by William Skink
Another terrible tragedy. Another round of hand-wringing over guns. What motivated this killer? Why won’t the media call it terrorism? What is wrong with this country?
President Obama had some words worth considering:
“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. We do not have all the facts, but we do know, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” the president said, bringing up the seeming proliferation of armed violence in the country. “Now is time for mourning and for healing. But let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency, and it is in our power to do something about it.”
These tragedies become political Rorschach tests. Guns, race, mental illness, the Confederate flag. These aspects will be endlessly discussed for a few days, maybe a few weeks, and then we’ll move on. What won’t be discussed is the fact America uses violence across the globe to achieve its political goals.
Innocent life is casually extinguished all the time via US-sanctioned drone terrorism. The American war in Iraq killed over a million people. America uses violence to get what it wants, spreading death and misery wherever “our interests” intersect with the lives of foreign people in foreign lands. We, as Americans, so easily degrade the lives of people in far-flung countries, collectively shrugging our shoulders at the casualties, it really shouldn’t be all that shocking when our violent culture produces a mass-killer like Dylann Roof.
But we won’t talk about that. We won’t acknowledge the reality that American foreign policy encompasses some of the worst methods of terrorism in existence today.
While we discuss this domestic tragedy, our Saudi pals continue to pummel Yemen. Saudi Arabia’s “war” only exacerbates the hell America has wrought in Yemen. Last April, Rolling Stone took a look at how Obama’s terrorist drone program is causing PTSD:
Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma and anxiety are becoming rampant in the different corners of the country where drones are active. “Drones hover over an area for hours, sometimes days and weeks,” said Rooj Alwazir, a Yemeni-American anti-drone activist and cofounder of Support Yemen, a media collective raising awareness about issues afflicting the country. Yemenis widely describe suffering from constant sleeplessness, anxiety, short-tempers, an inability to concentrate and, unsurprisingly, paranoia.
Alwazir recalled a Yemeni villager telling her that the drones “are looking inside our homes and even at our women.'” She says that, “this feeling of infringement of privacy, combined with civilian casualties and constant fear and anxiety has a profound long time psychological effect on those living under drones.”
Last year, London-based forensic psychologist Peter Schaapveld presented research he’d conducted on the psychological impact of drone strikes in Yemen to a British parliamentary sub-committee. He reported that 92 percent of the population sample he examined was found to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – with children being the demographic most significantly affected. Women, he found, claimed to be miscarrying from their fear of drones. “This is a population that by any figure is hugely suffering,” Schaapveld said. The fear of drones, he added, “is traumatizing an entire generation.”
Call Dylann Roof a terrorist if it makes you feel better. Write opinion pieces about fatal gaps in Montana’s background check laws if you want to score some political points. Pass laws banning the Confederate flag if you think that will make any difference.
Personally, I don’t think it will. America came to be through the violence of manifest destiny. We built this nation on slavery and genocide. To get at the root of what America is in 2015 will require accounting for the entirety of our violent history.