Sunday, July 10, 2016

All Lives Matter (Re-Post from Black & White Blog)

The spate of shootings in the United States these last few months is tenebrous to say the least.  From the shooting in Orlando at the popular gay hangout the Pulse Club to the sniper shooting of police officers in Dallas yesterday at a rally organized to protest the recent killing of black men, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling by the police in Minnesota and Louisiana respectively, all these killings are symptomatic of a society awash with weapons and whose instinct to any perceived or real threat is the application of violence.

No one knows for sure how many guns are in the hands of civilian Americans, but estimates range from 280 million to over 350 million, a significant percentage of which are high-powered assault rifles usually reserved for the military in other countries.  The National Rifle Association (NRA) along with some right-wing organizations has been largely responsible for rabid resistance to any form of gun-control legislature suggested by the congress or the White House.  They often tout the 2nd Amendment (often referred to as the right to bare arms) as a sacrosanct and unimpeachable law in the US Constitution as though it were the 11th commandment of God.  Oftentimes, the argument these pro-gun lobby groups tout is that the more people are armed, the fewer gun violence will occur.  But this argument has been borne out to be a fallacy time and again.  All one need to do is compare the per capita gun-related deaths in the US with those in other countries with stricter gun-control to see the glaring difference.

The real reason to the resistance to gun-control has to do with the amount of money to be made by the gun industry.  The NRA threatens negative repercussions to any member of congress or politician that suggests gun-control by pouring massive resources to get such a politician thrown out of office or un-elected.  By stoking the embers of fear and paranoia among right-wing nationalists, anti-government groups, anarchists, militias and other individuals so inclined to believe that there is a looming threat of a tyrannical government in Washington DC, the NRA drives up more gun sales as these groups and individuals stockpile arms and ammunition with which they hope to use in defending themselves from the so-called tyrannical government should such a doomsday scenario occur.  Of cause the NRA is silent on how these arms stockpile will defend against Army tanks, Air Force drones, jet bombers and fighters and Naval Aircraft Carrier Arsenal not to mention Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arsenal at the disposal of the government.

Another issue to consider is the atrociously scant and bereft mental health care system in the US. Many individuals who otherwise would have been institutionalized or medicated for their mental health issues remain unable to access the system because of the chaotic private and state insurance-based health care administration in the US.  Many health insurance companies have gatekeeper policies in place that make it difficult, limit or altogether preclude access to mental health services by its subscribers.  Many states contract out the administration of their Medicaid health insurance programs to such private health insurance companies that seek to limit consumption in order to maximize profits.  All these ensures that the mentally unwell, who are non compose mentis and therefore unable to navigate these gatekeeper policies themselves are overwhelmingly under served.

Yet another factor to consider is the historical racial divide and tension that pervades the body politic and societal fabric of the United States.  Statistics show that black men in particular are overwhelmingly disproportionately apprehended and jailed in the criminal justice system than any other ethnic group. Black men are also more likely to be killed by the police than other ethnic groups even though they do not perpetrate more violent crimes than other ethnic groups.  The Black Lives Matter movement arose to tackle these disparities. While it has garnered the support of many, there are those who see this movement as a nuisance, including the controversial presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, Mr. Donald Trump.

Yesterday's shooting in Dallas surely is a negative for the Black Lives Matter movement.  The shooter, Mr. Micah Xavier Johnson appears to have acted alone and is said to have been angry that more black Americans are killed by white police men even as the Black Lives Matter protests have continued over the last few years.  In fact, Mr. Johnson was said to have criticized the Black Lives Matter movement for not doing enough.  Being a military veteran of the Afghanistan war theater, Mr. Johnson may well have been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and may have fallen through the cracks of accessing mental health care services and hence his obviously delusional and tragic apocalyptic view of the issues that confront the broader American society.  How long will Americans continue to be cut down by gun violence? How many more funerals will have to take place before the Nation comes to its senses and seek to address the issues of racial inequality, porous gun laws, mental health issues and all the other ills that make some people inclined to express themselves through bias and violence?