Friday, January 18, 2013


The Newtown tragedy continues, rightly so, to stir emotions in the United States. The President has suggested a number of measures regarding the tightening of controls and the ban of certain categories of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines as well as an expansion of background checks.  The NRA (National Rifle Association) went ballistic and considers the President's proposals an infringement on the Second Constitutional Amendment, regarding the right to bear arms.  The problem is serious because it has also sociological implications which are potentially culturally divisive. It risks creating a clash between mostly rural and urban America, between social strata, and further polarizing existing tensions between liberals and the more conservative segment of the population.

Obama chose to make his statement surrounded by some children (who had sent him letters after the shooting) and in the presence of family members of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Personally, I am of the opinion that this gesture might aggravate emotions, distract and unleash further demagogic counter arguments like those which have already been made by the NRA. TV adds appeared accusing the President of hypocrisy, since his own daughters benefit from the protection of the Secret Service.  The outrage which is real deserves more respect than manipulation of all sides.

Otherwise the President is right in trying to come to terms with a violent streak in American society which permeates media, movies, everyday life.  Diabolism is generally bad policy however, the more so in that guns are an integral part of  the American DNA. It is politically (not morally) unwise to push too far in this regard. The better can be the worse enemy of the good.

One can rightly wonder what the Founding Fathers had in mind at a time when lethal weapons, like those we have seen too often in action lately, did not exist. There are too many would-be Rambos around who confuse self-defense with the "totemisation" of weapons of all sorts.  Those elements which are both marginal and toxic are glorified in a subculture of rap and video games which highlight aggression and infantile behavior.  Meanwhile, the United States suffers 20% more homicides than comparable economies.  Until now many Democrats and Republicans were afraid to confront this "silent majority" of weaponry junkies.  Newtown changed that, but for how long?  Polls indicate that 55% of Americans today are now of the opinion that the violence came too close to home.

Congress will have a hard time coming to a consensus.  It is unlikely that the President will have his way.  His first executive actions are largely symbolic and it is up to Congress to follow suit.  Recent and expected developments in other areas are an indication that this will be an uphill herculean battle at least.  His opponents have already resorted to accusing him of being tyrannical or confiscatory. The tone has been set for an ugly confrontation. The victims of the crime wave would be better honoured if a civil conversation amongst all sides could be started.  After all, most gun fans must have decent feelings as well and be able to discern between grotesque exaggeration and enlightened granted freedoms and rights.

Meanwhile Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California and "matinee film star, sees no parallel between film and real-world violence. Probably he hopes that this Pollyanna talk might work as a "cover up" for the violence in his latest vehicle "Last Stand". In the land of the blind...

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