Geschrieben am 16. Februar 2013 von für Crimemag, Kolumnen und Themen

Thomas Adcock: American Blood Money, Inc., Teil 2/3

CORPORATE PIMPS and/or AMERICAN PSYCHOS. Top row, from left: mass murderer Jared Loughner; gun fetishists Gayle Trotter and Wayne LaPierre; kindergarten killer Adam Lanza, who shot his mother in the face. Middle row: Dick Cheney, who shot his hunting companion in the face; war jingoist Donald Rumsfeld; Senator Lindsey Graham, companion to an AR-15 semi-automatic assault carbine. Bottom row: John Yoo, law professor and torture advocate; General Philip H. Sheridan, genocide advocate; George W. Bush, war criminal.

American Blood Money, Inc.

By Thomas Adcock (Copyright © 2013)

Den ersten Teil des Essays von Thomas Adcock finden Sie hier.

Slavery

America did not pioneer the practice of using people as disposable instruments for making money. Hundreds of cultures and nation-states have known the heinous value of unpaid labor—ever since the Code of Hammurabi, circa 1772 B.C., in which the eponymous Babylonian king decreed the socio-economic status of free men versus slaves.

Irony: Africans shackled and chained for rude emigration to the New World from Ile de Gorée, in what is now Senegal, were abducted by fellow Africans in service to the Dutch and English. Further irony: slavery is alive and well, and licit, in three African nations (that we know of): Mali, Sudan, and Mauritania.

The United States, in unwitting echo of King Hammurabi, is one of a handful of nations founded on high-minded documents that legalize the buying and selling of human beings, for whatever purpose seen fit by their owners. Contrary to the spirit of the 1776 American Declaration of Independence—“All men are created equal [and] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”—the Constitution that followed, adopted in 1787, allowed for continued “importation” of African slaves under Article I §9. Under Article IV §9, the act of assisting escaped slaves was deemed criminal. Article V provided blanket protection for slave owners—albeit temporarily until 1808, at which time each state was to decide for itself whether to abolish or retain slavery. Generally, the North opted for abolition and the South, vociferously, for continuance.

Seventeen of forty white signatories to the U.S. Constitution—including Presidents Washington, Jefferson, and James Madison, and the polymath Benjamin Franklin—owned black slaves who bled and sweated to till of their lands and keep their homes. As noted by Professor James Oliver Horton of George Washington University, for fifty of the seventy-two years between the elections of 1788 and 1860, slave master presidents occupied the White House.

For slaves, liberty and happiness were unknown. Life as someone’s property was the legal alternative to torture, or death, for complainers. Whippings, hangings, brandings, and various other mutilations were daily occurrences on southern plantations. Illiteracy was strictly enforced. Commonly, those who attempted escape forfeited a leg or foot as punishment.

Slave women were subject to rape by their white masters, who besides the thrill of sexual violation knew the value-added benefit of “mulatto” boys and girls as house servants, after which the prettier of their light-skinned daughters fetched premium prices on the auction block. In 1787, most notably, Thomas Jefferson began a long sexual relationship the slave girl Sally Hemings, then thirteen years old. Officially, one child resulted; despite the stubborn resistance of some Jefferson descendants, DNA tests in 1998 verified his parentage. (More than likely, the true number of offspring was six.)

Humane treatment of slaves existed, but inconsistently, according to Professor David Brion Davis, founder and director emeritus of Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition.

“[P]lantations in the Deep South were essentially ruled by terror,” Mr. Davis wrote in an article for the New York Review of Books. “Even the most kindly…masters knew that only the threat of violence could force gangs of field hands to work from dawn to dusk, ‘with the discipline,’ as one contemporary observer put it, ‘of a regular trained army.’ Frequent and public floggings reminded every slave of the penalty for inefficient labor, disorderly conduct, or refusal to accept the authority of a superior.”

Racism, of course, was essential for white slave owners to regard black chattel as less than fully human. No man of the South could mete out the extraordinary violence necessary to insure investment unless he believed himself the consecrated superior of an abducted man—and by extension to that man’s wife, sister, mother, and children. No single plantation master could visit profound violence on his slaves without a profound trust in his righteousness among those of his own kind, his community and house of worship, his associates and representatives in the economic and government establishments of the nation.

While the North had done away with slavery by 1804, or enacted laws for its gradual dissolution, the South clung fiercely to what was seen as the good life that human capital provided—personally, and as foundation of its agrarian commonwealth. Mr. Jefferson of the Monticello plantation argued that wage-free slave labor was the South’s sole hope for harvesting cotton and other vital crops on which the world depended. The White House that would become Mr. Jefferson’s abode from 1801-09 was itself built by slave labor gangs.

It took the Civil War of 1861-65 to finally end slavery throughout America, first by way of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 (on the executive order of President Lincoln), then by passage of the 13th Amendment in Congress in January 1865, and ratification by the states in December of that year. The war over human capital remains the nation’s costliest: slain were a combined 620,000 soldiers of the union and rebel forces.

For the rich and powerful noncombatants, however, opportunity knocked.

Item: President Lincoln’s secretary of war at the outset of North-South hostilities was the wealthy Pennsylvania banker Simon Cameron (1799-1889). Mr. Cameron was forced to resign his office in 1862 after charges of corruption relating to his involvement in wartime contracts awarded to his business cronies. Congressman Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868), a Pennsylvania countryman, once satirized the banker’s integrity by telling Mr. Lincoln, “I don’t think Cameron would steal a red-hot stove.” When Mr. Cameron demanded retraction of such calumny, the Congressman then said to the president, “I believe I told you he would not steal a red-hot stove. I will now take that back.”

Costly, too, is the unquantifiable debit side of slavery’s balance books—a cost we bear to this day; the cost of having done business.

Unquantifiable because the violence done to a people with origins in slavery has a deeper effect than we can know, whatever our respective race and the differing roles played by our antecedents through centuries of crime.

Putting aside the cost of psychic damage, is it possible to total up the dollars owed to the descendants of slaves—four million of them in the last gasp of the slavery era? If so, is it possible to create the political will to atone? Two years ago, Washington did so—up to a point.

In December 2010, President Obama signed the Claims Settlement Act, releasing $4.5 billion (€3.33 billion) to right the wrongs done to African Americans—exclusively to descendants of slaves freed to farm their own land—and Indians generally. The money is as long overdue as it is woefully short of the mark.

And the beat goes.

Mass Murder & Gun Fetishism

The lengths to which some politicians and certain others will go to protect their personal stakes in the gun industry are breathtakingly ludicrous.

Consider the January 30th remarks of U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a pink-faced bachelor Republican from South Carolina, in promoting the value of high-capacity magazines for semi-automatic rifles as motherly protection for the American family.

The Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic—one or more of which is owned by Mr. Graham, so he said—is currently the most popular weapon for killers on a rampage, and the hottest selling gun in the land. It is a matte black, big and ugly—yet light enough for a lady’s delicate trigger finger, so Mr. Graham reminds us.

Of further benefit, Mr. Graham’s AR-15 can be outfitted with a grenade launcher, night vision telescope, a flash reduction mechanism, and a magazine clip capable of firing up to a hundred rounds without the need of reloading mercury-filled bullets that liquefy human organs.

He acknowledged that a hundred-round ammunition clip could be a bit hefty for the ladies, but Mr. Graham told assembled colleagues at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun control legislation—the first such Congressional deliberation since the Newtown massacre—that a thirty-round clip, such as used at Newtown, or at minimum a fifteen-round clip, was just the thing for Mom to repel home invaders.

“Would I be a reasonable American to want my family to have the fifteen-round magazine in a semi-automatic weapon, to make sure, if there’s two intruders, she doesn’t run out of bullets?” he asked fellow senators. (Mr. Graham has the unusual habit of referring to himself in the feminine form.)

“Am I an unreasonable person,” he asked further, ”for saying in that situation, the fifteen-round magazine makes sense?”

With reference to suggestions that no one besides an infantryman in field combat would actually need such high-powered capacity, Mr. Graham warned of the consequences of limiting gun magazines. “There could be a situation where a mother runs out of bullets because of something we do here,” he said. “Six bullets in the hands of a woman trying to defend her children might not be enough.”

Gayle Trotter agreed. She is a Virginia lawyer, a forty-one-year-old mother of six, and a Christian evangelical with long blonde tresses associated with the Independent Women’s Forum, which the ordinarily understated New York Times has seen fit to call a “right-wing public policy group that provides pseudo-feminist support for extreme positions that are, in fact, dangerous for women.”

The AR-15 military-style assault rifle, Ms. Trotter told the senators, is “the great equalizer” for women threatened by male attackers.

“An assault weapon in the hands of a young woman defending her babies in her home becomes a defense weapon,” said Ms. Trotter. “And the peace of mind she has…knowing she has a scary-looking gun gives her more courage when she’s fighting hardened, violent criminals.”

The next day’s reflection on the Judiciary Committee hearings prompted Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, to summon reporters to his offices on Capitol Hill.

There he opined that the most publically popular measure proposed to curb gun violence—universal background checks to determine prospective gun owners’ criminal records, incidence of involuntary commitment to insane asylums, and whether their names appear on terrorist watch-lists at airports—was a step toward government tyranny.

“It’s the way reductions in liberty occur,” Mr. Hatch said of such background data collection, acceptable as they may be for the issuance of driver’s licenses, barber licenses, or licenses for members of his own profession—lawyers.

“When you start saying people all have to sign up for something, and they have a database where they know exactly who’s who, and where the government can persecute people because of the database—” said Senator Hatch, growing ever more excited, “—that alarms a lot of people in our country, and it flies in the face of liberty.”

Although he is “as concerned as anybody” about mass shootings such as the Newtown massacre, Mr. Hatch said, “It’s easy to blow these things out of proportion.”

Liberty-loving as he professes to be, Mr. Hatch has political trouble on his hands back home in Utah, a deeply conservative western state where the right-wing Gun Owners of America wields significant electoral influence.

The Virginia-based pressure group is busily raising campaign funds on behalf of announced opponents to Mr. Hatch’s bid for reelection bid in November 2014. The organization calls the long-serving Mr. Hatch “no friend of gun owners” because, among other indiscretions, he opposed legislation “slammed through” the Congress that bans armor-piercing bullets for civilian purchase.

The even more powerful National Rifle Association—led by the odious Wayne LaPierre, who parcels out gobs of campaign cash to western state Republicans—will also be gunning for Mr. Hatch next year. Which explains why the senator was one of a very few politicians who said nice things about Mr. LaPierre in December when, within days of the Newtown massacre, the N.R.A. leader said the solution to schoolhouse murder was to equip teachers and janitors with concealed weapons.

Mr. LaPierre, said Mr. Hatch, is “a very honorable man” with a “good idea” for preventing gun mayhem at schools.

Mr. LaPierre performed his usual charade at the Senate hearing. Again and again, he suggested that no American should have to get out of bed in the morning without a nearby gun to grab, the bigger the better. Over and over, he impressed upon the esteemed senators that he was there to represent the interests of more than four million flag-loving, red-blooded, born-on-the-Fourth-of-July, gun-owning Americans who pony up $26 (€19) every year in membership dues. That rather pales to $40 million (€30 million) given annually to the N.R.A. by gun manufacturers. No senator asked Mr. LaPierre the obvious question: Who, sir, do you more truly represent?

Since the Newtown massacre of December 14, and the shots heard ‘round the world, some sixteen hundred Americans have died from guns—including a three-year-old boy in Greenville, South Carolina, and a fifteen-year-old Chicago girl who performed with her school marching band, as a baton twirler, during President Obama’s joyful inauguration in Washington last month.

The boy, Tmorej Smith, was accidentally shot in the head when he and his seven-year-old sister were playing with what they thought was a toy—a small pink handgun owned by Tmorej’s mother. Such weapons are marketed as “Hello Kitty” guns, or “girly guns,” available as semi-automatic pistols or assault rifles. Ms. Trotter might like one. Arizona State Senator Lori Klein, a Republican, already owns one.

In 2011, Ms. Klein was critically reviewed by the Arizona Republic newspaper for aiming her newly purchased, raspberry pink, fully loaded Hello Kitty pistol at a reporter’s chest, and gushing, “Oh, it’s so cute!” The weapon did not have a trigger safety lock, which troubled the reporter. Ms. Klein said he had nothing to worry about because, “I just didn’t have my hand on the trigger.”

The slain Chicago girl was an honor student named Hadiya Pendleton. She and a girlfriend had ducked under an umbrella in a park to escape a pop-up rainstorm when a pair of nearby teenage boys, unknown to the girls, began trading fire. The girls ran. Hadiya was hit in the back, and fell dead, one week after the inauguration performance—which she had told her mother was the “happiest day of my life.” Hadiya’s family and friends remain devastated, especially her ten-year-old brother, said to be inconsolable.

Alas, Mr. Hatch might say, I blow this sadness out of proportion.

The U.S. civilian gun industry is rich, and growing ever more richer by the day. According to the last available statistics, assembled by the market research firm IBISWorld, gun and ammunition corporations racked up $11.7 million [€8.6 million] in sales in 2011, with profits of $993 million [€730 million]. Last October, IBISWorld published an optimistic interim report on earnings projections for 2012-13, noting, “Continued [domestic] conflict will support revenue.”

The beat goes on.

Thomas Adcock

Den dritten Teil des Essays von Thomas Adcock lesen Sie am kommenden Samstag. Hier gehts zum ersten Teil des Essays von Thomas Adcock.

Thomas Adcock is a novelist and journalist who lives in New York City. His work has been published internationally. Mehr zu Thomas Adcock hier und hier.

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