Another Public Shooting, Another Day in America

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

SOURCE: American Gun Facts, <https://americangunfacts.com/gun-ownership-statistics/>.

19 students and 2 teachers killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The gunman is 18-year-old Salvador Ramos.

“The suspect purchased two AR-15-style rifles on May 22, two days before the massacre and six days after his birthday (ABC News, 2022).”1

Acquaintances of Ramos have described him to ABC News as “a weird kid” suggesting anti-social behavior and a reputation as an outcast, a state not uncommon among younger Americans particularly males.

“The shooter was able to make entry into a classroom, barricaded himself inside that classroom, and . . . just began shooting numerous children and teachers that were in that classroom, having no regard for human life (Lt. Christopher Olivarez, Texas Department of Public Safety, 2022).”2

I am honestly desensitized to news stories like this because I have read too many of these headlines. No population that tolerates this kind of public violence every year, every month, sometimes every day, should be considered “civilized.” Will our politicians do anything about this gun violence? Probably not? Will a majority of Americans continue voting for these politicians? Probably.

There is no question that the United States of America has an issue with guns. Just by numbers alone: there are approximately 329.5 million people in the U.S. (U.S. Census, 2020)3 and the number of firearms is estimated to be over 400 million between military, police, civilians (American Gun Facts, 2022) with approximately 98% of those firearms in civilian hands.4 The simple fact that this country is saturated with firearms leads to the inevitable outcome of more crimes involving firearms.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 sets a national standard for the purchase of firearms – rifles can be purchased at 18 years of age while handguns can be purchases at 21 years of age (Shirin Ali, The Hill, 2022).5 An amending piece of legislation in 1993, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, federally mandated background checks from licensed firearm dealers. However, regulations (including age restrictions) vary between states (which seems to contradict the age restriction set in the Gun Control Act of 1968). Some states have a lower age limit on handguns, some states have no limits on firearm possession. Considering the age limit for alcohol purchases is set at 21 years of age I think the age limit on firearm purchases should at least match that for alcohol purchases since alcohol consumption has a tendency to make one more violent by impairing judgment and unleashing inhibitions. There also must be a consistent standard for firearm purchases and possession enforced by the national government.

1ABC News, <https://abc7.com/elementary-school-shooting-texas-shooter-salvador-ramos-uvalde-tx/11893076/>.

2National Public Radio, <https://www.npr.org/2022/05/25/1101175912/uvalde-texas-shooting-victims-4th-grade-classroom>.

3Data Commons, <https://datacommons.org/place/country/USA?utm_medium=explore&mprop=count&popt=Person&hl=en>.

4American Gun Facts, <https://americangunfacts.com/gun-ownership-statistics/#:~:text=See%20Owning%20Gun-,How%20Many%20Guns%20in%20America%3F,120%20firearms%20per%20100%20citizens.>.

5The Hill, <https://thehill.com/changing-america/resilience/smart-cities/3493244-the-legal-ages-for-buying-a-gun-in-the-us/>.

The Election of 2016: a Potential Catalyst for New American Populism

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

Looking back on the United States presidential election of 2016, I can theorize about how a political novice like Donald Trump won the election and how his rhetoric resonated with lower-class Americans. Trump used simplistic language in his speeches, providing little details regarding public policy and appealed to an instinctive anger against an economic system that rewards the most ruthless among us while punishing the most empathetic. Empty promises to create more American jobs, disregarding the interconnected nature of the globalized 21st century economy, appeals to low-income and (formally) uneducated voters who care first and foremost about what can be done for them in the short-term. President Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 is a reflection of several institutional failures in America, first and foremost the failure of our educational institutions in their mission to teach critical thinking skills as well as historical contexts for our most pressing political issues.

The blame for our institutional failures lay at both ends of our proverbial political spectrum: the so-called Left-wing and Right-wing. Judging by the corporate media pundits who dominate our television stations and air waves, the Left-wing seems to consist of pathological desires to force more equitable outcomes out of our economic system while disregarding the irony of authoritative measures for supposedly populace outcomes, and the Right-wing seemingly consists of a dogmatic rejection of any populist, Keynesian policy which has proven its effectiveness in every other industrialized nation preferring a rigid alliance with private interests at the expense of public interests.

American news networks have also failed Americans as they have created a political environment in which partisan laborers for one or another of our political duopoly simply shout and demean each other while not actually listening to each other, seemingly incapable of any nuanced critique of each other’s ideas. A lack of nuance in news media can be just as dangerous as government propaganda because it breeds ideological converts rather than thinkers and analysts.

American educational institutions focus on stylistic and superficial job preparation rather than long-term, skills-based career building and philosophical study. Collegiate scholars today seem more concerned with earning the “right” degree for the sake of making a living rather than expanding their understanding of history and the world and earning the confidence to challenge existing power structures. Students of political science in particular seem more concerned with starting a career with the political party of their choice rather than building new paradigms for social organization.

The election of 2016 presented Americans with two negative options: a candidate representing a status quo already failing most Americans and a candidate representing a pseudo-populist reform with late-capitalism pulling the strings – the same old shit or a new brand of shit sprayed with a bottle of CK One cologne.

Whereas half of American voters do not even participate in our elections every four to eight years, I think this corruption-induced apathy presents an opportunity for alternative political candidates and parties. We have already seen an outspoken socialist win and retain a municipal seat in Seattle, Washington, one of the U.S.A.’s major cities. Populists, reformers, liberals, and socialists need to capitalize on this opportunity to subvert the corrupt duopoly of our two largest political parties and build coalitions across the nation, capturing local seats and building local bases of power that actually resonate with Americans. I think President Joe Biden has proved himself to be just as ineffectual as President Trump at manifesting the will of the people. I suggest new leadership is needed in America, leadership that is neither red nor blue.

The D.N.C. is cheating AGAIN!

SOURCE: The Jimmy Dore Show, <https://youtu.be/BwjRnXGtkr0>, posted 8/27/2019.

^ This is what the Democratic Party does, they cheat the populists out of the process by manipulating their primary rules.  The Democratic National Committee (D.N.C.) was against Bernie Sanders in 2016 because they were beholden to the Clinton machine and Sanders was the anti-war voice against Hillary Clinton.  Now, the D.N.C. is against Tulsi Gabbard because she’s the new populist voice speaking out against the corporate interests who bankroll the Democrats.  Changes in debate rules in the middle of the election season, discounting specific polls that don’t favor specific candidates, setting thresholds for fundraising as qualifyers for potential nominations, these are some of the subtle tactics that the dominant political parties (the Republican Party is guilty too) use to maintain power and shut out candidates who value the public over their party.  Populists are at an incredible disadvantage because our elections are all about party loyalty and fundraising.
President George Washington warned the American public about party politics, these fucking donkeys and elephants have taken over the nation!

Populists are at an incredible disadvantage because our elections are all about party loyalty and fundraising.

SOURCE: United States Representative Tulsi Gabbard, <https://youtu.be/es3lWK-wXLs>, posted 8/27/2019.

 

 

Nuclear Tech for the Arabs, not the Persians

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

Reuters reports on “six secret authorizations” from the United States Energy Secretary Rick Perry regarding the sale of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

Screenshot_2019-04-06 U S approved secret nuclear power work for Saudi Arabia
SOURCE: Timothy Gardner, 3/27/2019, <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-saudi-nuclear/us-approved-secret-nuclear-power-work-for-saudi-arabia-idUSKCN1R82MG>.

I’m not going to go into any details about how Saudi Arabia is an excessively authoritarian, theocratic monarchy that oppresses its people on a daily basis because anyone who pays attention to the news already understands that unfortunate situation (unless you’re also a power-hungry authoritarian who salivates over the kind of oppression that the House of Saud delivers daily). What frustrates me is the hypocrisy in American foreign policy. Why are so many power brokers so against the idea of our government making some peace with the government of Iran citing justifications like, “it’s a sponsor of terrorism,” or “it doesn’t align with American values,” but then those same psuedo-moralists will not make a sound when we deal with a government that does just that (state-sponsored terrorism). Can we at least have some consistency in our government policies? If we can’t deal with Iran because they are too authoritarian and they sponsor terrorism around the globe, then why the fuck are we dealing with the Saudis?

ArabianOil
IMAGE SOURCE: <https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-08-05/saudi-arabia-is-starting-to-stockpile-oil-again>.

I suppose it’s all about those Arabian oil fields and, since the Arabs don’t like the Persians, the U.S. will continue to suck that big Arabian penis until the oil runs out.

Illegal Immigration – a National Security Issue or a Humanitarian Issue?

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

The need to “secure our borders” is usually a hot topic for political campaigns. Unfortunately, fear too often accompanies the rhetoric around the topic. Too many politicians see the issue of immigration as simply a way to inflate their own egos by talking shit about foreigners as well as appeal to the very real human instinct to fear the unknown. The fear is understandable, it can be scary to think about people from a different country and culture coming into your own country – your own state – with values and customs that you don’t understand especially if the strangers are described using the harshest of words. There is an element of risk in meeting new people and its scary on an individual level as well as a collective level.

The great American cliche involves a “land of opportunity” and for many people over the past two centuries it was true. The United States experienced a surge of immigration from Europe and Asia through the latter 19th century into the 20th century during which time American citizens heard similar zenophobic rhetoric as we hear today and immigrants experienced similar prejudice because of rhetoric crafted to fuel fear. As with most groups of humans, some immigrants do not follow the laws of their new countries and they get punished by the respective justice systems as they are found out, but most immigrants have a very strong incentive to act as law-abiding residents, most immigrants are risking a lot in their own lives (sometimes life itself) to find a new place to call home and experience the same dignity through hard and meaningful work for which every human strives.

The liberalization of international trade as well as the stagnation of wages over the past few decades have created a situation across the globe in which large populations of humans are competing with other large populations of humans across vast regions for jobs just to supply themselves with basic necessities – laissez faire capitalism on a global scale. It is unrealistic and unsustainable over the long-term because large groups of humans throughout developing countries and even some of the developed world are now at the mercy of the bottom lines of a few mega corporations (corporations with more economic clout and political capital than some small countries). I’m imagining a future comprising of the combined nightmares of Upton Sinclair, George Orwell, and Philip K. Dick.

In order to combat this dystopian vision of humanity’s future where corporate executives have enough individual wealth and power to make the feudal lords of old salivate and government officials are basically prostitutes for private interests, I believe we need to renew an old conversation: what is the purpose of a government, what is an individual’s responsibility toward public interests, and what does a “social contract” entail? Immigration trends are responses to global economic trends, simply closing our borders to immigrants and refugees is not going to solve the root issue of economic inflation and stagnant wages.

The “State of the Union” is shit.

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

Do we really need a televised “State of the Union” address?

At the beginning of every year, Americans choose whether or not tune into the “State of the Union” address delivered by the current president, whom is treated like royalty with grandstanding applause at his every vague word. The past five presidents can sum up one S.O.T.U. in one sentence: the state of the union is shit. Of course, a politician has to keep up a facade for the American public so no one becomes too alarmed.

President Donald Trump’s latest S.O.T.U. address last night was particularly useless because it’s President Trump – an excessively selfish, misogynistic, corporatist, baffoon who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Does this guy really understand the current state of our democratic-republic?

Trump-grandstanding

IMAGE SOURCE: Fox News, <https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/liz-peek-state-of-the-union-speech-showcases-talent-of-trump-on-the-stump>, 2019.

The S.O.T.U. is a partisan sporting event for American politicians. Regardless of who is the President, the two parties with the most political market share use the event to throw miniscule rhetorical punches at each other, distracting the public with their charade of modern tribalism. All the while, their corporate puppet masters make back room deals to fuck over the average American with neo-liberal economics and an imperialist agenda. That’s what American politics has become: charades and back room deals.

President Trump campaigned on pseudo-populist rhetoric which was successful against an obvious corporatist who had been in politics her entire life and who’d flip-flopped on issues more times than anyone could count. Though, once in Office, Trump proved himself even more of a phony. He doesn’t care about working Americans given his cabinet picks (a former oil lobbyist for the position of Interior Secretary?), he only cares about his own ego.

I’m also a selfish person but I have no plans to run for a public office, I would hate that kind of job.

A look into history.

While the nation’s first two presidents felt it necessary to deliver a speech to the national Congress, President Thomas Jefferson disagreed with that assumption. President Jefferson believed a physical speech to Congress was not necessary and a public event idolizing the presidency seemed to monarchial, antithectical to the nation’s democratic ideal. Instead of a physical speech, President Jefferson simply wrote a letter to the Congress in which he laid out budget reports for his agenda (no grandstanding public appeals) and that tradition was followed until President Woodrow Wilson revived public addresses in 1913.

I think two inventions transformed political theatre in the negative during the 20th century: the radio and the television. Ultimately, the radio and the television (more so with television) placed more emphasis on public appearances and optics rather than the specifics of policies. Americans began turning to what a candidates looked like and what he appeared to do rather than what a candidate actually was, Presidents John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan are examples of this public obsession with appearances. Both Kennedy and Reagan were praised for their on-camera talents while their less favorable actions regarding policy stayed out of the spotlight.

How can Americans return to a policy-focused culture shying away from appearances and optics?

Five Thirty Eight: “Why the House and Senate are Moving in Opposite Directions”

“At first, I was a little skeptical of the narrative that Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process could send the House and Senate moving in opposite directions.  Usually in politics, a rising tide lifts all boats — so whichever party benefited from the Supreme Court nominee’s confirmation would expect to see its fortunes improve in both its best states and districts and its worst ones.

But a House-Senate split is exactly what we’re seeing in the Five Thirty Eight forecast (Nate Silver, Five Thirty Eight, 2018).”

 

A Shifting Pendulum in American Politics

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

The Democratic Party is moving further to the political Left, embracing more collectivist modes of ideology and doubling down on their identitarian activism.  Today’s typical “Progressive” is now a caricature of my generation (Generation Y, the millennial generation) and it’s embarrassing; from screaming at Republican senators in the nation’s capital, to banging on the door of the Supreme Court of the United States after the confirmation of a new conservative-leaning Justice, to forcefully shutting down academic events hosting conservative speakers, it is apparent that Leftists (not liberals) are becoming more radicalized in this strange post-truth era.

How did we get here?

I think it started with internet connections and the World Wide Web which dramatically increased access to information for the general public.  Greater access combined with more diversity is a double-edged sword in media because, with more choices of programs, confirmation bias becomes more prevalent; individuals will naturally gravitate toward programs that confirm what they already believe.  This is why it is so important to make an effort to seek out points of view alternate to your own.  The American public is currently experiencing the negative, balkanizing effects of confirmation bias.

What’s the solution? 

I think the solution to our wide-spread confirmation bias ironically involves the very tools that encouraged this virus of the mind, although it also requires a change in mindset in each individual.  We need to consider different sources, the motivations behind particular narratives, and power bases behind specific media companies.  The ideological leanings of a journalist or commentator affects their news coverage as does the primary financing of an organization.  In short, we need to be more skeptical.

Skepticism requires curiosity and acting on curiosity requires initiative.  Journalist Tim Pool points out one the most stark differences between the political Left and Right today: the Left generally has no qualms with alienating individuals whom disagree with their mainstream narratives while the Right is constantly seeking out disagreements for the sake of discourse – the Left pushes people away with their dislike for nuance while the Right is actively recruiting people.  This new inclusiveness on the Right will likely lead to a new conservative movement among younger Americans.  We’re already seeing rising conservative media outlets catapulting young and energetic talking heads to national fame – figures like Ben Shapiro, Tomi Lahren, Roaming Millennial, and Dave Rubin are immensely popular with young people partly because they don’t condescend young people about how “oppressed” they are by forces beyond one’s control.  A general narrative on the Right is one of an individualistic spirit of exploration and invention endemic in American history.

Liberalism was once the champion of individualism and personal liberty but liberalism has been corrupted by its own hubris.  Leftists coming to dominate the fields of entertainment became obsessed with the appearance of diversity while ignoring diversity’s most important facet: the intellect.  Now, the intellectually lazy neo-liberals are being beaten in the marketplace of ideas by their Right-wing counterparts who still see value in showcasing diverse opinions regardless of appearances and communicating across ideologies.  If the Left wants to have a fighting chance in this new media landscape of individualism and curiosity, I think they need to rediscover liberalism and the intellectual traditions of Western civilization – from Hammurabi’s Code, to the oratory of Pericles, to the revelations of the Enlightenment, to the rational populism of Presidents Roosevelt.