laws, guns, and money, pt 1

In the light of horrendous massacres, those who have a heart cry out to “do something” to prevent further atrocities. However, a narrow focus on gun control—or worse, mental health—at best only treats symptoms. Homicides are not merely a fact of weapons (which is to say tools) but of will, of psychological possibility, and apparent necessity. As we see in other contexts around the world, semiautomatics are but one efficient way to kill a group of people, but far from the only. So, we need to not just look at the tools of homicide, but the motives as well. Not just the how but the why are important. I’m convinced that in the context of the United States, it’s helpful to look at how state violence is carried out here and abroad on behalf of corporations and that violence becoming internalized. Digging further, the fact that the US leads the world in energy and food consumption (and waste) is not unrelated to the fact that its military dwarfs all other militaries. Combined with its repressive and militarized police and incarceral system and extreme income inequality, this helps explain why we have a more abundant gun and violence culture than other rich countries.[1] We will cover more of the why’s later, but for now I want to highlight how this concentration on the how is problematic, perhaps futile, and often worse.

Much is made in liberal circles of the over-abundance of guns. The United States leads the world in terms of firearm ownership with just slightly more guns than people (101:100 ratio). However, it rates low in terms of the guns to gun-death ratio, with several countries tacking upwards of 70 to 1000 times the number. Clearly, someone is stockpiling these weapons,[2] so the overabundance isn’t the only factor. And while this may sound insipid, perhaps there is something to the conservative argument that taking away guns merely means those who seek to commit mass murders will find other ways to do so. Lethal retaliation against random members of targeted populations (otherwise known as terrorism) takes the form of knives, homemade bombs, vehicles, and, hell, planes. However, reactionaries are always looking for distractions and scapegoats to continue the perpetuation of massive violence. On the other hand, liberalism avoids searching systemic causes. But a nation and world in such dire straits as ours must radically cut to the roots of the problem, particularly if the proposed solutions may garner more problems than solutions.

And the problems are many. On the one hand is the gun control debate where we question how to regulate the flow of weapons. A waiting period is reasonable and should not be discounted, but most of these mass random killings had been planned for months and the weapons bought well in advance. We must also take a hard look as to how historically and presently such laws have been used to criminalize Black and Brown citizens, much as anti-drug laws have done to racialized people. In fact, gun laws have the double effect of targeting black people for contact with law enforcement (and thus increasing the likelihood of death and prison) and of stripping black people of self-defense (as seen in the Reformation era, Jim Crow, and the Black Power movement). Despite much crowing from self-appointed– if not self-righteous–ministers of non-violence (who tend to be White and have little skin in the game), it was the Deacons of Defense and other armed revolutionary Black Southerners who kept the Civil Rights Movement safe in the hyper-violent Jim Crow South as witnesses such as This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed testify. Notice that there are two different standards in the application of gun laws and in how it works in relation to encounters with law enforcement: One is for White people and those connected to Whiteness and the other is for Black people and those connected to Blackness. Playing with toys did not save John Crawford or Tamir Rice. Being lawfully compliant and polite did not save Philando Castile. Carrying a phone and not a gun did not save Cedrick Chatman nor countless other Black youth and adults framed for their own murder by police who are supported by liberal fear of Black power.

If the liberal answer is to look at the tools as flawed, the conservative answer is to look at the people as such–not to seek solutions but to further alienate and oppress specific populations. Targeted here are racial and religious minorities and people facing mental health issues. While liberals tend to indirectly indict these same groups,[3] reactionaries like to go for the jugular. This can lead to travel bans, more militarized policing and crackdowns on protest, and of course ableist rhetoric that blames violence on mental health and stigmatizes mental illness. Not only are these not solutions and detrimental to the targeted populations, but they involve implementing and releasing more violence. Stigmatizing mental health, for instance, leads those facing mhi to resist assistance and therapy. This undergrounding of mental health leads to victimization for the person with the disability. By now we should all be aware that those who suffer mental health problems are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Further, going underground and not seeking help or voicing needs leads to a higher likelihood of being preyed upon.

Not that mental health access isn’t necessary, but the US doesn’t have more people facing mental health issues than anywhere else. We need to disentangle talking about mental health and mass shootings or we risk combining the two and trapping many of us into a villainized victimization.

—————————————————–

[1] It’s important to note that the US does not lead the world in gun-related deaths, and even less so with firearm-related homicides. In fact, it is around 15th place depending on how metrics are measured. But it does lead in so-called developed countries. What this reinforces is that poverty kills. And as the US leads rich nations in wealth inequality and gun ownership, so it leads rich nations in homicides and suicides.

[2] Apparently, half of the weapons are owned by 3% of the population, with an average of 17 guns per owner at that top tier. Thanks to ___ for pointing this out.

[3] By supporting anti-crime bills and deportations as well as malignant rhetoric about “Muslim extremists/terrorists” and stigmatizing mental health problems

Advertisements

The Good Samaritan in Sanford

Luke 10

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Orlando to Sanford, Florida, when he was attacked by capitalists. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A pastor happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a developer, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a young, black man, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him to bandage his wounds but the white traveler feared for his life and shot him dead. 34. When the police finally arrived, they took the traveler away for questioning but released him uncharged within a couple hours. 35 Meanwhile, the black man’s family was worried about him but were not informed of his whereabouts as their son was considered another drugged-out murderous Black thug.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who shot the thug in the face!”*

Jesus was stunned to silence for three minutes before he said, “Smdh.”

hoodie anděl

————————————–

*If you think I’m exaggerating here about White conservative religionists and their antipathy towards Black victims of violence, check out the vicious, demeaning and flat-out racist comments on this post by a conservative Evangelical Black pastor who openly admits that he’s attempting colorblindness.

————————————–

Post-Script:

There are several reasons why The Good Samaritan is my favorite parable, mostly because, in the original, Jesus demonstrates that love stops at the borders of familiarity but shocks his listeners into considering The Villainized Other (as the Samaritan is) as not as a villain or a stereotype or even a decent character in the story, but as a possible hero. Loving those close to us is easy when they love us. Loving those who seemingly do not share common traits with us – whether they be of a different race, nationality, religion, political orientation, sexual orientation, they have different ways of organizing… Our fears of the Other have been taken advantage and turned to the breaking point by political and economic masters (the Capitalists Robbers in this version).

Jesus teaches love. Acceptance and healing and power to mend for the marginalized among and in all of us. For our marginalization hurts us all – we are all tied in together to the oppression of some. Out of self-love and love for God, I seek to love all. For though we are all different (and I am no Trayvon) we’re all intimately and intricately connected.

At the Bloody Intersections of Violence and Owning

Gun Culture is the privileging of violence and the tools of violence (particularly guns) over and above safety concerns, over and above evidence and research (and even the researching) that would allow us to live in a less fear- and violence-induced state with fewer unnecessary deaths.

Rape Culture can be described as the normalization of ideas that link and privilege notions that people (predominately women, but not exclusively) can deserve or subtly ask to be raped.

Boss Culture (a term and idea that I’ve started exploring here*) is the privileging in society of the boss and overclasses who determine the value of the underclasses, but also the notion that they can control the bodies, behaviors, and thoughts of the underclasses. 

What happens when you mix them all together? You get this:

A Texas jury acquitted a man for the murder of a woman he hired as an escort, after his lawyers claimed he was authorized to use deadly force because she refused sex.
Ezekiel Gilbert shot Lenora Ivie Frago in the neck on Christmas Eve, after she denied his requests for sex and wouldn’t return the $150 he had paid her, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Under Texas law, an individual is authorized to use deadly force to “retrieve stolen property at night,” and Gilbert’s lawyers cited that provision as justification for Gilbert’s action, reasoning that Frago had stolen $150 from him by taking his money without delivering sex. In a police interview played for jurors, Gilbert “never mentioned anything about theft,” a detective told the San Antonio Express-News. Frago, who was 21, was critically injured and died several months later.

Gilbert, in hiring Frago for escort services, believed he was due her body. Believed he owned her body. In not getting her body for his purposes, he retaliates by shooting her in the neck, causing her critical injury which ultimately led to her death.

These kind of stories aren’t terribly unique, however. For more connections between Rape Culture, Male Dominance, Boss Culture and the Cult of Violence, we just need to look at the relationship between prostitutes and pimps. We can see everyday connections between the linkage of Male Supremacy, Rape Culture, and the Cult of Violence in domestic violence. These kinds of activities are endorsed (explicitly or implicitly) by Men’s Rights Activists, by Christian Patriarchy, by

But this is unique in this day and age because, again, a jury decided that he was not guilty. That he followed the law. And the law is a law of his rights to protect his “property.” The property in question wasn’t his $150. It was the rights to do what he wanted to her body – because she was under his employ and he could do with her body what he pleased. And that is what she refused to give him, her body. So he took it, by shooting her in the neck.

Redefining Delicious

It is not as though she owed him the money for refusing to have sex. Being paid as an escort does not guarantee the rights to unquestioned sex, even as the rules of engagement for escorts are not as clear and delineated as other such paid services.

In any case, even if it wasn’t her body that he felt he was due – and thus the reasoning for his shooting of injuring her body – this unjust law should not have been upheld by the jury because it privileges property over human lives. Maybe if such a law were taken to its natural course every banker and lending institution should worry for their lives at nighttime. But they don’t need to worry. Because the law won’t be justified against them. Such laws are only justified when used against black teens or women who don’t give men exactly what they want, when they want it.

After all, white males who pay females for “services” means all services, right?

—————————

*Boss Culture is an outworking of some work that I’ve done here on Class Warfare, as well as some enlightening posts by Corey Robin on workplace feudalism and some of the work we’ve been highlighting at the Commie Pinkos Wrote My Bible Facebook page. It has been given a framing reference due in no small part to the work of Christian anti-patriarchal writers like Sarah Moon, Dianna Anderson, and Danielle from Two to One, to name a few, in discussing the lineage between Purity Culture and Rape Culture.