Congress at Work
Keeping the U.S.A. Safe for Massacres
Potential assassination foretold?
By Thomas Adcock
Copyright © 2016 – Thomas Adcock
NEW YORK, near America
Having dispersed from a July political convention that anointed a fascist sociopath as their party’s choice for the White House, Republican members of the United States Congress are currently on extended holiday from the burden of accomplishing nothing to advance the interests of us suckers, a/k/a ordinary citizens. At some point in September, they will reconnoiter down in Washington to resume licking the boots of their corporate overlords—the lucrative gun manufacturing industry and its chief lobbyist, the National Rifle Association.
In the intervening weeks, Republicans will collect fat “donations” from the N.R.A.’s generous bagmen—money meant to finance November reëlection bids (and perhaps other pursuits likely to violate scantily enforced campaign finance laws). The party’s presidential nominee will likewise welcome largesse from the N.R.A., which voiced no objection when Donald J. Trump “indirectly but unmistakably…mooted nullifying election results at gunpoint,” as The New Yorker magazine put it—a reference to the Republican candidate’s exhorting gun-toting crazed hemorrhoid sufferers, a major segment of his admiring flock, to assassinate his Democratic Party opponent, Hillary Clinton.
“Just joking,” Herr Trump later said of the bugle call to his brownshirts. The Secret Service was not amused—
—and corporate media made little mention of potential assassination foretold: The hot rhetoric of political rallies in Israel in 1995, overseen by Binyamin Netanyahu and eagerly attended by his Likud Party counterparts to Mr. Trump’s right-wing minions, inspired a zealous partisan armed with a Beretta semiautomatic pistol to gun down Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Deadly violence, especially gun violence, is “as American as cherry pie,” as H. Rapp Brown observed in 1967. Ironically, Mr. Brown was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coördinating Committee in the ‘60s, whereas today he is incarcerated for life following a murder conviction in 2000 for the fatal shooting of a sheriff’s deputy in Georgia. Never mind Mr. Brown’s simile; never mind his personal cherry pie inclination. He is an obscure killer of yore, one of a forgotten multitude.
Skilled in the art of despicable inanity, spokesmen for the N.R.A. regularly inform us, “Guns don’t kill people—people kill people.” Their cash support for Republican in Congress with sturdy appeal to the jingo-prone has paid off handsomely. Politicians come cheap, even cheaper by the dozen; the N.R.A.’s operating budget is hardly strained.
The U.S. gun industry rakes in an annual $15 billion (€13.4 billion) according to IBIS World, the New York-based market research reporting agency. As near as IBIS can tell—there is likely much more to tell—chief executive officers of gun companies are paid on average $2 million (€1.8 million) annually in cash and stock options. These munitions machers occupy a shadowy corporate world, according to a recent article in Mother Jones magazine:
„They are all white, all middle-aged, and all men. A few live openly lavish lifestyles, but most fly under the radar. Rarely is there news about them in the mainstream press, or even the trade press. …They have kept their heads down and their fingerprints off regulations designed to protect their businesses—foremost, a law that shields gun companies from liability for crimes committed with their products.
While the three largest companies disclose some financials, the rest are privately held. Some are further shrouded by private-equity funds or shell corporations based in overseas tax havens.
Several [executives] have been the focus of criminal investigations and lawsuits over everything from arms trafficking and fraud to armed robbery and racketeering.“
Briskly paid, publicity-shy gun company honchos engage the N.R.A. in the ongoing task of polluting the nation with a fog of flummery and fear in the cause of ever-rising profits. As a balaclava-clad spokesman for the terrorist cabal al-Qaeda said in a 2011 recruitment video, filmed in English and meant to encourage lone-wolf massacres within U.S. borders, “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. So what are you waiting for?”
According to estimates by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, the number of privately owned guns in America is roughly equal to the U.S. population of 320 million. The Supreme Court and Congress— each body controlled by Republicans; together constituting two-thirds of tripartite government authority—play respective rôles in legalizing and merchandising the thousands of tons of weaponry envied by al-Qaeda:
- In the odious 2008 decision District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court banned virtually every remaining municipal regulation on gun possession. The Republican bench reasoned that individuals have a fundamental right to armed self-defense, just as villages in agrarian eighteenth century America had the right to form armed militias for the purpose of communal protection—militias being the progenitors of modern-day police departments. To borrow from an aphoristic chestnut: Every man’s home is a castle, every man is a cop authorized to use deadly force.
- Following the massacre of twenty young school children and six of their teachers at the hands of a lunatic in legal possession of an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle—America’s best-selling weapon: a slightly modified combat machine gun capable of firing eight hundred armor-piercing, organ-melting .223 caliber bullets per minute—Republicans in Congress blocked consideration of a tepid proposal to require mental health background checks of persons wishing to buy weapons. Never mind overwhelming public demand by aforementioned suckers.
Gun fanaticism on the part of a regrettably large number of Americans does not mean that most of us agree with the Supreme Court’s laissez-faire attitude on guns. To the contrary, the national epidemic of gun murders and massacres are matters of grave concern to voter pluralities among both Democrats and Republicans. Majorities are not always silent, but they seldom wield power in a faux democracy.
According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, ninety-one percent of the U.S. population demands that Congress adopt legislation that would, at the very least, require criminal background checks of persons wishing to purchase guns—ninety-one percent.
Reasons for such unanimity of opinion—in a country whose people are hotly disputatious—are chronicled in media on a daily, sickening basis. Of the nearly three hundred Americans who die by gunfire every day—every day, according to surveys by the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence— there are gobs of gore with which to supply newspaper banners and opening reports on the evening TV news throughout the country, per the dictum, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
But to Republicans in Congress, public opinion is persuasively puny compared to campaign cash, which according to the Supreme Court in the 2010 matter of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission needn’t be revealed by amount, or by frequency of “donation,” or by named source. Thus, by the lights of Republicans drooling for N.R.A. support in stabilizing their sinecures, do-nothing money speaks louder than mortality.
Last year during an appearance on a little-watched interview show on cable television, former President Jimmy Carter, in the White House from 1977 to 1981, told an awful truth about the consequence of Citizens United, a truth that corporate media declined to quote. “We’ve become now an oligarchy instead of a democracy,” said Mr. Carter, now age 90. “And I think that’s been the worst damage to the basic moral and ethical standards of the American political system that I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Evidence of Mr. Carter’s cri de cœur is seen in the battalions of Washington-based lobbyists with satchels full of greenbacks slithering daily from K Street office suites to Capitol Hill. At nightfall, lobbyists and legislators celebrate their greasy collaborations over martinis and Porterhouse steaks at Washington’s finest boîtes.
In late June, fifty-three of the fifty-four Republicans in the one hundred-member U.S. Senate voted against a modest bill that could have accomplished three thing: partially prohibited certified insane people from purchasing weapons; a small expansion of existing, albeit largely ineffective background checks on prospective buyers at retail gun outlets—a process currently lasting about three minutes, during which time buyers are asked if they are sane or insane; modest new regulations on gun sales at trade exhibitions and via internet. All fifty-three Republican lawmakers were multiple recipients of N.R.A. campaign “contributions” (nudge-nudge, wink-wink).
According to the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based nonpartisan research organization, the N.R.A. paid out $36.3 million (€32.7 million) to Republicans during the aggregate course of their careers. At the low end, in terms of both dollars and seniority, was first-term Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky at $2,500 (€2,250); at the high end was Senator John McCain of Arizona, in office for nearly three decades, at $7.8 million (€7 million).
Small wonder that Wayne LaPierre—who earns a million-dollar salary as executive vice president of the N.R.A. for saying such things as “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun!”—was given a prime speaking slot at the Republican convention in July. What other country in the world would have the mouthpiece for amalgamated merchants of death deliver a speech at a major political party gathering? Only America, where gun madness is a normalized social disease.
In his address, the million-dollar mouthpiece roused the hemorrhoid-plagued with excoriations of Hillary Clinton. He warned that her possible presidency “will not bring a dawn of new promise and opportunity [but] a permanent darkness of deceit and despair forced upon the American people to endure (sic).” Mr. LaPierre’s audience, a goodly number armed with concealed pistols, cheered wildly at his conclusion: “She’s been coming after us for decades! Hillary Clinton hasn’t met a gun control bill that she couldn’t support!”
These remarks were followed by a word from the Republican National Committee chairman himself—the sleepy-eyed Reince Priebus (derided as Reince Penis by detractors). Mr. Priebus/Penis further stoked the fires of pistol passion with, “You can kiss your guns good-bye if Hillary gets into the White House!”
Everytown for Gun Safety, a New York-based nonprofit organization, reports statistics that do not rouse the current Republican-dominated Congress:
- Between 1966 and 2012, one-third of the world’s massacres—defined by he Federal Bureau of Investigation as four or more victims killed and/or severely injured by firearms—took place in the U.S., which accounts for only five percent of the global population.
- Over the past decade, more American civilians have been killed by gunfire than the number of U.S. soldiers shot dead over four years of combat during World War II.
- The rate of gun-related murders, accidents, or suicides is twenty-five times that of other developed nations.
- Each day, ninety American adults are murdered with guns—as are ten children.
- Each month, fifty women are shot to death by a current or former husband or intimate companion.
The largest massacre carried out by a single killer in all American history occurred in June, a few weeks prior to Mr. Trump’s convention nomination in July. Not a word of it was mentioned; not by Mr. LaPierre, not by Mr. Priebus, not by anyone. We have forgotten about it, just as we’ve forgotten about H. Rapp Brown and what he said, and then how he acted on what he said.
What happened was this: Forty-nine persons were murdered and fifty-three more critically wounded at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The killer was Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old wife-beater whose missus had complained of his mental illness; others said Mr. Mateen was sexually confused. Despite his having twice been suspected of terrorism by the F.B.I., he was able to buy a semiautomatic Sig Sauer MCX rifle. In addition to its ability to fire seven hundred rounds per minute, the lightweight Sig Sauer has a fold-over stock, removable barrel, and rapid-change ammunition clip that made Mr. Mateen’s stealthy entry to the club possible: he hid gun parts in his trousers and reassembled the rifle in a bathroom stall.
For good measure, perhaps to deliver coups de grace to the fallen, Mr. Mateen also packed a Glock 9mm semiautomatic pistol, likewise legal. Contrary to Mr. LaPierre’s theory, the club security officer—a good guy with a gun—did not prevent homicidal rampage.
Asked for reaction, congressional Republicans volunteered their usual: prayers for the victims’ families.
Television news coverage of the Florida slaughter included an account by Craig Melvin of MSNBC, a veteran of massacre reportage. He signed off from Orlando with a mordant, “I’ll see you at the next mass murder.”
Ice-hearted maniacs kill in the name of religion, ice-hearted Republicans babble in the name of religious sanctity. Such is their nature—as we saw, yet again, this in June.
“And what is so rare as a day in June,” wrote James Russell Lowell, the nineteenth century New England poet. “Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how,” he continued. He then added, with a fine touch of malevolence, “[But] “everything is happy now…” Careless readers will consider Mr. Lowell a lah-di-dah celebrant of springtime in bucolic Massachusetts. They know little to nothing beyond the opening ten words of his paean to June, overlooking the poem’s dark conclusion:
[T]he eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season’s youth,
And the sulfurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep ‘neath a silence pure and smooth,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.
—Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag