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)
NEW YORK — Violence is big business in United States. Very big. Crazy big, and shiny gold. Small wonder that we are loath to recognize an enormous segment of our national economy for it what it is: trafficking in blood money.
We Americans are practitioners of the very darkest forms of violence: genocide, slavery, mass murder & gun fetishism, militarization & torture, imprisonment, and poverty. In all of this, we turn profits.
We are hardly the only brutal culture in the sorry history of this world. The old savageries of Germany, Russia, Spain, and the Roman Empire, for instance, are well recorded. But then was then, and now is now.
Today, my country clearly leads all others in the “banality of evil,” as elucidated by the German-American political theorist Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), for we have made industry of blood money; arguably the mightiest such bloody industry ever seen.
We shall explore each of the dark arts individually. But before we begin, consider the biggest and blackest of current headlines in my country’s press: the ones that banner our obsession with personal weaponry.
As I write, manufacturers of semi-automatic rifles and handguns, along with the politicians they own, are battling any of the modest efforts under consideration in the Congress to regulate their deathly commerce. Had sane regulations been in place—similar to laws in Europe—December’s massacre of twenty kindergarteners and six schoolteachers in Newtown, Connecticut, would not have occurred. And yet, the corporatists and their handsomely paid lackeys will probably succeed in the cause of status quo here. So says the smart money in Washington.
It is a certain bet, however, that no jury will ever deliberate the roles of gun manufacturers and their political enablers as actionable accomplices in massacre after massacre after massacre in America—all committed with weapons that roll off assembly lines by the millions, year after year; assembly lines protected by lawmakers who claim it would require “courage” for them to legislate at least a slow-down in the production and distribution of the tools of carnage that two years ago nearly killed one of their own.
In January 2011, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head at point-blank range by a psychotic young man named Jared Loughner, who employed very same model semi-automatic Bushmaster AR-15 military-style assault rifle used in December of last year by the psychotic Adam Lanza, mass murderer of Newtown. In both cases, the AR-15s had been legally purchased and duly registered.
In America, and other nations in the realm of British Common Law, there exists a juridical principle I should like to see a prosecutor apply some enlightened day against those who profit from making sure that plenty of guns are available to maniacs, criminals, and—far more often—fine upstanding citizens who one day snap and commence to blasting their way through frustration. This would be the principle of “depraved indifference,” wherein persons somewhere on the periphery of the actual commission of violence, but having attributable roles, loudly insist upon all that is holy that protecting the hardware of violence is more important than tens of thousands of dead bodies they know to be the consequence, year after deadly year, of their lucrative industry. Those who know, but care more for cash than kindergarteners.
Perhaps at the time of the next American massacre—as the sun rises in the east, this will come in due time—a state prosecutor or a district attorney somewhere in the land will wish to make a name for himself, or herself, and put the gun factory tycoons and their cheerleaders in Congress at the virtual scene of the crime.
As generally defined by USLegal.com, “To constitute depraved indifference, the defendant’s conduct must be ‘so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime.’” Federal law specifically exempts gun manufacturers from civil liability, but depraved indifference is the statutory component of criminal codes in all fifty of the United States of America.
Gun makers and political pimps under criminal indictment? Dream on, I answer myself.
In the interest of job security, no prosecutor would dare bring a charge of depraved indifference against the men in bespoke suits and expensive haircuts who churn out the tools of a deadly trade—let alone those in Washington, similarly groomed and clad, with outstretched hands eager for campaign donations in exchange for insuring their patrons’ continued profits. Regrettably, the day will never come when those who step over the bodies of slaughtered children in the cause of money are held to criminal account. “Depraved indifference” no more applies to them than to the men in bespoke suits and expensive haircuts who peddled the packs of lies that led us to war with the caramel-complexioned people of Spain, and Mexico, and Vietnam, and Iraq—and dozens more wars before and between, and wars that will surely come; so very many incursions in orderly pursuit of the Holy Dollar.
In 1961, the world was captivated by the trial, in Israel, of captured Schutzstaffel-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann. The late Ms. Arendt was on hand to observe. The defendant was a thin little man with a receding hairline and thick spectacles who worked as a sales clerk prior to his wartime salad days. Herr Eichmann sat in a bulletproof glass box and listened, impassively through headphones, as survivors of his death camps testified in the witness dock. Ms. Arendt was fascinated by utter ordinariness of the little man, and his repetitive excuse for administering the logistics of assembly line death: “I was just following orders.”
In her 1963 book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,” Ms. Arendt concluded that at the heart of violence under color of law—whether the Holocaust or other depravities—are indifferent people, usually as colorless as the man in the glass box, who either invent or accept official lies, and therefore participate in atrocity with the view that their conduct is normal.
Officers of the U.S. corporatocracy—titans of commerce, and their cheaply purchased elected officials—have succeeded in removing the moral question of profiting from genocide, slavery, mass murder & gun fetishism, militarization & torture, imprisonment, and poverty.
Blood money? Perish the thought! It’s just business, we’re encouraged to believe. Many of us do.
But if we speak of “blood money,” we are called hysterics (or at least alarmists)—or subversives, or, worst of all, liberal elitists. Never mind how liberals of my acquaintance know the works of D.H. Lawrence (1885-1830), the working-class poet, essayist, and admirer of Benito Mussolini and his Fascist followers.
In his book, “Studies in Classic American Literature,” Mr. Lawrence came to a dour view: “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.”
His words were published in 1923. But I believe Mr. Lawrence meant them not only as descriptive of his time, based on the past, but as a window to our present:
Equipped with gunpowder and African slaves, Europeans arrived in the Americas in the late 15th century and quickly established themselves in the real estate business by stealing the property of people they found in new lands chock full of valuable natural resources. Whether by epidemic transmission of diseases, new to tribal peoples, or more rapid deaths via mass murder, the nonwhite indigenous population shrank from twelve million in the year 1500 to less than a quarter-million in 1900, according to a study by the Tel Aviv-based Holocaust/Genocide Project of the International Education and Resource Network. Of particular note, the Taíno people of Puerto Rico were murdered, to a person, within one year of the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
The decimation of Native Americans—or “Indians,” the misnomer applied by explorers who believed they had set sail from Spain to chart a new ocean route to South Asia—sets the world record for marathon genocide. Scholars agree that the horrors began in 1492, a calendar date commemorated in America each October as “Columbus Day.” Some scholars say the genocide begun by Mr. Columbus did not comprehensively end until 1918, when the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment wiped out a band of Yaqui tribesmen defending grounds yet to be incorporated by the new state of Arizona, admitted to the union only six years earlier.
While smallpox, influenza, and measles took an early toll, muskets and machetes soon eclipsed disease as tools of conquest. Later invasions of Jesus-crazed Europeans systematically dispatched those whose aboriginal beliefs were deemed ungodly. The more secular Europeans—officially “Americans” after independence from Britain—employed the conventional means of mass murder: regional wars, death marches, executions, crop and livestock destruction, and poisoning of water sources.
For those who care, these matters of racist inspiration are part of the record:
• The British colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey instituted “scalp bounties” as a means of pushing tribal people westward in favor of white settlers. In some locales, a white man could earn as much as a hundred British pounds sterling for bringing flesh-and-blood proof of a dead Indian to authorities. Thus did vigilantism become important commerce on the northeastern frontier.
• Prior to becoming America’s first president, General George Washington compared Native Americans to wolves in a 1783 letter to a military colleague. “Both being beasts of prey, tho’ they differ in shape,” as he put it. In 1779, he instructed Major General John Sullivan to “lay waste to all [Iroquois] settlements around…not merely overrun, but destroyed.” (Thus was the northeast made safe for white farmers intent on displacing red-skinned agronomists.)
• In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson ordered the U.S. Army to “lift the hatchet against any [militant] tribe [and] never lay it down until that tribe is exterminated.” (Further in the cause of real estate.)
• In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln ordered the hangings of thirty-eight Dakota Sioux tribesmen in Mankato, Minnesota, an event that remains the national high water mark for simultaneous criminal executions. In his 1970 book, “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee,” the historian and author Dee Brown (1908-2002) described most of the condemned as “holy men or political leaders,” and presented exculpatory evidence to prove “none of them responsible for committing the crimes they were accused of.”
• In 1867, General William Tecumseh Sherman declared, “We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination—men, women, and children.”
• In mano-a-mano encounter in 1869, General Philip H. Sheridan told Panateka Commanche Chief Tosawi, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” The sentiment was expressed less bluntly by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1886 when he told a political rally in South Dakota, with his horse teeth set to grinning beneath a bushy moustache, “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indian is the dead Indian, but I believe nine out of every ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”
Today, about half the nation’s five million Native Americans live on reservations, mostly in the western and plains states; mostly where few others of first world sensibilities would choose to live. Reservation conditions, according to the Gallup Independent newspaper of New Mexico, are in fact “comparable to the Third World.” Drug abuse, alcoholism, domestic brutality, rape, unemployment, suicide and other untoward means of premature death occur at far greater rates on reservations than among the American population beyond. In a milieu of social pathology, people may find it difficult to concentrate their energies on much beyond survival.
According to the journal Native Americas, a publication of Cornell University’s American Indian Program, the murder rate on reservations is five times that of the general U.S. population—a figure supported by the 2000 Census statistics. Further, the Cornell journal found that suicide among Indians is twice the rate of Americans in general; alcoholism deaths are four times the national average; forty percent of Indians live in sub-standard housing, compared with six percent nationwide; and in Buffalo County, South Dakota, a whopping sixty-two percent of children live in poverty.
The wider public is distracted from these appalling conditions by breathless media accounts of exciting new enterprises on Indian enclaves, which under federal law are sovereign nations within America. Gambling casinos and discount cigarette outlets have become highly popular attractions for reservation visitors with credit cards. A handful of exceptions aside, newfound revenues redound to a few tribal chiefs and a passel of white lawyers and Washington lobbyists. The elite make fortunes.
The uptick in reservation employment, however, amounts to low-wage, non-union jobs.
The beat goes on.
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Thomas Adcock is a novelist and journalist who lives in New York City. His work has been published internationally.