I'm Surprised

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I'm Surprised

(Photo: Ingmar Zahorsky/flickr/cc)

I’m surprised. I'm truly and breathtakingly surprised that another young American has decided to open fire indiscriminately on his fellow citizens in a public space.

I'm surprised that another young person living in a country where films are filled with guns and violence and present the killing of human beings as a rather normal “solution” to one's pressing problems, would want to take the lives of others.

I'm surprised, completely surprised, that someone coming from a culture where children have screens pressed into their faces before they can speak, and where many of them are seldom forced, or even politely asked, to communicate face-to-face across the table with their own family, never mind people from other places and generations, and who therefore never really develop much in the way of mature interpersonal habits and negotiating skills, would want to gun other people down when frustration arrives, as it inevitably must, to  their young lives.

I'm surprised, completely surprised that in a culture where everyone that wears a uniform and carries a gun is glorified, and where police bullying, and the dehumanization that lies at its core, is held up for entertainment on reality shows, produces young people who want to blast the crap out of those that they in their private wisdom (after all, why should cops have all the fun?) have decided are society’s "bad actors".

I'm surprised, completely and truly surprised that in a society where people are told from the earliest moments of their lives that there is really no such thing as trust, and that there is really no such thing as mutually beneficial cooperation, rather that we are all, in one form or another, competing with each other all the time (notwithstanding the false smiles we might wear in order to
successfully carry off life’s many necessary "transactions”), a young person would feel alienated enough to want to extinguish the lives of several others in a matter of seconds.

I'm shocked, absolutely shocked that in a nation where video gaming is one of the major pastimes of young and not so young men (and some women), producing a sub-culture where sitting on the couch day after day and "killing" imaginary people is seen as the next best thing to a perpetual orgasm, young people might want to “blow away” their professors, or whatever group of kids seems to be doing better than them at this particular moment in life.

I'm surprised, truly and deeply surprised that a culture in which education is designed not to be a journey of empowerment and discovery, but rather a process of ever more rigid social control and punishment whose end goal is to provide the already wealthy and powerful with a corps of submissive, unimaginative and ultimately disposable workers, would generate the type of rage in the young that would lead some of them to want to "take matters into their own hands" in the way they have seen it done so many times before on the flickering screens  of  their childhood.

I'm surprised, deeply surprised that a country that sends millions of generally poor and ill-educated young men and women off to do unspeakably terrible things to innocent people they do not know or understand, and then after having demanded this of them, calls them heroes when they themselves know deep down that they have often acted as sociopathic animals, produces abnormally large numbers of unquenchably rageful young people.

I am surprised, truly and honestly surprised, that in a country where the leadership class cavalierly talks about "taking out bad guys", and where a supposedly progressive president decides—in violation of any and all of the norms of conduct developed over the 800 years since the signing of the Magna Carta—that he is fully empowered to assassinate American citizens who are, in his princely imagination, a cancerous blot on the body politic, produces citizens that increasingly feel empowered to use similar means to extirpate the  many unsightly “human tumors” living in their midst.

Yes I'm surprised, deeply and profoundly surprised by the phenomenon of mass shootings carried out by young people in this country.

Thomas S. Harrington

Thomas S. Harrington

Thomas S. Harrington is a professor of Hispanic Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and the author of the recently published book, Livin' la Vida Barroca: American Culture in a Time of Imperial Orthodoxies.

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