove out of LA up I405 to I5 and on across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco.  Scenic, pleasant drive, took less than six hours.  Into the City and onto our Hotel, the Argonaut, at Fisherman’s Wharf.  Raining.  Walked to supper in a restaurant in Ghiradelli Square.

Tuesday 26

Walked around the Cannery neighbourhood, and bought “Game Change” at a Border’s (which did not have anything on Paul Robeson).  Took two touristy tours in double decked buses: the down town tour and then the evening tour.  I could smell brake linings while on a few of the downhills, which are as steep as some coasters.  Great tour guide (Keith Oshins).  Ate at a waterfront touristy place in the neighbourhood.  N.B.: If the word ‘Victorian’ were not so pejorative, I would have appreciated the houses more.  Worked out in hotel gym.

Wednesday 27

Tremont met Kelly’s Island for us on Wednesday, as we took a tour to Sasualito, across the Bay, accomplished by way of that magnificent erection known as the Golden Gate Bridge.  (If it were in Cleveland, the critics would say looks like part of the rust belt.)  The Ferric oxide look was not a prominent sight in Sausalito, where trendy shops and eateries thrive on tourism.  I asked a tour guide if the Bridge were a WPA project, and he asked me what that was(?!?). BTW: It is.  N.B.: Tremont is a trendy area on the near WestSide of Cleveland where art shops and eateries abound, and Kelly’s Island is in Western Lake Erie. Turned in our rented car, as it was of no value.  Supped at a great restaurant on the Wharf. ($)  Then we went to BuenaVista, which has some claim to Irish Coffee in the USA.  Sat with a couple of brits who were great company.  Place was straight, great, and jumping.  The IC was small, and not as good as my friends make in Western Cuyahoga County.  Worked out in hotel gym.

Thursday 28

We took a cable car to Union Square, where we admired the works of local artists, looked in exclusive shops featuring over-priced merchandise for sale to under-taxed yuppies, and saw no trade unionists.  We lunched at Nieman Marcus, where we were under dressed.  Then we took the Park tour on the bus.  Supped at an Italian named restaurant on the Wharf.  Visited a bar next to our hotel, at which the owner had a collection of Studebakers.  As my dad had a 1954 Coupe and 1955 sedan, I was interested and talked with him.  He recognized that the car picture on my phone was of a Mini (1960).  Worked out in hotel gym.

Friday 29

Tour of 3 Sonoma wineries (no boxed wines there!) and then we went to the City Lights bookstore -http://www.citylights.com/, where all old beatniks come to die.  We bought a book on Paul Robeson, and also Howard Zinn’s history.  Place was quaint, left progressive, and manifestly devoid of Neocon’s. Ate in China town.

Saturday 30

Parked outside of our hotel was an Icon of the ’60’s: a VW MicroBus (1964).  Original color, but not original paint.  As we passed through the Marina district, the harbor was filled with sails – must have been a regatta.

Flew Continental back to Hopkins, supped at Frank and Pauly’s, and that was the vacation that was.

Summary: Great things to do while we are still young enough to do them. Shall we say: Adventure before dementia?  Got in some quality in-flight reading.  LA was good; SF was great.  Did not do Chocolate or Alcatraz – the later was government housing for behaviourally challenged; the former was insalubrious.  When we got back home, we saw more ladies who get three squares a day, if you know what I mean, and that is good.