When will They Ever Learn?

“American Square” by Soymonk1.
Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.**

The latest rampage, as of this writing (I expect there will have been more by the time this is posted), was the work of a semi-automatic pistol in the hands of a “drifter” who should not have had a gun. This latest by-product of a money-and-unbridled-liberty-at-all-costs club took the lives of two people and injured 8 more in a Louisiana movie theater Thursday night. You can be sure that the corporate media are in a frenzy, looking for some “terrorism” connection. If they can’t find that revered link, I imagine they will settle for cloaking the accused, 59-year-old John Russell Houser from Phenix, Ala, in the label “mental illness.”

I think the time has come to bestow the term “psychologically deranged,” along with “morally corrupt” on the arms industry and particularly its vicious handmaiden, the NRA. How many times do we have to hear about the murdering of innocent adults and children in their schools, their local theaters, their homes, before enough ordinary people commit themselves to doing something about it, nonviolently.

In sports, setting and breaking records may be great, but do we want to maintain records like the following:

The U.S. firearm homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population.

American children are sixteen times more likely to be killed in unintentional shootings than their peers in other high-income countries.

Already, in 2015, at least 146 children have been shot.

There are some very fine organizations working to reduce and/or end this insanity.

Learn more about and from them, including information on the ways you can be involved:

Americans for Responsible Solutions

The Brady Campaign

Moms Demand Action

Kathie Malley-Morrison, Professor of Psychology

**The artist was motivated to paint “American Square” when he learned that sales of guns, particularly of semi-automatic rifles, have sky-rocketed and saw the maniacal manner of NRA’s president suggesting having a gunman posted in every school in the country. The incident struck the artist as a phenomenon totally opposite to what he anticipated after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14, 2012. America seems to face not only a racial division, but also a ‘pro-gun vs. anti-gun’ division, just as deep an issue. Needless to say, the artist stands clearly as an anti-gun proponent. Why? The artist spent many years and raised his family in Morton Grove, IL, north suburb of Chicago, which became the first city in the U.S. to legally prohibit possessing handguns. Owing the unprecedented outcome to a resolved resident of the town, the ordinance was put in effect in 1981. For the artist, the enforcement of the ordinance was a natural cause by the residents who only wish for the safety of their families in their daily lives. Now as a resident of Manhattan, NY, he has succumbed to the fact that the idea of handgun control is facing headwinds everyday and everywhere. In movies and dramas, guns play major roles and are too often used as the final solution. The viewers are desensitized to the actual impact these weapons could have. The real danger, that the artist feels, however, is that the fear of guns drives people to purchase guns. The more they purchase, the more they need.
Where does it all end or will it ever?

Posted in culture of violence, Media, Poetry and the arts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is a Deadly Culture Honorable?

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A world map showing countries according to their federal law regarding death penalty.
Map by Eduardo Sellan III and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Imbued with their own form of patriotism, many Americans fervently link words like freedom, liberty, and democracy with that hallowed term the United States; however, to capture well the character of some major parts of the nation, they need to include the word punitiveness.

The map above shows the United States in bed with China, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, and several other nations not banning capital punishment. Japan is the only industrial democracy besides the United States that retains a death penalty. The General Assembly of the United Nations, as recently as 2014, has called for a global moratorium on capital punishment. The US consistently opposes the initiative, and continues to execute people, some of them innocent, in very nasty ways.


Map of Death Penalty State statutes in the United States.
Map is in the public domain.

As can be seen in the second map, support for capital punishment is by no means distributed equally throughout the United States. Indeed, since 1976, when the US Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty, most of the 1411 individuals put to death (including 15 women and 22 juveniles) were executed in only 2% of all the counties in the US. Texas performed the most executions, but Duval County, FL, has been the killingest.

What is going on in those counties? Is their disproportionate number of executions the result of incompetence and prosecutorial misconduct?

Or is it something deeper? Is the disproportionate killing of people of color another outcome of pervasive racism in the US?

Is the capital punishment rate, like the murder rate, a symptom of a “culture of honor”? Are both rates, which are disproportionately higher in the South, largely bi-products of “cultures of honor” and an associated desire for retribution, the old idea of an eye for an eye and “just deserts” for unwanted behavior—an eagerness to punish that is impervious to the fact that sometimes innocent people are convicted of crimes?

Stay tuned for a post on the door that Supreme Court Justice Stephan Breyer may have opened to reconsideration of the national shame called capital punishment.

Kathie Malley-Morrison, Professor of Psychology

Posted in Death penalty, Human rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Atrocities Can Be Expensive

The brief video at the beginning of this post is horrifying but worthy of 15 seconds of your time.

Capt. Richard Koll, left, and Airman First Class Mike Eulo monitored a drone aircraft after launching it in Iraq. Credit U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Steve Horton

There’s thousands, maybe millions of them, out there. Some of them, invisible to you, are soaring around right now, doing their dirty business—spying and killing. And thousands more are still waiting to be set free to wreak death and destruction on babies, children, and adults who have the misfortune of being somewhere government operatives have decided to target.

Question: What allows the US drone program to get away with murder?

Answer: the usual thing. Tom Greening says it well:


It¹s true I am a profiteer
from wars, and yes I know you sneer
at my crass immorality
that helps me live in luxury.
I feel no need to be defensive‹
atrocities can be expensive.
I revel in ill-gotten gains
from helping bad guys purchase planes,
and drones and bombs and other stuff‹
they never seem to get enough.
I must the politicians thank
for all the dirty cash I bank.

Tom Greening

Neither the death and destruction nor the dirty cash are featured in the corporate media but they are real enough.

I know your days are full of activities, and it is probably impossible to do all the things you should do, but if your government is going to do things in your names, things that are inhuman and violate international human rights, you might find it worthwhile to stroll a bit down the avenues where you can find some information—for example,  droneswatch.org  and  nodronesnetwork.blogspot.com.

For the military industrial complex, drone warfare is a great way to terrorize civilians in an area they want to control without stirring up the people back home and with a minimum of American casualties, but even drone operators, presumably safely behind their computers, can suffer from participating in murder.

Let’s get stirred up over the latest killing technology and welcome efforts to get more hard facts from the government about their missions of death.

Kathie Malley-Morrison, Professor of Psychology

Posted in militarization, Military-industrial complex, Patriotism, Weaponry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Planet Does He Live On? Oracle, Optimist, Ostrich, or Obfuscator? Part 4.

A silhouette showing a police officer striking a person, symbolising police brutality.
Artwork by liftarn and is in the public domain.

In regard to his argument that the “better angels” of human nature have been bringing about a decline in global violence, Steven Pinker comments that some people, deceived by all the horror stories they have ingested from the popular media, take offense at his optimism. He asserts that arguing for a steady decline in violence “invites skepticism, incredulity, and sometimes anger.” My assertion is that much of the anger directed at his claims is due not to the idea that violence may be declining but to his obdurate failure to own up to the many forms of violence today that may have little effect on him but destroy the lives of millions of others.

Pinker says, for example, that in the “developed world” of which he is so proud, “the civil rights movement obliterated lynchings”; indeed, as a scientist committed to the convincing power of numbers, he claims, “Lynchings of African Americans used to take place at a rate of 150 a year. During the first half of the twentieth century, the rate fell to zero.” Seems like an obfuscation to me. What about the rest of the 20th century?

How about Emmett Till? and was Paul Robeson’s argument to the United Nations in 1951 that the US was guilty of genocide for its lynchings of black people based on nothing? and how about the reaction of many in the South to the Civil Rights Movement? We don’t see as many references to lynching in today’s papers as when I was young, but I see an awful lot of references to murder and assault of minority group members—not so much by the KKK now as by the police or community watchdogs.

Really, in today’s America, who can read this statement by Pinker and not feel rage at his apparent callousness: “by standards of the mass atrocities in human history, the lethal injection of a murderer in Texas, or an occasional hate crime in which a member of an ethnic minority group is intimidated by hooligans is pretty mild stuff.”

Kathie Malley-Morrison, Professor of Psychology

Posted in culture of violence, Human rights, police violence, racism | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments