The Culture of Death, the Culture of Violence

Evangelicals love to say that America is a “Christian nation.” If by that they mean glamorizing the gory death of their god on a cross, there may be some truth in that. For a religion that has an instrument of death as its symbol, it’s not that surprising. In their world, what happens in this one is less important than the foretold resurrection not only of their god but of themselves when the Rapture comes. Violence, if it hastens the apocalypse or furthers the interests of the faithful, isn’t problematic, because this life here and now is not what matters, just as the life of Jesus did not matter — only his death.

When Ollie North blames the “culture of violence” in our country for school shootings, the statement itself is not wrong, but the assumptions behind it are. It is precisely our culture of death, which encourages and often rewards violence, that is the problem. It is why Guns are worshiped and “blessed” in churches. It is why Christians say, with a straight face, that carrying a Gun is their “god-given right,” as though Jesus was handing them out on the banks of the sea of Galilee. Yes, Guns made this country. They killed Native Americans by the thousands. They killed runaway slaves, which was the main point of the Second Amendment anyway. And they killed anyone who threatened to get in the way of their interests, legal or not, just or not.

The United States, true to its violent origins, spread itself westward, stealing the land as it went, and using violence to further its imperialist aims. Practically speaking, there has been no real time of peace for our country, because it has engaged in military actions for most of its existence. Needless to say, most of these actions had little to do with actual defense.

Racial violence has been excused for the entirety of the nation’s existence as well. Before the Civil War, they were property, and so owners had the right to do as they wished. After the Civil War, racist extralegal organizations like the KKK and others asserted their dominance with violence. Jim Crow laws did the same, and so did many white police officers over decades. And this is still happening, with the usual whitewashing from the racist right.

Men of every creed and color have been free to visit violence on the women in their lives, or on women they don’t even know. The #MeToo movement has brought awareness, but it still occurs. So-called “intellectuals” on the right have even engaged in a “conversation” about the plight of angry white men who can’t get sex from women, as though this were a mere commodity that they should have access to, like high-speed Internet service. When these kinds of angry men kill, it’s not “terror.” They’re just “angry” and need to be understood.

Oh, we have a violence problem, all right. When the NRA not so subtly puts up video of a woman to warn menacingly of “people on the left” who want to take away your guns, it’s a clear incitement to…more violence. Better have your guns ready for the next Civil War…

No matter that civilians probably shouldn’t have military-grade weapons. The police certainly do, and they exercise them most frequently against people of color. But white people need their guns, you know, to defend against tyranny. Never mind that the state itself daily commits violence against the citizenry. Never mind that every square inch of public space is surveilled, that your money transactions are logged, that your location is easy to pinpoint with GPS. Never mind that the apparatus of the police state is already here and in use. I need my handgun to fight tyranny!

No, violent America, you’re not fighting tyranny. You’re accepting it. And after accepting the surveillance, removing our shoes at the airport and going through revealing body scans, accepting a militarized police force whose target is us, and remaking our schools as prisons, we are accepting the tyranny of the state, as well as the myriad micro-violences of every day life. If you’re black, you’re suspicious. If you go to a movie, you could die. If you speak a foreign language, some asshole might get in your face.

As predatory capitalism makes its last gasp for every last cent for the elite, the rest of us are down here, fighting each other, distracted by our own violence, ignoring the real violence being done to us and our environment from above. I suppose if you’re an Evangelical, you can just pray and await the Rapture. But that’s not a solution, and it won’t help solve our violence problem or save our children.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Writer, painter, cat fancier, troublemaker, democratic socialist, & antifascist.

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