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Entries tagged "violence"
August 3, 2012 · By Saul Landau
As a child I played war games (cowboys killing Indians). My friends and I routinely shot each other - with toy guns, of course. In my south Bronx neighborhood, older gang members had real guns and sometimes shot each other. Like in the movies! The cartoons I adored as a kid were loaded with violence as were the war movies Hollywood churned out to make propaganda for the actual war against Germany and Japan.
When James Holmes mowed down twelve people and wounded almost sixty at a movie theater in Colorado, I felt fresh violence enter my body as if a masseuse had greased me with liquid hostility before beginning the massage. Aggression penetrated my pores, inundated my brain and covered the cells of my heart. While the media reported the number of rounds fired, the kinds of weapons possessed by the assassin, and the anatomy of Holmes' booby-trapped apartment, President Obama and aspirant Romney uttered bland statements about the need for prayer, and consolation to the victims' families. Neither mentioned control of guns or the culture of violence that defines America. Freedom seems to equal gun possession for the National Rifle Association and many of its members.
Violence, more American than apple pie and baseball, has become a major social issue and a serious public health problem. Almost daily someone shoots another dead in countless metropolitan areas. Families suffer, cops say they are investigating and newspapers and TV stations get lead stories. I, like tens of millions, see the TV blood stories and easily fall into the fascination pit of the aftermaths and consequences of violence. But the media does not analyze or look for underlying themes in Aurora or similar horrifying acts. Instead, they use them to sell news shows, newspapers, and get advertisers.
Indeed, the media soak us with the culture of violence. In Hollywood and TV films, violent death has become the only formula for adequate retribution. Movie villains suffer hideous ends – movie justice. Violence as the cultural metaphor well suits a country that for decades has lived with perpetual war, backed by the owners of the war economy.
July 5, 2012 · By Emily Norton
The atmosphere was tense during the DRC Briefing at IPS on June 29, 2012. The audience of 45 squeezed into the conference room to hear the updates on Rwanda’s most recent breach of Congolese sovereignty, and the Q & A session threatened to reach a fever pitch.
The panel, comprised of three Congolese and one Rwandan, represented integral members of Congo's extended civil society family. Each panelist expressed concerns about the future of Eastern DRC, yet convictions about the recent M23 uprising diverged dramatically. Some were convinced the conflict was spurred on by remaining post genocide ethnic tensions between Hutus and Tutsis. Others blamed the Congolese government for its lack of political will to handle conflict. Yet others maintained that the external influence of international actors was muddling the picture and exacerbating the poor image of African nationhood. And, of course, the "corruption card," omnipresent in conversations of the "dark continent's" troubles, was placed on the table early on.
Anyone who has heard of the DRC knows it's a country with some issues but despite the devastating numbers (200,000 displaced), popular media has largely ignored the gravity of the latest mutinies in the Kivu provinces. Perhaps the "resource curse" seems too cliché to make headlines anymore...Or, perhaps the ugly effects of Western involvement are too unpleasant for America's tender ears.
The US government certainly seems to believe the latter is the case. Portions of a recent leaked UN Report provide implicating evidence that Rwandan leaders have been aiding and abetting mutinous rebel leaders. Furthermore, the US has turned a blind eye to its ally’s behavior, suspiciously delaying the release of the report.
However, the root motivation for Rwanda's and the State Department's covert support of violence was largely overlooked by the panel. What the conversation lacked was a focus on the vast amount of valuable minerals in the region and potential succession of the Kivu Provinces. It has been said that Rwanda wishes to see the Eastern DRC break off and form a South Sudan-esque situation. A vulnerable and independent Eastern DRC would make an easily manipulated nation state for the resource hungry Rwanda.
More troubling was the lack of solutions with real teeth. Increased diplomacy between the Rwandan’s and Congolese has a warm fuzzy feel to it but in a situation driven by layers of greed, it sounds hollow and unlikely. Security sector reform was also mentioned as a potential answer to the problematic mutiny. However, if the Congolese government lacks political will and all of its members are defecting to the M23 in the Kivus, it's likely that Kabila's government simply doesn't have the capacity to undertake such reforms.
The situation is likely to remain sticky if the international community continues to play the role of concerned onlooker.
The Wall Street Journal reported the State Department’s tepid response:
"'We are deeply concerned about the report's findings that Rwanda is implicated in the provision of support to Congolese rebel groups,' said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. The U.S. has 'asked Rwanda to halt and prevent the provision of such support from its territory.'"
Pentagon, it is time to put your money where your mouth is. Politely asking to cease and desist is a little too polite with the amount of lives at stake.
One of our panelists, Kambale Musavuli, summed up the situation tidily in a July 3rd Al Jazeera interview:
"We are funding half of the [Rwandan] military. They are being trained by AFRICOM and we are still not holding them accountable... Military aid [to the Rwandan Government] is causing conflict in the Congo, and we are partly responsible in the United States."
Ultimately, a push for greater corporate responsibility is needed in the mining regions and must take a increased policy priority. In the mean time, the US government must suspend all aid to Rwanda until the Rwandan army discontinues its supply of ammunition, recruits, and weapons to M23. It’s time to stand with the people of the Congo. Let's talk about an sanctions, not pathetically stand by because we can’t let our corporations suffer from lack of access to minerals. The US has a law that requires the revocation of aid from countries who contribute to violence in the Congo. It's called Public Law 109-456. Let's see that it gets enforced.
January 19, 2011 · By Phyllis Bennis
The repercussions of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson last week, in which six others were murdered and 13 wounded, continue to resonate. Discussion — and discussions about the discussion continue. Discussions rise and fall about how to achieve the real changes that will make a repeat of this tragedy impossible. Will we stand up to the National Rifle Association (NRA) and work to enact real, stronger gun-control laws? Will we do anything to make mental health care truly accessible for those who so desperately need it? Will anything change in the nature of the governmental and media discourse that still allows not just hostile but eliminationist rhetoric featuring cross-hairs, "second amendment remedies," and offers to "shoot a fully automatic M-16" as a campaign souvenir?
We don't know yet. There's way too much work ahead to even predict if there will be any change at all. President Obama's funeral oration at the Tucson memorial hit all the right notes - urging all who listened to live our lives and make our country into the people and nation that nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green was just beginning to claim as her own. It was a powerful moment.
He didn't say a word about the alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner, or about the vitriol and the violence that has infected the political debate possibly having consequences. Maybe that was a good call for President Obama at that moment. Certainly Loughner is mentally disturbed, and while there's no question his delusional rants reflect some of the right-wing tirades all too common on the Internet, it's certainly possible those ideas didn't have anything to do with his targeting of a politically moderate congresswoman.
And yet. What if? What if things were just a little bit different? What if the alleged gunman wasn't named Jared Loughner but instead was named Ali Mohammed? What if he wasn't a mentally ill white, Christian-Jewish native-born U.S. citizen but rather a mentally ill Muslim Arab immigrant? What if his delusional rants seemed to channel not those found-on-the-Internet right-wing American rants about the gold standard and government invasion, but rather those found-on-the-Internet calls for violent jihad? Would we still be so careful not to place any blame on those who spew hateful, violent rhetoric? Would we still be so certain that there's no link between violent rhetoric and the response of an unstable mind to that rhetoric?
Did anyone even bother to find out if the would-be underwear bomber is actually mentally ill or unstable? How about the army psychiatrist accused of shooting 13 people at Fort Hood? Do we care? Or do we simply assume that anyone who carries out an act of violence inspired by some warped version of Islam is "sane," but that someone who may have been inspired or influenced by "don't retreat, reload" rhetoric when they carried out their shooting spree, but who looks and talks a little more "like us" must be inherently "crazy"?
What if? What if things were just a little bit different? What would be our response to the Tucson shootings then?
January 14, 2011 · By Joy Zarembka
On March 26, 2010, millions of mainstream Americans grabbed their coffee and sat down to watch the morning talk show “The View.” The health care debate was raging, with fear-mongering language rising to a feverish pitch. Yet for once the hosts, liberal Joy Behar and conservative Elisabeth Hasselback, finally agreed on something – Sarah Palin's cross hairs pamphlet had gone entirely too far.
After flashing the image on the screen showing Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) as a target, Whoopi Goldberg turned directly to the camera. “I want to put something out to the talking heads still busy inciting this. Whatever comes down from this, it’s on your hands. When you say, ‘Wipe them out,’ and sort of gently suggest that people do stuff…watch yourself, talking heads, this stuff is dangerous,” she said. Hasselback followed up her comments by saying, “I hope no one will take this literally and take this to an extreme but the chance is out there.”
The nation is now debating whether there is a connection between this vitriolic rhetoric and the attempted assassination of Giffords, in which 20 were murdered or wounded in Tucson. Institute for Policy Studies fellow Karen Dolan offers a nuanced look at this issue in her recent essay, "No Ordinary Cross Hairs" and follows up her thoughts with "Sarah Palin: Liable or Libeled?"
As a country in mourning, we have a moment for contemplation. We should reflect on our ingrained culture of violence as well as our political leaders' language. Even after the Arizona tragedy, we probably won't see stronger gun laws, Foreign Policy In Focus co-director John Feffer predicts in World Beat, a weekly IPS newsletter. In fact, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is currently writing a bill that would allow members of Congress to carry concealed weapons in Washington, D.C.
We, as a nation, seem to breathe in the daily toxicity of hate and violence – be it through an ever increasing military budget, ever-popular shoot-‘em up video games, Internet and real life bullying or so-called leaders symbolically suggesting taking action through violence. We find ourselves living and dying by the sword.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military continues to kill 9-year-olds and other innocent people with real crosshairs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At IPS, we'll continue to "fight" for peace and civility.