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Children living in fear: Newtown to Pakistan

December 16, 2012

I’m watching a live broadcast of the memorial service from Newtown Connecticut in the aftermath of the devastating massacre at a school.  The stories are devastating. Teachers who placed their bodies in front of the gunman to protect children.  Children who, despite surviving the horror, might never be able to sit in a classroom for the rest of their lives. Lives shattered and ruined.

President Obama is giving a touching eulogy and I stand with him.  I am an American and I mourn for, and with my adopted country.

I grieve for the children who will for years now wake up in terror afraid of death raining down. I grieve for the nightmares being had and those that will be had. For the trauma and fear that is undeserved and unearned.  We HAVE GOT to do this better!!

AND in the midst of this grief I am reminded of the children of Pakistan who, like their peers in Newtown also sleep in nightmares.  Who wake up in the middle of the night to clutch air, seeking mothers long dead.  School, the playground, home, offer no safety.

For years now the United States Government has embarked on a war on Pakistanis.  US drones, personally authorized by the same President Obama who has been shedding tears over dead American children have killed over 3000 people yet only 2% of these people killed in these drone attacks were ‘high value targets’.   President Obama has authorized more drone attacks than President Bush ever did and he personally authorizes each attack.  We, ‘progressives’ especially, need to hold him accountable for that.

Obama’s drone war has had devastating impact on Pakistanis. The war’s impact on the mental health of generations can only be imagined. Think of what its like to be a child in the region, drones overhead 24 hours a day. Never knowing whether you or your family are next. Everyone you know has been impacted.  According to a recent report,

People have to live with the fear that a strike could come down on them at any moment of the day or night, leaving behind dead whose bodies are shattered to pieces, and survivors who must be desperately sped to a hospital.

America’s First Responders are heroes. They earned and deserved special mention in today’s memorial ceremony. Sadly, in Pakistan, first responders get a different treatment. They are killed.

“Based on interviews with witnesses, victims and experts, the report accuses the CIA of “double-striking” a target, moments after the initial hit, thereby killing first responders”

This is confirmed by what we’ve seen in this  Wikileaks video about just how the U.S. attacks first responders in Iraq.

Back to the children.  In New Mexico, American soldiers operating drones and raining death on the unsuspecting humanity half way around the planet are having experiences that seem to have nothing to do with what happened in Newtown.   Bryant’s experiences below seem so removed from young Adam Lanza’s.

Bryant saw a flash on the screen: the explosion. Parts of the building collapsed. The child had disappeared. Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach.

“Did we just kill a kid?” he asked the man sitting next to him.

“Yeah, I guess that was a kid,” the pilot replied.

“Was that a kid?” they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.

Then, someone they didn’t know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. “No. That was a dog,” the person wrote.

They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?

BUT: What would happen if we started to connect the deaths of these two children?

The right to bear arms is often upheld by enthusiasts and patriots as protecting citizens from an overbearing government. Yet, interestingly, the 2nd amendment actually puts U.S. statehood in danger by ensuring that the U.S. government does not hold a “monopoly on the legitimate use of force”.  A right that my fellow political scientists, led by Max Weber,  have agreed is central to the definition of a state.

So then what do we do with the U.S. state? It does not hold a domestic monopoly on the legitimate use of force so its citizens occasionally go haywire and shoot each other up.  At the same time it steps outside of international law to rain illegitimate violence on victims halfway around the world, a majority of whom are innocent.

I contend that both forms of violence are connected. And in both cases the deaths of children have more in common than not.

So, if you were the therapist and the U.S. was lying on your couch, what advice would you give?  How does a country addicted to violence, almost defined by violence, give up the guns and drones?

And for goodness sake how do we get Americans to see the ways in which the deaths of children in Newtown is very much connected and related to the child dying right now somewhere in Pakistan. Children killed in the name of Americans.

How would American thinking and action change if Americans took the radical stance that the lives of children in Pakistan are worth as much as the lives of children in the U.S.?

And we haven’t even began to discuss the implications of yet another mass shooting by a young White man on America’s racial politics.  As some are beginning to ask, is there a crisis of White masculinity?

What if the main reason these shootings keep occurring is that white men aren’t handling equality very well? There aren’t, I believe, any easy answers. Even so, we can take this perspective with us, and we can work to think of ways to help young white males grow up in a society where the expectation of privilege is never indoctrinated. We can teach them early in life how to cope with rejection. We can realize that pointing fingers and blaming others might feel good in the short term, but in the long term, only working towards positive solutions will really help. And yes, we can absolutely continue to advocate for better mental healthcare. Finally, I think we need to be brave enough to have conversations like this one. We need to admit the possibility that by perpetuating the lie of white male superiority despite strong societal and scientific pressure to change, we may have created our own monster

And that monster is White privilege.  In the case of mass shootings, one blogger argues that,

The freedom to kill, maim, commit wanton acts of violence, and to be anti-social (as well as pathological) without having your actions reflect on your own racial group, is one of the ultimate, if not in fact most potent, examples of White Privilege in post civil rights era America. Instead of a national conversation where we reflect on what has gone wrong with young white men in our society–a group which apparently possesses a high propensity for committing acts of mass violence–James Holmes will be framed as an outlier.

But thats a whole separate blog post.  Because I think the crisis of masculinity is not just one being experienced by White men. I see it taking its toll on Kenyan society as well and we HAVE GOT to make those links!

AND we also have to talk about mental illness.  Because we are all Adam Lanza’s mother and there are a lot of families living in fear.

The United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise—in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population.

We have got to do better!!

AND we need to talk about guns.  Because on the same day that Adam successfully massacred 26 people, a mentally ill man in china stabbed 22 children and none of them died.  The easy availability of guns in the US is killing Americans!

But again these are separate blog posts 🙂



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