In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, the European press show little sympathy. Horror, yes, because Europeans are quite able to understand how dreadful the massacre was, but the time for sympathy with America for mass-shooting atrocities is long past. It is perfectly obvious that America doesn’t care in the slightest about them; the only actual reaction to a mass shooting is an uptick in weapon sales — accompanied after this one by an increase in demand for the bump-stock accessories which made it that much more lethal. In today’s America, mass shootings are simply advertisements.
Marc Pitzke considers the depressing vista:
What motivates one to act together, if not the death of dozens of fellow human beings?
The sad answer: This time will probably never come in the USA. 20 children and seven teachers died in 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Nothing happened. 49 teenagers, many gays and lesbians, died last year at the Latino nightclub “Pulse” in Orlando. Nothing happened. Six men were injured in June during a baseball training of Congressmen, including the Republican Steve Scalise. Nothing happened.
Nothing will happen as long as the Americans do not realize how mendacious the debate is.
“The answers are not easy,” says US President Donald Trump . But they are obvious. 313,000 shooting deaths in ten years. More than 1500 mass shootingss since Sandy Hook. The laxest weapons laws of the Western world. No other country has such statistics. In no other country would it be so easy to change anything.
But in order to make sense, the Americans would have to accept uncomfortable insights.
- The insight that the gun is racist. Gunmen were always a privilege of the Whites. The Ku Klux Klan also arose to confiscate the weapons of blacks. The US weapons lobby NRA is to a large extent still white – and whites are often the only ones who can claim the second constitutional amendment, the general right to arms. However, armed blacks and religious minorities are often considered “thugs” and “terrorists”.
- The insight that for Americans their “Christian” country people are a statistically greater threat than islamist fanatics. But instead of talking openly about this – often right-radical – “domestic terrorism”, the president prefers to ban the entry of Muslims.
- The insight that the NRA is not a regulator, but the lobby of the arms industry. Their handlers are conservative politicians, who, paid with donations, keep the laws lax. This week they want to pass a law, which facilitates the acquisition of silencers, to protect the hearing of the shooters. It was postponed after the baseball assassination attempt to wait for their colleague, Scalise, who returned to the plenary on Thursday.
- The realization that tougher laws alone are not enough. But the causes of gun violence, psychological problems, family disintegration, America ‘s class system, growing hatred between all – seem to be taboo as well as more ingenious solutions such as “smart guns”. In addition, the Congress canceled the research grants.
- As well as the insight that even the Democrats rarely jump over their shadows. They complain about the status quo, but they do not find the courage to be courageous about Las Vegas and just mouth platitudes. “Las Vegas is a safe place,” said Steve Sisolak, the Democratic district chief of Clark County, on Monday evening. “We encourage everyone to visit us.”
In Le Monde, Luc Vinogradoff looks specifically at the reaction of the country music world:
In Las Vegas, 58 people were killed and 527 others injured when they came to listen and enjoy country music. Route 91 Harvest Festival, a huge outdoor concert, was the scene of the largest modern mass murder in the United States.
In the inevitable debate on arms control that followed, special attention was inevitably focused on country music. This is what connected all the victims of this tragedy, and it was the whole environment that felt attacked.
American editorial writers – often settled on both coasts, so far from the heart – wondered whether this tragic event would act as a tragic trigger and get the world of the country to face its contradictions. How could these men and women, who were the most likely to sweep away the arguments for a regulation of weapons, react to a drama affecting them personally, and which might perhaps have been avoided?
In the days following the killings, the reactions of the country scene artists, the stars and the lesser lights, those who were in Las Vegas or not, were unanimous: fear, fear, sadness, prayers . Almost none of them have approached, even indirectly, the carrying of weapons. None of them answered the question: how could a man buy 47 weapons in four different states ? None of them spoke on the bump stocks , mechanisms to transform semi-automatic rifles into automatic rifles.
There is a political connection between the country and the arms lobby. Crooners in cowboy hats are not the only artists to mythify guns in their words. A lot of rappers do it too. But the NRA does not want to have anything to do with them, near or far.
This link was formalized in 2010 with the creation of NRA Country . Some of the biggest names in the genre have become “ambassadors” of the NRA. Some, like the group Florida Georgia Line or Luke Combs, have played in Las Vegas. “Looking at the flow of artists from NRA Country quickly, there are many tears, prayers and calls to defeat evil, but no mention of guns,” writes the Nashville Scene . Many others, who are not affiliated with the NRA, also avoid the subject. “
David Usborne draws the uncomfortable parallel between the inaction on guns and the action on birth control:
That we segued to guns and the slaying of 58 concert-goers in Las Vegas by a 64-year-old man holed up on the 32nd floor of a hotel surrounded by an armory of deadly weapons might at first seem odd. But before we’d arrived, one of us had shared something on social media that had gone viral and had caught her attention. It was originally posted by Gloria Steinem, the 83-year-old dean of American feminism, though there is some mystery as to who actually penned it.It is a call for all the restrictions that various states, all Republican controlled, have imposed or are seeking to impose on women opting to terminate their pregnancies to be replicated for any person looking to buy a gun. The war on women goes on: on Friday the Trump administration issued a new directive allowing employers to remove coverage for birth control from the health insurance they give them. Potentially, hundreds of thousands of women going forward will no longer have access to birth control options free of charge, a draconian step that makes the Steinem post yet more pertinent.
I long ago concluded that getting guns out of the American bloodstream is a doomed ambition. Precisely because they are in the bloodstream. In the constitution, the right to bear arms is thus in the nation’s DNA. But if this country today is so eager to craft rules narrowing access to abortion, can it not also narrow access to deadly weapons with legislation and regulation? Can it defend making access to guns a right and access for women to full healthcare a privilege? There is scant reason to hope.
It is the job of a president to help the nation get back on the path of humanity and decency when it has strayed into the weeds. When a tragedy like Vegas strikes. Like that’s going to happen.
Let us move on to the dysfunction in the administration with regard to foreign policy, since it has now become apparent that POUTS doesn’t agree with anyone who’s supposed to be conducting foreign policy on America’s behalf. Kim Sengupta looks at the rifts:
…reports have surfaced that Mattis, Trump’s National Security Advisor, Lieutenant General HR McMaster and his Chief of Staff General John Kelly have renewed their pact to ensure that not all three will ever be abroad at the same time. They will ensure that at least one will remain in the country to monitor orders coming from the White House.
This is quite a scenario even by the extraordinary standards of the Trump administration. It is as if some of his most senior men have decided that it is their patriotic duty to protect the country from the President’s worst mistakes. He is facing steady and determined opposition on key issues of foreign policy in the National Security Council with senior members making no secret of their disagreements with him.
Trump, in his short Presidency, has already lost a Chief of Staff, a National Security Advisor, Health Secretary, a press secretary and two communications directors. He has fired the Director of the FBI, and belittled his Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General. He will, however, face strong opposition, not least from prominent people from his own party, if he seeks to sack the senior members of the administration standing up to him.
Just today Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, intervened to say “Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly work very well together to make sure that policies we put forth around the world are sound and coherent. There are other people within the administration that don’t. I hope they stay because they are valuable to the national security of our nation. These are the people that help separate our country from chaos and I support them very much.”
The words are quite extraordinary, providing, while giving a ringing endorsement of the men, a deeply alarming view of the state of Donald Trump’s administration.
In the Tages Anzeiger, Martin Kilian looks at what this may mean for the Iran deal:
In his speech before the UN General Assembly in September, the President confirmed that he did not support the Atomdeal, saying that the agreement was “embarrassing for the United States,” said Trump.
Once again, however, Trump’s generals do not want to know anything about an exit. At a hearing before the Senate Military Committee on Tuesday, former General Secretary and Secretary of Defense James Mattis stood up for the observance of the treaty, as long as there were no indications for a violation of Tehran. Joseph Dunford, head of the US General Staff, said: “Iran does not violate the agreement, and I am convinced that the treaty delayed the development of a nuclear arsenal in Iran,” General Dunford told the committee.
Supporters of an exit such as the Republican Senator Tom Cotton (Arkansas) are of the essence: Iran is “a direct threat to American security,” the hope of a political change in Tehran. New sanctions would have to be passed and Iranian nuclear capacities would have to be destroyed, if necessary, by military forces.
It does not bother the hawks that an exit from the nuclear deal with Tehran would send a dangerous signal. North Korea, for example, would have to fear that any agreement with Washington would depend on the domestic climate and would be broken if necessary. It is unclear, however, whether the hardliners in the Senate will find a majority. If the Senate does not decide to impose new sanctions within 60 days of a refusal, the agreement will continue.
Democratic senators who, like Group leader Chuck Schumer (New York), originally voted against the contract with Tehran have already announced that they will reject new sanctions. Nevertheless, it is uncertain whether the 2015 agreement will survive Donald Trump.
And then we have North Korea. Tillerson may be wasting his time trying to conduct negotations, but exactly who is the unreasonable party is certainly open to question. The CIA have been quoted saying that Kim is a rational actor who wants to live a long life and die in his own bed. Whatever that may mean.
David Banks is a professorial lecturer at American University, Washington where he focuses on international order, great power politics, and diplomacy, and has written this piece for The Independent:
In some ways, we should not worry about a war breaking out between North Korea and the US, or at least not a nuclear war. Nuclear weapons are incredibly dangerous but the payoffs for their use in almost any circumstances are extremely low. Indeed, precisely because nuclear weapons are so destructive any threat of their use is inherently unbelievable. For instance, whether they strike first or second, in an exchange with the US, North Korea would be doomed. And even if they would not be completely annihilated by a North Korean attack, the US would suffer an irreversible blow. When it is put like this, it seems like we need not worry about the bluster and bullying going on between Kim Jong-un and President Trump; it is neither rational nor credible that they would go to war.
From this perspective, the escalation of the crisis between North Korea and the US can be seen not as the preliminaries to a shooting war, but rather a game of nerves where each stage of escalation is intended to communicate each sides’ resolve not to swerve. One way to credibly communicate this resolve is by making it appear that “swerving” is no longer an option. For instance, Kim publicly calling Trump a “dotard” may not just be an act of lashing out; it also makes it difficult for him to back down without enraging hardliners at home (a not inconsequential danger in regime where political successions are a lethal business).
Similarly, Trump’s hardline attitude may be motivated by a desire to look tough in front a domestic public that supports a militant stance toward North Korea. The threat of suffering domestic costs makes either leader less likely to swerve, thus putting the onus on their opponent to swerve first. The danger is that by escalating like this it makes the costs of backing down more severe, and increases the likelihood that – while waiting for the one another to do the “sensible” thing – the opponents will plough into one another.
Indeed, there may be an even greater danger. The dynamics outlined above assume that both antagonists in a dispute are rational. However, there is a real risk that either (or both) Trump and Kim may not be fully cognizant of the risks they are running, or the nature of their opponent. Both seem possessed of a machismo in which not only do they not wish to yield, but they wish to deny their opponent to climb down while also saving face. This is extremely dangerous; allowing Krushchev to back down without humiliating him was key in ending the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is very unnerving because if a person cares more about saving their face than saving their life, they may never choose to swerve. In such a situation, escalation can only end in one way.
Which is distinctly worrying.
A question which is beginning to occur to non-Americans is whether POUTS is changing America. Thorsten Schröder interviews Jeffrey Alexander, Yale’s Professor of Sociology:
ZEIT ONLINE: Mr. Alexander, the United States could be a different country under Donald Trump. Is that so?
Jeffrey Alexander: In some ways already. In the twentieth century, we did not have a president who represented the extreme right , with all its racist, anti-Semitic, and authoritarian positions. Now he is elected, and the feelings that smolder in certain circles have acquired a certain legitimacy. Antidemocratic views have, thanks to Trump, the official right to be heard and heard. Their representatives can demonstrate and hold lectures at universities. Until Trump came, these things were simply not heard.
ZEIT ONLINE: Have you experienced that personally?
Alexander: Yes. I was just for my son’s birthday at the best restaurant in New Haven, where I live. I had been there dozens of times before, the head chef, who is also a partner, I have known for a long time. When the conversation came to politics, he suddenly said, “I hate Muslims, I hate them, I hate them.” Just like that. He would never have said that before. He would have kept his true opinion to himself.
At the next table sat an older couple, in their seventies, with whom I have already eaten together in the past. Later in the evening, I briefly talked to the man. Suddenly he said, “I must confess I am already a bit of a white nationalist.” I was completely shocked. This was a man from the upper middle class, a cosmopolitan, Yale graduate. This has summarized for me what happened in the Trump era. These people think they can just say things like that, and think that it’s perfectly all right….
ZEIT ONLINE: So is Trump a unique slip-up?
Alexander: That’s hard to say. At the moment we are experiencing a strong mobilization of the center and the Liberals against Trump. Even business and the military have positioned themselves openly in response to Charlottesville . So there are two possible scenarios. The result may be that, as an American society, we are again more strongly identified with our fundamental values because of this President. Trump could become a lesson from which we learn, just as it was with the McCarthy era or after Nixon. I believe that our system is autonomous enough to move forward under a new president.
ZEIT ONLINE: And the second scenario?
Alexander: If Trump gets a second term, because he is a good enough politician and the Democrats do a bad job, the antidemocratic movement could become more institutionalized and take over the Republican Party . Then we would have to deal with a lengthy problem. The result would be a very serious crisis of American democracy.
ZEIT ONLINE: In Washington, both sides seem unforgiving. Does that actually reflect the rest of the country?
Alexander: We are certainly in a time of extreme political polarization. But I do not believe that the events in Washington can be transferred to society. If you look at surveys, then we are not a racist society. The broad middle is moderate and accepts the social changes we are experiencing.
ZEIT ONLINE: So does the system have to adapt?
Alexander: Yes, maybe. The political system has become very rigid. We have always had a very problematic political structure in the US. First, we invest a lot of time and money into an election campaign, but then the president can hardly rule because his ideas do not find a sufficient majority. This in turn leads to great frustration among his electorate.
ZEIT ONLINE: Now this is – at least from a liberal point of view – good.
Alexander: For the liberals in the country, the situation nine months after the takeover actually gives more reason for optimism. His political coalition is considerably weakened. Either he still succeeds, or he becomes increasingly isolated and loses. If Trumpism failed, there might be a group in the Senate who are again trying to compromise.
And now to finish with something completely different. Although Jane Garvey is complaining about British politics, her complaint seems equally applicable to America. In fact, quite possibly more so, since it seems rather easier for idiots to become prominent politicians, particularly if they’re Republicans.
Still, the fact remains: it’s an utter disgrace, the lack of high-quality female buffoons woven into the fraying fabric of our national life. And that’s a shame. Not least for me, because I honestly think I could have a stab at it.For a start, I have a heap of barely formed opinions, and a generous mop of unruly hair. So unruly, in fact, that I don’t even have to tease it into adorable ruffles before a public appearance: my coiffure does that all on its own.I’m neither tall nor especially plump, but I can totter about with my blouse hanging out of my skirt if you like. The suggestion being not that I’m a dotty old bird who can’t dress herself, of course, but a towering intellect with far bigger fish to fry. “Hello world, I’m a bit of an eccentric! Brain the size of a wheelie bin, though, so hear my views! Take me seriously!”
…It’s not the perkiest campaign slogan, I admit – Let Women in Top Positions Make Toe-curling Gaffes Too and Be Loved For It. That definitely needs work. But I’m prepared to dig in here.We’ll know we’re a little nearer true equality when a prominent woman spews forth potty, off-message gubbins on a regular basis and is simply held closer to the collective national bosom.Aw. Bless her.
Enjoy your Sunday.
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