The United States Goes Ballistic: The Gun Epidemic in the United States | Gun violence
While in Havana last February, I met a man in his fifties from the Cuban province of Guantanamo who, in 1986, had unsuccessfully attempted to navigate a makeshift boat from Cuba to the so-called “land of the free”: my own homeland, the United States.
Apprehended by Cuban authorities, he was sentenced to three years of hard labor on a coffee farm where, he said, he was treated in a reasonably civilized manner and where he was able to put his engineering degree to good use. mechanics by designing a coffee-pulping machine.
Although his love for the Cuban system of government has grown little over the past three and a half decades, the man said the only place on Cuban soil where things like institutionalized torture would be found was the US military base at Guantánamo Bay. . Despite his own attempt to abandon the country in favor of the epicenter of global capitalism, he maintained that there were certain invaluable advantages that corresponded to life in Cuba, including free health care and freedom to go to school or walk down the street without the fear of getting shot.
To be sure, American politicians and other concerned citizens have spent a great deal of energy over the years neurotically portraying Cuba as a particularly oppressive nation and a threat to international security. The small island even occupies only one spot out of four on the official US list of state sponsors of terrorism – even though Cuba has never, say, bombed the hell out of civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan, and even though Guantánamo constitutes a form of terror in his right.
But while the US government presents almost everything the US itself does as being in the name of “freedom” and “security”, the fact is that Cubans have access to literal security that does not is not available to residents of the Imperial Superpower. When I Googled “mass shootings in Cuba,” for example, the top result was an Associated Press article from April 2020 about Alexander Alazo, 42, of Aubrey, Texas, who, armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, opened fire on the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC. According to the police editorial staff, the episode was an “alleged hate crime”.
And yet, Mr. Alazo’s escapades are just the tip of the iceberg – or the tip of the gun barrel – when it comes to gun violence in the United States, the self-proclaimed model of humanity. Over Easter weekend in April, CNN reported “at least 10 mass shootings” across the country – with the term “mass shooting” referring to an “incident in which four or more people are shot , not including the shooter.
The Easter tally included two mass shootings in the state of Pennsylvania alone, one of which occurred at a party in Pittsburgh and left two 17-year-olds dead, in addition to numerous injuries. South Carolina itself has hosted two mass shootings, one at a mall in the state capital of Columbia, which left nine people with gunshot wounds. Mass shootings have also taken place in California, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, New York and Oregon.
This particularly bloody weekend came just days after 10 people were shot dead on the Brooklyn subway on April 12. US this weekend,” posted on March 21 — and there does indeed appear to be a trend. Fast forward to May, and the Washington, DC-based Gun Violence Archive had already recorded no less than 173 mass shootings this year as of May 2.
The catalog of horrifying statistics continues. According to the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the country recorded 45,222 “firearm deaths” in 2020 – even more than the 40,698 “motor vehicle traffic deaths”. This is the highest number of firearm-related deaths ever recorded for a single year so far, and represents a 43% increase from 2010.
Of the 45,222 deaths, approximately 54% were suicides and 43% homicides. The rest, notes the Pew Research Center, had been either “unintentional”, involved “undetermined circumstances” or “involved law enforcement” – who have certainly carried out their fair share of extrajudicial executions of black Americans and others in 2020. How’s that for “Security”?
A recent offering on the BBC News website, titled: America’s gun culture – in seven charts, sarcastically recalls: “It was over 50 years ago when the administration of President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared that ‘guns guns are a primary instrument of death in American crime. ‘ and that it was “primarily the result of our culture’s casual attitude toward guns and its heritage as an armed, self-reliant citizen.” In fact, the quote – which actually describes firearms as an “instrument of injury and death”, not just death – occurred in the context of a 1969 Congressional subcommittee hearing on gun legislation under Johnson’s successor, Richard Nixon.
The media’s incompetence at fact-checking aside, the quote still stands – and any “glib attitude” has undoubtedly proven useful throughout contemporary US history in justifying the massacres of civilians from Vietnam to Iraq and beyond. Understandably, however, the American political establishment has little interest in connecting the dots – or the bullet holes, as the case may be – between weaponized sociopathy abroad and at home.
The “armed, self-reliant citizen” has meanwhile become increasingly so, especially as various states have enacted ingenious laws allowing residents to carry handguns without a license or training. In 2017, there were already “more guns than people” in the United States, the Washington Post reported, citing a study that found there were “about 120.5 guns per 100 people”. – by far the most outrageous ratio in the world. .
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing a surge in gun purchases in the United States – because what better than a gun to protect you against a virus and general existential uncertainty? The spike in gun-related suicides and homicides has served to underscore how much better it would be – in terms of human life – for the US state to invest in the mental and physical well-being of its population rather than than cultivating a ruthless capitalist landscape that drives people crazy.
Of course, a sick society is ultimately more profitable for pillars of American capitalism such as the arms and pharmaceutical industries, whose own security definitely trumps the kind of security described by my Cuban interlocutor – as the freedom not to get shot while going about their daily business. Business.
I got a sense of this disease firsthand growing up in the United States, where I was taught that life was a competition as opposed to a community collaboration – a dog-eat-dog arrangement that intermittently spawned in me feelings of anxiety, isolation, helplessness, and a directionless rage. Decades before the pandemic made matters worse, I extricated myself from the hostile environment by simply leaving the country – and yet it’s not hard to see how a violent and deeply alienating system could also elicit individual responses. more violent.
On March 23, 2022, after a single weekend that featured “at least nine mass shootings” across the United States, the New York Times warned that this was “an ominous warning sign for the upcoming hottest summer months, which are typically America’s most violent time.” ”. But as times get increasingly violent, it’s not just this summer to fear.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.