Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The shooting in Tucson: the sound and the fury

A 22-year-old man described as a social outcast with wild beliefs steeped in mistrust faces a federal court hearing Monday on charges he tried to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a Tucson shooting rampage that left six people dead. - Associated Press
David Seaton's News Links
The obligatory theme for a political blogger this week has been the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Wading through the papers, columns and the bloggers, everything I have read about is a stew of the same cliches that appear after every shooting of this kind. Among all the flood of cliches I found one, single, memorable quote from (as often happens) "Saint" Bob Herbert of the New York Times:
I remember having lunch with Marian Wright Edelman, the president of the Children’s Defense Fund, a few days after the Virginia Tech tragedy. She shook her head at the senseless loss of so many students and teachers, then told me: “We’re losing eight children and teenagers a day to gun violence. As far as young people are concerned, we lose the equivalent of the massacre at Virginia Tech about every four days.”
At the bottom of it all lies what is, in my opinion, the marker, the key, to all of America's present day political dysfunction:

Because of an amendment to a sclerotic 18th century document (a time when it took about a minute to muzzle-load a single-shot, flintlock pistol) a 21rst century, gibbering maniac can purchase, carry and fire a semi-automatic pistol with a 30 bullet clip.

Here is the tragic key:

I get the feeling that much of the entire document is about as relevant to contemporary American life as that treasured Second Amendment and with similar results in all fields touched by political organization.

The chance of any of this ever getting changed?

Practically nil.

Another doctoral thesis for my "future Chinese historians"?

Amidst the sadness and the sick feeling that senseless violence brings, I noticed something underneath, a feeling that was obscenely inappropriate to the tragedy of the occasion: boredom.

I find myself not wanting to write about American politics anymore. Political news from the US seems increasingly, to my ears at least, to be the Shakespearean, "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

I write about politics for two basic reasons: because people tell me that I have some understanding of it, but mostly because I have discovered late in life that I love to write...

I love the mere act of writing itself, the putting together of appropriate words in the appropriate order in such a rich and beautiful language as ours... and political commentary is vaccinated against the terror of writer's block. There is something to write about every day. But what is coming out of the States is so hopelessly repetitive and so locked and loaded in its ideological matryoshka that it produces for me a "Larsen effect" of stupefying dissonance.

The world's a big place and I am going to give more attention to other problems, in the words of Robby Krieger, "The time to hesitate is through/ No time to wallow in the mire"... I hope my regular readers will bear with me while I work this out.. DS


stunted said...

Indeed. I don't see why this is even news. It's what we do, here in America.

Anonymous said...

Good for you David; I tuned out of the tape loop quite some time ago.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I am amazed that you have kept it up for so long, David. Discussing the American system is like being at a never ending wake, which of course, is the plain truth of it.

In your writings, you have shared some of your happy memories of the deceased as a good man, a kind man, and so forth. I have my own fondly remembered stories. But, we attend the wake to learn to accept that the remembered one isn't getting back up again. One by one, we do get that. You have helped me to, at any rate.

And, we know. Oh Lordy, we know. The guy's not merely dead. He has become a tehnologically modified, monetarily vivified, power deified wraith. Forever hungry and increasingly fit only for the night. He looks less and less like the fellow we all (thought we) knew. He was, after all, never even the fellow that he thought he was.

You have paid your respects, have born witness, attended the vigil and lit some candles for good measure. I think that you should spend your remaining moments on things that yet live and breath. Just don't forget to bar your door at night, and to put out the garlic and the wolf bane.

Jim G

Anonymous said...

One of the telling statistics I was made aware of in the past few days is that in 1992 78% of Americans favored strict gun control. Today, it's 44%.

What happened? Did the few dozen massacres of the past 20 years finally swamp the neocortex of the average American? Did the grotesque finally become routine? Or was is it something simpler and more prosaic: the rising death star of right-wing media and its disciplined messaging machine?

Nostalgia isn't a plan but it may be the best escape available for the asking price. The darkening, otherwise, suggests the cruel triumphalism of Murdoch, Koch, and Limbaugh cannot be negotiated away. Not with words, reason, or earnest civility. It's too late and we seem to know it.

bailey alexander said...

You're a journalist, among other disciplines and interests, you must feel the fatigue. The story's no longer compelling, just one concentric circle.

If you look at the debt clock http://www.usdebtclock.org/ you get a sense, like post ww2, the world is going to have a chat. Back then, the world decided the US would be the super power. This time, the chat will suggest they are but one among others.

The world in which I exist knows this, discusses this, of course, those that benefit, i.e. the pentagon, etc, will make sure this chat doesn't have to happen for as long as humanly possible.

This morning I listened to Alex Jones, the crazy paranoid christianist, the 'real' leader of the tea party; guns, god and flag. They don't like Palin, but they share the same anger.

Alex Jones/Rush Limbaugh/Beck. They are huge compared to the petite Rachel/Keith crowd. Funny to note how Amy Goodman's Democracy Now and Alex Jones often cover the same topics; FBI raids, Assange, liberties taken away, etc.

America is far more conservative and religious than it even knows, I knew this is 2001, that's why I left.

China asked America to behave well, be grateful on some level, show some respect. America said, in it's 'exceptionalism'/inimitable way, FU. Those 55 bases, those 6 wars can no longer be financed. Notice the change in Israel's rhetoric lately, oh yeah, they know.

That's why China bails about Spain, etc but lets Europe, Russia and others know they're not happy with the ridiculous threats to Iran, etc.

It's all changing. The conversation has changed. The world is no longer 'quietly dismissing America'.

This is happening, now.

And yeah, it's weird.

Kevin Egan said...

I can't blame you for leaving the American Scene--I'd like to do it in reality, but I'm too old to find a reasonable job and relocate--but I'll miss your sage perspective, which has always been refreshingly original and also trenchant, incisive: the emigre perspective has great advantages.

America may not let you go just yet, though: hard to leave the grasp of the hegemon, even when he's just thrashing around. Especially when Europe's thrashing too!

I haven't given up yet, though, and I remember what Leonard Cohen said: Democracy is coming to the USA.

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Thanks again, David.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

When I say, I'm not going to write about this stuff, I mean I am not going to beat the same dead horse. I have one more piece about all this that I am working on and then I think I will write about what Bailey calls the "conversation".