BY VERN TURNER
An extinction event occurs when several factors combine to alter the environment in which an organism can survive. It prevents the organism, or organisms, from reproducing by eliminating what it needs to flourish and reproduce enough viable offspring to overcome some or all of the factors that threaten the organisms’ existence. Sometimes the “event” can take centuries, and sometimes it is triggered by a catastrophic event. In either case, the extinction is permanent; the gene pool no longer exists.
The recent shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA, is merely another “brick in the wall” for the factors that are threatening humans with extinction, or at least the extinction of a democratic republic we call the United States of America. Why would I say that? Well, there are many extenuating circumstances, but chief among them is the free use of firearms. It’s not just the occasional use of one gun by a lunatic driven to violence by politics. That happens all the time in the rest of the world, but rarely in our country. Yet, it happens all too frequently for us to feel secure in how we go about managing ourselves and our behaviors.
The perversion of the meaning of the Second Amendment to justify the unfettered use of deadly firearms is just the first part of this discussion. It was nice to see both Republicans and Democrats having their baseball-fueled Kumbaya moment. After that, it was back to the rancor of secret deliberations over a deeply flawed and cruel health care insurance bill being rammed through the Senate bureaucracy by Mitch McConnell and his political animal brethren. The acting-out president told the world that Scalise took a bullet for all of us. No, he didn’t. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time when some deranged left-wing ideologue decided to commit suicide by cop. That’s right, left-wing. Sorry to say, but there are crazy people wielding deadly weapons across the entire political and non-political spectrum in the home of the brave.
Ironically, Rep. Scalise recently voted for the measure that allowed mentally disturbed people to more easily acquire a gun. Maybe this shooter already had his gun, despite his history as a wife abuser and violent nature. So, who has been promoting guns for everyone over the last few decades? Mostly, it’s been the Republican caucus that has done little to promote the enforcement of existing gun control laws, while both parties are guilty of ignoring their responsibility by passing no new laws toward gun registration or measures designed to further impede the ability of any of us to acquire a gun. The logic follows: If these, our so-called representatives, don’t consider it prudent to restrict weapons of death in the hands of those either not qualified to operate one or so mentally damaged that they shouldn’t own one, who do they represent?
This seems to be the nub of the issue, politically speaking. The NRA and other gun-maker lobbies have provided a cash trough for our politicians by not only bribing them, but threatening to fund their opponents who will follow the rules set by the gun promoters. To me, it doesn’t seem too great a stretch to see these lobbyists as accessories to the crime after someone gets shot and killed.
The statistics show that over 30,000 people per year are killed by guns in the United States. Heck, we only kill about 40,000 per year in cars and trucks, safety equipment included. There is one common factor between these two situations: alcohol. Seventy-five percent of traffic deaths are alcohol-related. More than half of the gun deaths are alcohol/drug related. Alcohol is legal. Most of the dangerous drugs are illegal. Again, logic is defied here by the cross-purposes of the regulations regarding gun possession and alcohol consumption. Both are legal and both, it seems, provide a significant reason for the amount of death and violence from those who partake in both.
World War I was mostly fought using battlefield tactics from the Roman times where masses of men marched against other masses of men brandishing and using weapons on one another. The main difference in killings/soldier statistics, back then, was the invention of the machine gun. Ironically, the machine gun was invented in the United States at the end of the Civil War.
After the war, the American military decided to not acquire these new weapons as they retained their shoulder-to-shoulder-charge-into-the-other-guy philosophy of combat. The European military strategists saw the machine gun as a whole new way to kill many people on the other side without wasting too many on your side. They bought the gun’s plans and proceeded to improve it to the point that its extensive use on the battlefields of France, Belgium and the Netherlands created a wholesale slaughter never before seen.
Eventually, the American military saw the error of its ways [ignoring progress]. This reality existed until the advent of nuclear weapons overtook the machine gun as the most “efficient” method of killing other humans in great numbers.
You can see where this is going. The gun lobbies and several prominent activists have been enormously successful at sowing the seeds of fear toward one another in our country to the point that we now possess [probably] more guns than there are people. I own guns for sport. Many of my peace-loving friends do also. This is a little different, in that this kind of ownership is an extension of hunting-for-food behavior that has existed in all of human history. It’s the weapons specifically designed to kill people that are the issue we face today as a tool of our own extinction.
No, the guns alone won’t cause human extinction, but the extension of unbridled violence around the world will. When the same kind of unbalanced and deluded people that we saw in Virginia this past week get their hands on the ultimate tool of extinction, we are in big trouble as a species.
Our gun fetish has relatively humble, but dramatic origins on this continent. The gun allowed the European invaders to subdue and eventually cause genocides among indigenous peoples in all the Americas. The gun allowed the owners of them to successfully feed themselves on the bounty of wild game across the entire North American continent.
Sadly, as an adjunct to the near-extinction event of our native Americans, “sport” using guns nearly killed all the bison, the main food and tool source of our plains natives. Yes, industrial hunters harvested vast numbers of bison for their hides and tongues as delicacies, but it was the wanton sport shooter that nearly wiped the bison out as they had the passenger pigeon. These three history lessons show us that irresponsible use of guns will indeed cause extinction events.
The “X” factor to our domestic situation in the United States is the political wrangling, divisiveness, rancor, outright hatred, and ideological absolutism that brings the extremists from all sides out of the closet with their guns, their anti-human guns. Those guns that will do our population the most harm are those that simulate battlefield automation. Killing, instead of just in moments of passion, will become battlefield America. What, for example, can someone with a deer rifle do against a magazine-fed automatic or semi-automatic machine gun or machine pistol? That’s the point, isn’t it? In our anger we assume that kill-or-be-killed stance where have to have the bigger and better weapon. Our gun manufacturers hire advertising geniuses to sell all those fears by way of the potential gun owner experiencing the glory of shooting someone or something to death. How does that attitude affect all humans on a global scale?
The entire world, it seems, is in great turmoil, turmoil centered around nationalism and its ancestor, tribalism. Religions are, as they’ve always been, at each others’ throats in pursuit of the unexplainable and untestable God. We now have a president who seems utterly irrational, making him the parallel of Kim Jong Un in North Korea who equally rattles his war machinery and war mongers his people. Peacemaking, it seems, is for sissies. Several annoying questions arise from this current state of affairs.
Will our own divisions cause another Civil War? Will the hostility that’s been fanned to a fever pitch ever since Donald Trump entered the national scene be further exploited by the profit-mad gunmakers and sellers? How many more people will be killed by gun before we snap out of it and realize that it is 2017, not 1817? Will our national leaders cool off the rhetoric that stimulated the Scalise shooting and the other politically/religiously motivated killings? Will Donald Trump take us into war when the investigations get too close to sending him to jail after impeachment? What will Trump do when Un finally launches a for-real attack on Japan or another of our allies? What will Trump do if India and Pakistan get into the nuclear exchange business? What will Trump do if Russian-backed middle eastern troops make Israel feel so insecure with their right-wing nationalist leader?
Taken from that famous, cryptic dispatch from CINCPAC in Hawaii to Admiral William F. Halsey during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in World War II: “The whole world wonders?”
– Vern Turner lives in Marble Falls, TX and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism, is available through Amazon.com.