Young black men and police officers have something really important in common: They are both dying in the hail of bullets that is America today.
It is hard to watch reports of what has become the daily litany of gun violence in America. It is even harder to watch it play out in real time. But it still doesn’t seem to matter. Lives blown away before our very eyes should scream at us and continue to scream at us until something is done about it. It is not enough to catch the gunman or have him blow himself away or have the cops do it for him. It is about the guns and the US gun culture advocates who look everywhere but inward in order to disavow any responsibility for the carnage.
Recent events feature the cops as targets. The very gun culture many cops embrace has turned on them. Most cops have guns and, in theory, know how to use them. Many are right-wing conservatives, own multiple firearms, are members of the National Rifle Association and have a general disdain for government regulation of much of anything. They try to enforce the law as they see it and resist any common sense approach to oversight. Their unions and professional organizations never apologize.
Now they are turning up dead, joining the other 30,000 plus in America who die each year from firearm violence. Despite this, there is hardly a peep from the cops about the prevalence of guns in our society and nothing about what should be done about it. Instead, like all good gun nuts, they look for blame elsewhere, turning the rhetoric of “black lives matter” into a “cops lives don’t matter” movement that they believe is responsible for creating a climate of acceptable street violence directed at cops themselves.
This is nonsense and diverts attention away from a serious discussion about gun violence in America. Something might begin to change if the mothers, wives and children of young black men killed by cops joined hands with the mothers, wives and children of cops killed by young black men and others to demand an end to America as we have come to know it—a country armed to kill other humans. It would help if the march were joined by the families of those kids and teachers gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School and friends and families of the reporter and photographer gunned down in Virginia. Add the families and friends of those gunned down on college campuses and in movie theaters and we might have a starting point for the discussion.
But what is it that we need to discuss? It is as foolhardy to believe that guns could be rounded up and sent somewhere else as it is that immigrants can be rounded up and sent somewhere else. Rather, the discussion has to start with a serious examination of the relationship between the governed and governance in America. The very people who most proudly proclaim the exceptionalism of America most loudly denounce the government institutions that are the foundation on which America is built and on which its citizens depend.
There is a right-wing love affair with American soil, American flags and American stuff, but not with American government or American taxes. A photo from the Washington state wildfires caught my attention not so long ago—a homeowner is thanking firefighters who saved his house from the wildfire.
The homeowner has a big smile on his face and a completely brain dead slogan on the t-shirt he is wearing: “Lower Taxes + Less Government = More Freedom.” In his case, however, lower taxes and less government would have equaled no house.
Those firefighters are government employees whose extraordinary fight to save this clown’s home was funded with tax money from all over America. If there is anything great about the US, it is the continued willingness of ordinary Americans to serve their government and to pay taxes as a matter of routine, in order to make sure there is a government ready to meet its obligations.
And that is where the discussion about gun violence in America needs to begin. In a newsflash to the right-wing, cops are government employees; military service members are government employees; the border patrol is chock full of government employees; and first responders are government employees. All are revered in song and legend by those who say they love America, but far too many of those singing seem to love their guns more.
It is the government’s first obligation to its citizens to provide security, to protect us all from violence. The US spends billions to root out “terrorists” who killed a total of 19 Americans in 2013 but a pittance to stop the flow of guns to its citizens that kill over 30,000 Americans per year.
The “revered” Second Amendment to the US Constitution was never intended as the license to kill that it has become. Rather, it was intended to ensure that a “well-regulated militia” was available to the federal government to protect the nation’s security. Today, many are blinded to this lofty objective by the perverted reasoning that turns our own government into the security threat from which only an armed populace can protect the rest of us.
What we should all see is that young black men and cops have something really important in common: They are both dying in the hail of bullets that is America today. They should make loud and common cause to end this outrage.
*[A version of this article was also featured on Larry Beck’s blog, Hard Left Turn.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.