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Rebecca Gordon: America's Wars, A Generational Struggle (In the Classroom)
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It’s been a long time since I stood in a classroom and taught anyone anything, but each June for years I’ve appeared before classes of college seniors to give a graduation address ushering them into our grim world. True, those speeches didn’t take place before flesh-and-blood audiences but on what I’ve come to call “the campus of my mind” (and were then posted at TomDispatch). Still, I faithfully tried to usher class after class of graduates into an ever more godforsaken American world. The other day, however, I realized just how deeply the age of Trump had gotten to me. In 2017, I seem not to have had the urge to give such a speech and so graduated no one into anything.

That led me back to my last attempt to do so: June 5, 2016, a moment when Donald Trump already had every media eye in America glued to his orange comb-over, his incipient “authoritarianism” had become an issue, and I was imagining the possibility that he might indeed be elected president. With that in mind, I gave an address to that year’s graduates, which I titled “Donald Trump Is the Mosquito, Not the Zika Virus.” In it, I said: “Few bother to consider the ways in which the foundations of authoritarianism have already been laid in this society — and not by disaffected working class white men either. Few bother to consider what it means to have a national security state and a massive military machine deeply embedded in our ruling city and our American world… or what it means for that state within a state, that shadow government, to become ever more powerful and autonomous in the name of American ‘safety,’ especially from ‘terrorism’ (though terrorism represents the most microscopic of dangers for most Americans)…

“It’s clear enough… that our American system is morphing in ways for which we have no names, no adequate descriptive vocabulary. Perhaps it’s not just that we have no clear bead on what’s going on, but that we prefer not to know.” And I then implored the Class of 2016 to step into that world and “tell us who we are and where we are.”


So, more than a year and a half later, who are we? Where are we? Barely a week after the latest mass slaughter by a disturbed teenager carrying an AR-15 assault rifle into a Florida school, I’m not sure I even want to know. Fun fact: you need to be 21 in Florida to legally purchase alcohol, but only 18 to get that combat rifle. Fun fact: in February 2017, by rescinding an Obama-era regulation, President Trump made it easier for people with mental problems to buy guns. Fun fact: Thanks to the killing of 17 students and teachers in Parkland, Florida, Columbine is no longer the worst high school mass killing in our history. Fun fact: In the United States, there is now, on average, a “mass shooting” (four or more people shot) nine out of every 10 days of the year. Talk about terror! Talk about terrorism! And so it goes in the age of The Donald.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that my urge to graduate anyone into such a world hit rock bottom last year, which is why I find something heartwarming about today’s piece by TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon — about, that is, anyone willing at this moment to face the daunting task of helping the young learn how to navigate an American world that seems more unnerving and unbalanced by the day. So here’s a small bow to Gordon and the students who take the journey with her onto what is increasingly an alien planet damaged in ways that should deeply disturb us all.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Guns, Mass Shootings 
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  1. “Fun fact”, Tom: the lives of innocent Americans are saved every day by law-abiding gun owners, far more than are lost to people misusing guns aggressively.

    My own sister avoided certain rape and maybe death by drawing a handgun on two men who approached her as she was alone in a parking lot, at night, in beautiful Albuquerque, Not-So-New Mexico.

    “Fun fact”, Tom: the man said to be guilty of the November 5, 2017 shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas — Devin Kelley — was already prohibited by law from having guns. The reason he was able to buy the guns was that incompetent government fuckups (in our beloved Air Force) never bothered to report his disqualifying criminal convictions to the FBI as required. More restrictions on self-defense / gun rights wouldn’t stop him.

    “Fun fact”, Tom: the man said to be guilty of the Las Vegas shooting recently was living with an Indonesian woman and was reportedly a convert to Islam. If we find out that that latter little fact is true, I’m sure you’d support deporting an excluding Muslims from our country, right? I mean, if it’s fair to take rights and safety away from tens of millions of peaceful American gun owners for the actions of a few — some of whom were already legally prohibited from owning firearms under current law — surely it’s not unfair to make all Muslims suffer the consequences of what their brethren do under the influence of their hateful ideology (not just “religion”).

    P.S. If only government employees have firearms, will human nature drastically change so that the people with a monopoly on these essential weapons will not oppress and abuse the disarmed populace? Do you trust police to treat us even as “Fairly” as they do now, if they know they run little risk of a citizen shooting back against their thuggery?

    You’re a smart guy who knows how to write, Tom — please think about it further.

    • Replies: @jacques sheete
  2. FunFact: AR-15 is hardly a “Combat Rifle.” It’s a 22 cal toy dressed up to look like a real Army-gun. If the AF had armed me with an AR-15 to go into action, I would have thrown it at the adversary to knock him down and then shot him with my Beretta 92.

    “It’s clear enough… that our American system is morphing in ways for which we have no names, no adequate descriptive vocabulary. Perhaps it’s not just that we have no clear bead on what’s going on, but that we prefer not to know.”

    More than a few know how to pithily and accurately describe what is going on around them, but they know they dare not utter the appropriate words, lest they be added to yet another watch list by the authorities and branded a kook and conspiracy-theorist by family and ostensible friends. This is but one reason they are not gung-ho on board with a lot of the current gun-control malarky.

    You want to get rid of Trump? Field a candidate who can match his or her feelings, which resonate with roughly 43% of the electorate, with actual facts and reasoning to put him or her over the top, because by 2020 and four years of actual experience with Trump, the whole fear and TDS strategy is going to be seen by a majority of the electorate as little more than firing blanks.

    • Replies: @Jonathan Mason
  3. peterike says:

    there is now, on average, a “mass shooting” (four or more people shot) nine out of every 10 days of the year.

    How many of these are “mass shootings” as people normally think about them, and how many are a brother in the hood firing wildly at a party or some shit like that? I would guess the vast majority are ghetto gun blazing, plus the occasional drug cartel hit and the random “black dudes home invade a white home and shoot up everyone.”

    Note: in about 100% of these cases, the guns were not acquired legally.

    But way to spin the message!

  4. Wally says:

    “alien planet damaged” [link]

    Except that 2017 was NOT the warmest year ever.

    Real science doesn’t hide it’s data.
    Real science doesn’t need to alter data.
    Real science produces ‘models’ which generate real, observable results.
    Real scientists don’t get nailed in Climate Gate.
    Real science doesn’t try to silence differences of opinion.
    Real science doesn’t advocate the arrest of those that disagree with them.

    Most Massive Scientific Fraud In Human History

    100% Of US ‘Warming’ Is Due To NOAA Data Tampering

  5. @The Alarmist

    FunFact: AR-15 is hardly a “Combat Rifle.” It’s a 22 cal toy dressed up to look like a real Army-gun.

    So should I give my daughters one each to take to school, or would you recommend something more powerful?

  6. @Jonathan Mason

    Depends on what your daughters would want to do with them. If it is a LPD self-defense weapon, a Glock 19 might fit better in their bags than a Glock 17, but either would be better than an AR-15 or one of its variants.

    • Replies: @Jonathan Mason
  7. @The Alarmist

    Thanks, yes, it would just be for self defense to start with, and then they could work their way up to intimidating teachers for better grades, or dealing with unruly classmates.

    I guess the AR-15 would be too big to fit in their bags, especially with the amount of homework stuff, crayons, dolls, etc that every well-equipped elementary school child has to carry these days. I guess they will be getting Glocks for their birthdays. Do they make them in a range of colors, and if so is pink available?

    • Replies: @The Alarmist
  8. freebird says:

    What did Obama do about the problem of gun violence? What did Obama do to address the issue of people shooting up schools, malls, and theaters? He had 8 years to do something. What did he do?

  9. freebird says:
    @Jonathan Mason

    An AR-15 is an exact clone of the military M-16. And with a bump-stock it fires exactly like one also. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • Replies: @The Alarmist
  10. @Jonathan Mason

    There was a punk song by The Dead Milkmen called Violent School that had lyrics that went something like …

    Violence rules,
    Guns are cool,
    and we’ve got guns
    in our school.

    Some themes are just timeless.

    Don’t know if glocks come in pink, but baseball bats do, and that is what they should use to work up to intimidating people. Kids have to learn to be hands-on if you want them to develop really useful life skills. You know, Youths with Sporting Equipment, as seen, or not, on TV.

  11. @freebird

    Lighten up, Frances. It was I who made the offending remark.

    I could easily knock a target down at 600 meters with my GAU-5A/A, which was essentially an AR-15, so it’s a fine gun, but that doesn’t make as funny a story.

  12. @RadicalCenter

    Thank you. I was going to comment in s a similar fashion but now I don’t have to.

    I also commend you on your “P.S.” comment.

    The most glaring “fun fact” is that the author overlooks the fact that the worst mass murderers and the highest density of lunatics with guns are those in uniform.

    Honest and intelligent people with experience with standing armies (police forces are essentially that), say things like this.:

    As soon as the government has the money and the soldiers, instead of fulfilling their promises to defend their subjects from foreign enemies, and to arrange things for their benefit, they do all they can to provoke the neighbouring nations and to produce war; and they not only do not promote the internal well-being of their people, but they ruin and corrupt them.

    A few typos, but otherwise a fine summary: Tolstoy, Slavery of Our Times, Chap 8, 11 July, 1900

    Tolstoy was a former artillery officer.

    “The experience of all ages, and the observations of both the historian and the philosopher agree, that a standing army is the most ready engine in the hand of despotism, to debase the powers of the human mind, and eradicate the manly spirit of freedom.

    The people have certainly everything to fear from a government, when the springs of its authority are fortified only by a standing military force.

    Wherever an army is established, it introduces a revolution in manners, corrupts the morals, propagates every species of vice, and degrades the human character.”
    Mercy Otis Warren, Revolution-era historian,
    History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution vol. 1, Ch3, 1805

  13. @Jonathan Mason

    So should I give my daughters one each to take to school…

    Wrong question.

    If you really cared about your daughters you’d ask yourself why you send them off to some boneheaded bureaucrats to babysit and brainwash them in an institution paid for with extorted funds to be surrounded by masses of drooling idiots with their pathetic behavior and lack of self discipline.

    The schooling systems in most countries that I’m aware of are cesspits of idiocy from top to bottom, and they are uniformly scams run for the benefit of bureaucrats and other forms of parasites. “Teachers,” along with lawyers, as a rule, are about the most disgusting and ignorant bunch of sheep imaginable, and I’ve known many on a close personal basis. School administrators are even worse. Scum of the earth.

    There can be little doubt that the schools, along with the media, kill spirits and values in a more significant way and on an infinitely far greater scale, than deranged kids with guns, and in fact, are a huge source of the underlying problems.

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