Law and Disorder – Key Convictions Overturned in Killing by New Orleans Police – ProPublica

Key Convictions Overturned in Killing by New Orleans Police

ProPublica

The burnt car in which the remains of Henry Glover were found.

A.C. Thompson, ProPublica

December 17, 2012 4:03 pm EST

PrintE-mail0 Comments

A federal appellate court has overturned the convictions of two former New Orleans police officers imprisoned in connection with the killing of Henry Glover after Hurricane Katrina, dealing a blow to federal prosecutors’ efforts to hold police accountable for misconduct before and after the storm.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals voided the conviction of ex-cop David Warren, who was found guilty of fatally shooting Glover, stating that Warren’s trial should have been severed from that of his co-defendants. A jury convicted Warren in late 2010, along with Greg McRae and Travis McCabe, who also were serving on the New Orleans police force at the time of Glover’s killing.

The appellate panel tossed out a key charge against McRae, who admitted to burning Glover’s body, finding there was “insufficient evidence to convict McRae of denying Glover’s descendants and survivors the right of access to court.” McCabe’s conviction for participating in covering up the crimes had already been overturned by Judge Lance Africk, who presided over the trial.

via Law and Disorder – Key Convictions Overturned in Killing by New Orleans Police – ProPublica.

Melissa Harris-Perry compares Tavis Smiley to Tuskegee syphilis study’s black nurse

Melissa Harris-Perry compares Tavis Smiley to Tuskegee syphilis study’s black nurse

Tuskegee : AL : USA | Dec 16, 2012 at 11:12 AM PST BY Herbert Dyer, Jr.

 

Melissa Harris-Perry erupts live on her show over guest “insensitive” remarks about poverty in America.  (Youtube video)

This morning on her MSNBC weekend gabfest, Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry compared radio and TV talk-show host Tavis Smiley to the black nurse who helped administer the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (TSE) from 1932 to 1972.

Sponsored by the federal Public Health Service, the TSE remains America’s longest-running bio-medical research experiment. Researchers followed, but did not treat, the progression of syphilis in 600 black men from Alabama for its entire 40-year run. To attract men to the study, promises of free health care and burial insurance were offered. Neither the men nor their families were ever told they had syphilis. And, as stated, they were never treated for the disease despite the discovery of penicillin as an effective treatment and cure for syphilis in the late 1940s.

The TSE was conducted at the famed Tuskegee Institute founded by one of America’s premier black leaders, Booker T. Washington. One of the more instrumental implementers of the TSE was Eunice Rivers, a black nurse who was involved in and administered the program’s every aspect, from recruiting possible subjects to drawing their blood.

It is no secret that there has been some very “bad blood” flowing between, on one side, Dr. Harris-Perry, and on the other, Tavis Smiley and Princeton Professor Dr. Cornel West. Indeed, I have written about their ongoing feud in the past. The attention has mainly been focused on Drs. West and Harris-Perry. Today, however, Dr. Harris-Perry exponentially ratcheted up her critique of Smiley by directly comparing his role in the Wells Fargo bank’s now defunct “wealth building” program to nurse Rivers’ function during the TSE.

via Melissa Harris-Perry compares Tavis Smiley to Tuskegee syphilis study’s black nurse.

Deaths of children that don’t make news l OUR COMMON GROUND Voice, Dr. Vijay Prashad

Vijay Prashad: Deaths of children that don’t make news

By VIJAY PRASHAD

Monday, December 17, 2012
(Published in print: Tuesday, December 18, 2012

NORTHAMPTON — No community easily suffers the death of children. Accidents, violent crimes and illness: the cause is immaterial.

No death of a child is for a reason. All such deaths are senseless.

In his emotional address shortly after news came of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., President Obama pointed to the frequency of such mass crimes and nudged the country to widen our field of vision: “Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children.”

The contrary nudge came in his last destination, the “street corner in Chicago.”

When a singular mass killing occurs in mainly affluent suburbs, it shocks the nation — and rightly so. But it might be a shock to some to know that this year alone 117 children died from handgun violence in Chicago. These deaths do not get discussed, let alone memorialized in the national conversation of tragedy.

There are at least two reasons for this. First, these deaths do not happen in a spectacular fashion. They take place in ones and twos, often in the lonely hours of the night when bullets depart from their targets and settle in the soft tissue of children asleep in their homes, or in the afternoon as they play on the sidewalk.

Take the case of April 12. One-year-old Jayliah Allen was shot while she slept in her bed, the bullet entering the window. Seven-year-old Derrick Robeteau was shot in the leg while playing outside his grandfather’s home and a 7-year-old girl was shot as she stood outside her home. Three children hit by handguns in one day, but in an unspectacular form.

Second, old racist habits linger. These are African-American and Latino kids, whose neighborhoods are considered dangerous. Which is why when Jayliah and Derrick were killed no one called their neighborhoods bucolic or thought that this violence was senseless. There is a hardness that has entered our consciousness, allowing us to avoid the sealed fates of these kids.

No memorials exist as well for the 178 children killed by U.S. drone strikes in the borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Noor Aziz, 8, Talha, 8, Najibullah, 13, Adnan, 16, Hizbullah, 10, Wilayat Khan, 11, Asadullah, 9, Sohail, 7: these are some of the names of children killed by the drones. News reports frequently say “three militants killed,” and then a few days later, in the Pakistani press, one hears that amongst the dead were children with no association with the militants. Unlike the street shootings in Chicago, there have been mass killings by drones, which have received only minimal attention. On Oct. 30, 2006, a U.S. drone struck a school in Bajaur, Pakistan, killing 83 people. The New York Times story ran Nov. 10 with the headline, “American Strike in January Missed Al-Qaeda’s No. 2 By a Few Hours.”

Read Article Here

05-14-11 Prashad

Turmoil in Temple’s African-American Studies Program Taking Its Toll – Higher Education

“One could easily draw the impression that the dean is trying to get rid of the department,” says Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, who founded the doctoral program in 1988 and is one of the nation’s foremost scholars on Afrocentrism. “In fact, she arbitrarily split a line between the history department and the African-American studies department, which had never happened before. This was an African-American studies line that was split, and therefore, students and faculty could get the impression that we were losing positions and autonomy.”

After Norment retired in July, Soufas informed the department that it had two weeks to recommend an interim chair. Faculty members selected Dr. Kariamu Welsh, a well-respected professor in Temple’s Boyer College of Music and Dance, but her nomination was eventually rejected.

Soufas declined to comment on the reason why Welsh, an expert in African dance, who had already served as the chair of the dance department for many years, had not been appointed to the post. Welsh did not return email and phone calls seeking comment.

But Asante says that “the majority of the faculty recommended her and therefore the dean was morally obliged to honor their recommendation.” Because he was once married to Welsh and together they have a son, MK, a professor of creative writing at Morgan State University, Asante recused himself from participating in the department vote.

Soufas then gave the department another week, according to Asante, to recommend someone to the position. When a name was not provided, she placed the department in receivership and appointed her deputy as a caretaker administrator, angering many faculty and students.

“Although we have no issues or personal problems with Vice Dean Drake or her administrative capabilities, we do feel as though her appointment is an act of complete disrespect to our department,” the graduate students wrote in their open letter that was circulated to students and faculty across the country through various emails and listservs.

The letter continues, “We held a democratic selection process to find an interim chair position, yet our department was never given a specific reason for the denial of our request. In addition, Dean Drake is not theoretically based or epistemologically trained in the discipline of African American Studies. Therefore, we ask two questions: How can she hold the best interest of our department at heart when she is not knowledgeable of or trained in the theories and paradigms of our discipline? And why is it that we cannot have the freedom, liberty, and self-determination to choose who we, as a collective, feel is best suited to move our department forward to new horizons?”

Drake, a scholar of American literature, declined to comment on the controversy, but Soufas says that she stands by her decision to appoint her to the position, adding that the department needs to focus its energy on rebuilding, including adding and revising new course offerings.

“One of my responsibilities is to pick the right person to chair the department,” she says. “Dean Drake brings enormous administrative skills to the job and is the right person at this time. I would do it again.”

She adds that Drake’s role in the department is only temporary and that plans are already in place to hire a full-time chairperson during the 2013-2014 academic year. Due to budgetary concerns, the university had prohibited departments from hiring outside the assistant professor level, but a search will soon be initiated for the department to hire a senior scholar among their ranks.

via Turmoil in Temple’s African-American Studies Program Taking Its Toll – Higher Education.

Corporal Punishments Hidden Costs l SALIM MUWAKKIL l In These Times

On the Matt McGill Morning Show this morning, during a discussion of the horrific events in Newtown, Conn., we veered into a conversation about the effects of corporal punishment on the rates of interpersonal violence in the Black community. One caller even urged President Obama to mandate corporal punishment as way to stem violence. I can’t think of a worse suggestion, but this spare-the-rod sentiment is amazingly widespread in the black community. Here is a slightly altered piece I wrote a few years ago, noting the negative consequences of corporal punishment. Please check it out and post your reactions.”

WVON Radio Chicago

In These Times
SEPTEMBER 8, 2006
Corporal Punishments Hidden Costs

Corporal punishment of children linked to later interpersonal violence.

BY SALIM MUWAKKIL

If the civil rights community began a movement to discourage corporal punishment among African Americans, I believe it would do more to stem the tide of interpersonal violence than any other strategy.
An errant bullet hit the eye of a 12-year-old Chicago girl on August 27 but she survived. Earlier this year, stray bullets killed two girls in separate incidents in the city’s Englewood neighborhood and triggered a flurry of activity designed to address the chronic violence hammering Chicago’s inner-city neighborhoods.
In black communities across the United States, concerned people are gathering with increasing urgency, seeking solutions to rising rates of violence.
Let me add one suggestion that is not likely to be raised at any of these gatherings: Stop spanking your children.
If the civil rights community began a movement to discourage corporal punishment among African-Americans, I believe it would do more to stem the tide of interpersonal violence than any other strategy.
Experts are increasingly fingering corporal punishment–the infliction of physical pain on the body of a child for purposes of punishment or controlling behavior–as the culprit in a wide variety of social dysfunctions. A host of relevant professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the National Association of Social Workers have published position papers opposing or strongly discouraging corporal punishment of children.
International research on the deleterious effects of physical punishment is so compelling that the United Nations has initiated a global program to eliminate it. Not only is corporal punishment of children a violation of human rights, the United Nations argued in a 2005 UNESCO publication, that according to a preponderance of research, it is also “counterproductive, relatively ineffective, dangerous and harmful.”
In 1979, Sweden became the first country in the world to ban all corporal punishment of children. Twelve more European countries have followed: Denmark, Norway, Finland, Austria, Cyprus, Italy, Croatia, Latvia, Germany, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Iceland. Leaders in these countries concluded that the costs of corporal punishment were too high for a society that called itself civilized.
Despite this wide consensus on the ills of corporal punishment, there is scant sentiment for an anti-spanking movement among African Americans. But that may be changing. Growing numbers of experts who focus on the black community, are also raising questions about the high costs of using physical violence to punish children. Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who has written extensively on African-American issues, has long opposed the use of corporal punishment.
His major argument is simple: “the use of corporal punishment teaches children that violence is the way to solve problems.” Poussaint, who was an adviser to the popular program “The Cosby Show,” says corporal punishment also has other harmful effects on the social life of the black community.
At a recent forum on young black men, sponsored by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, Poussaint fingered corporal punishment as a factor in the disproportionate expulsions of black children from pre-school programs, especially males. He said his research has found that even preschool black males harbor a lot of anger.
“There’s an overuse of beating kids,” he said, breaking a major taboo among black leadership by raising this issue. “So that you have 80 percent of black parents believing you should beat them–beat the devil out of them. And research shows the more you beat them, the angrier they get.”
High levels of violent crime in black communities certainly reflect that anger. According to figures from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, African Americans were more likely than other Americans to be both victims and perpetrators of violent crime.
In 2000, blacks were six times more likely than whites to be victims of murder. They also were seven times more likely to be perpetrators. In fact, for the last half-century blacks were homicide victims at least five times more than whites were. Sometimes that rate reached more than ten times the white rate.
Among the major reasons cited for this disparity are poverty, segregation, media violence and the self-hatred inculcated by a white supremacist culture. Some argue the problem is simply one of bad behavior, abetted by black communities that deemphasize personal responsibility and cultural standards.
There is a bit of truth in those explanations, but Poussaint’s anti-spanking reasoning also makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that black leaders have yet to make the connection between high rates of corporal punishment and high rates of interpersonal violence.
One reason for this reticence is the influence of the church. All spanking advocates need to do is cite a biblical justification not to spare the rod and for far too many, the case is closed. Also, many African-American parents argue they must discipline their children harshly to prepare them better for the racist treatment they’re sure to receive in the Untied States.
But Poussaint said his research found that 80 to 90 percent of black prison inmates were severely punished or neglected as children. It doesn’t work.
There’s also the sheer injustice of imposing an act of physical violence on someone smaller and weaker: As we’ve learned from U.S. foreign policy, that a characteristic of tyranny and seldom leads to positive outcomes.

The Central Park 5 l Movie

In 1989 a white woman was brutally assaulted and raped while jogging in Central Park. Five teenage African American were arrested and charged with the crime. The story is the subject of Ken Burns new documentary ‘The Central Park Five‘ opening December 14 in San Francisco.

The accused teens were picked up for being among a street gang of young black and brown men that had assaulted joggers and pedestrians in the park that night in a violent male ritual called “wilding”. Several of those victims walked over to the police station before the brutal assault of the woman. The crime received tremendous media attention, and the investigation seized the teens and tried to piece the story together and make it fit with the presence of the young men in the park.

The accused were found guilt and spent time in prison from six to 13 years despite conflicting testimony and lack of DNA evidence. The teenagers admitted to the crime but later said they were tricked, coerced and just wanted to get it over with. In 2002 Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist and

and murderer serving a life sentence for other crimes, confessed to the assault of the woman and claimed he acted alone. DNA evidence confirmed it and testimony by Reyes he could not have known from the crime scene.

Directors Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns and her husband David McMahon interviewed various experts in the judicial system and relatives of the accused. The interviewees include former NY Mayor Ed Koch who called the assault “the crime of the century”, former NY Mayor David Dinkins and former NY Governor Mario Cuomo who condemned the perpetrators.

The five teens appear in the documentary after their release from prison –Antron McCray (who chose to only use his voice to protect his anonymity in the documentary), Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam.

The directors examine the environment of New York of the time, the financial and educational problems and neighborhoods falling apart. Crime was on the upswing with six murders a day and crack had made its inroads where poor black and brown teenagers were targeted.

In 2003, the Central Park Five brought a $250 million lawsuit against the NYC for wrongful conviction. Burns’ material used in the making of this film has recently been subpoenaed by New York City but he refuses to turn the material over. Burns has been accused of “pure advocacy” in his film, as if a documentarian does not have freedom of speech.

‘The Central Park Five’ debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes. Ken Burns and one of the Central Park Five Raymond Santana were in San Francisco to promote the documentary recently and gave an exclusive interview to Movie Magazine International , San Francisco

Trailer for the documentary: The central Park Five.
In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem were arrested and later convicted of raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park. They spent between 6 and 13 years in prison before a serial rapist confessed that he alone had committed the crime, leading to their convictions being overturned. Set against a backdrop of a decaying city beset by violence and racial tension, The central Park Five tells the story of that horrific crime, the rush to judgment by the police, a media clamoring for sensational stories and an outraged public, and the five lives upended by this miscarriage of justice.
Read more at http://www.traileraddict.com/trailer/central-park-five/trailer#oTmfgqXx0Y0hBjRw.99

 

Is a Crisis in White Masculinity Leading to Horrific Gun Crimes Like the Sandy Hook Shootings? | Alternet

I

s a Crisis in White Masculinity Leading to Horrific Gun Crimes

Like the Sandy Hook Shootings?Americas obsession with guns has played out its dark game once more.December 14, 2012  |      My heart goes out to the families, children, victims, and all others impacted by the  mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newton, Connecticut .Americas obsession with guns has played out its dark game once more. We are eating our young because so many believe that America is a gunfighter nation. For them, the “right” to bear arms trumps any reasonable legislation about restricting access to certain types of firearms. This most recent mass shooting, which will likely be the worst incident of gun violence in recent American history, is not going to cause a rethinking of the countrys love affair with such weapons. Nor will the mass murder of 20 children and 6 adults by Adam Lanza weaken the NRAs hold on our legislators. The NRA and their clan will retreat back to a default position and rhetorical redoubt where “guns dont kill people, only people do.”These same ideologues, who in the 21st century remain some type of throwback premodern tribesman at the early dawn of human history, are utterly devoted to a fetish object of metal and plastic which they worship as a god. For them, the mass shooting of children in Newton, Connecticut will be a funeral pyre whose light they will read as spirits dancing in the shadows, beckoning to them that more guns equals less crime, and that school teachers–and perhaps even children–should be allowed to carry firearms in school. Magical thinking brings public policy solutions that are not grounded in common sense or empirical reality.As the details of the murderous rampage trickle out, all of the standard talking points by the media will be hit upon. Was Adam Lanza mentally ill? What type of weapons did he us? Were there warning signs? Acts of heroism by the adults and children in the school will be profiled. The first responders will be praised and profiled. People will cry. The pundits will tear up in an effort to show some personal, human connection, to a story that will feed the next news cycle, and will potentially make a career or two for some upstart journalist or TV personality.

via Is a Crisis in White Masculinity Leading to Horrific Gun Crimes Like the Sandy Hook Shootings? | Alternet.

In the Wake of Another Mass Shooting, Let’s Talk About America’s Dangerously Gutted Mental Healthcare System | Alternet

In the Wake of Another Mass Shooting, Let’s Talk About America’s Dangerously Gutted Mental Healthcare System

The Right’s program for public safety: Everyone should have a gun and few should get adequate mental healthcare.

December 14, 2012  |

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

 

 

The scene has replayed itself over and over — in Tucson, at Virginia Tech, at Columbine. On Friday in Connecticut, another unstable man has taken innocent lives in a burst of terrifying violence.

Inadequate gun control is only one half of the story. The other is the shameful job America does of treating the mentally ill. Today, 45 million American adults suffer from mental illness. Eleven million of those cases are considered serious. Most of these people are not dangerous, but if they can’t get treatment, the odds of potential violence increase.

Yet the mentally ill are finding it increasingly difficult to get help. Mental health funding has been plummeting for decades. Since 2009, states have cut billions for mental health from their budgets. As Daniel Lippman has reported in the Huffington Post:

Across the country, states facing severe financial shortfalls have cut at least $4.35 billion in public mental health spending from 2009 to 2012, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD). It’s the largest reduction in funding since de-institutionalization in the 1960s and ’70s. In fiscal year 2012 alone, 31 states that gave their numbers to the association reported cutting more than $840 million.

Thanks to the misguided austerity policies embraced by conservatives, more people are falling through the cracks. There are not enough psychiatric beds, treatment services or community support programs. Medication is expensive, and insurance companies routinely leave patients inadequately covered (the Affordable Care Act will hopefully address this problem by finally putting psychiatric illnesses on par with other health issues).

via In the Wake of Another Mass Shooting, Let’s Talk About America’s Dangerously Gutted Mental Healthcare System | Alternet.

Another Hair Piece: Exploring New Strands of Analysis under Title VII – Race, Racism and the Law

Another Hair Piece: Exploring New Strands of Analysis under Title VII

Parent Category: Intersectionality

Category: Gender

Written by Angela Onwuachi-Willig

Abstracted from: Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Another Hair Piece: Exploring New Strands of Analysis under Title VII, 98 Georgetown Law Journal 1079-1131 (April, 2010)(260 Footnotes)

 

Imagine that you are a white woman who works as a bartender in a popular casino in an alternate racial universe. Your employer has issued and enforces the following grooming policy as it relates to hairstyles:

POLICY

Employees will adhere to the following appearance guidelines within the workplace. Failure to abide by these guidelines may result in disciplinary action, including termination.

Appearance: Employees must maintain a professional image at all times.

Hair: Extreme or fad hairstyles are prohibited.

• Males:

Hair must be worn in a short style and must not extend below the top of your shirt collar. Ponytails are prohibited.

• Females:

Hair must be worn in braids of any kind, including cornrows, locks, twists, or a short style that does not extend below the top of your shirt collar.

You file a lawsuit, alleging discrimination at the intersection of race and gender. You do not contest the difference in hair length restrictions placed on male and female workers. Courts have repeatedly applied the undue burden test–a special hybrid, disparate treatment-disparate impact test used in sex-discrimination grooming cases–and upheld policies that allow women to wear their hair long but require men to wear their hair short. These courts reason that such hair-length policies impose different but essentially equal burdens on men and women.

via Another Hair Piece: Exploring New Strands of Analysis under Title VII – Race, Racism and the Law.

A Massacre in Newtown, CT l Commentary

December 14, 2012

THE NEWTOWN SHOOTING: KINDERGARTENERS AND COURAGE

Posted by 
sandy-hook-kids.jpg

[Updated]
“I heard something like someone was kicking on a door,” a little boy, a student at Sandy Hook Elementary School, near Newtown, Connecticut, told a reporter for NBC. He said that bullets were “whizzing by” him in the hallway, but “a teacher pulled me into her room” before one hit him. “The gym teachers told us to go in the corner and we huddled,” another said. “We were in the gym and I heard really loud bangs,’’ a third boy, a nine-year-old, told the Times. “And we heard yelling, and we heard gunshots. We heard lots of gunshots…. We had to go into the closet in the gym. Then someone came and told us to run down the hallway.” The children ran, some with their eyes closed, and made it out.

 

By then, twenty of the children who had arrived at school that morning were dead, along with six grownups—that is a preliminary count—and the shooter, a twenty-year-old man named Adam Lanza, whose mother was among the adult victims. (Earlier reports had named his older brother, Ryan.) “The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of five and ten years old,” President Obama said in a press conference. And then he began to cry.

This is one of the worst school shootings in the history of a country that has had plenty of them. The images from Newtown are hard to shake: the children comforting each other, the parents for whom comfort now must feel useless; the seventeen-year-old who lived near enough to hear the shots and came running, looking for his nine-year-old sister. A teacher leading a line of students, many of them crying but each, with the orderliness of the very young, with hands on the shoulder of the child ahead. Other children had been told to find a buddy before making a break for it, and did. They were brave. The contrast here is not only between the civility of the children and the cruelty of the shooter, but between what was asked of them at this moment and how little the public and elected officials ask of themselves when it comes to doing something about gun violence. (One of the first questions was not just what kind of gun Lanza had but how many.) How do we find ourselves asking kindergarteners to be more courageous in the face of a gunman than politicians are in the face of the gun lobby?

Here is the difference guns make: A man comes to kill his mother. He shoots her and goes to the school where she works and, on his way down the hall, turns his weapon on some of her colleagues. He finds a room filled with kindergarteners; she is their teacher, they are all about five years old. He pulls the trigger and keeps shooting until the children are dead, too. Then he shoots himself.

In what sort of state of rage and nothingness do you have to be to take even one of those steps? Adam Lanza moved from one to another for reasons we will be sorting out for a long time, maybe forever. His mother is dead, and by the time the shooting stopped, so was he. The impulse and the guilt appear to be his alone. But a gun, with the momentum of shot after shot, the continuity of a round of bullets, gives such crimes more force. (As I noted in a post on the Jovan Belcher case, ninety-two per cent of domestic-violence murder-suicides involve guns.) Guns extend the reach of violence, and, with our national silence on senseless gun laws, so do we. Guns make it easier for a killer. They make it impossibly hard for parents who arrive, dazed and pleading, at the firehouse in Connecticut where the surviving schoolchildren were taken, and don’t find the one they were looking for there.

Photograph by Shannon Hicks/Newton Bee/AP.

See our full coverage of the Newtown shooting.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/closeread/2012/12/the-newtown-shooting-kindergarteners-and-courage.html#ixzz2F8dmAVPB

 

December 14, 2012

AMERICA’S SHAME: WORDS AND TEARS AREN’T ENOUGH

Posted by 
Newtown-shooting-Americas-gun-shame.jpg

Having flown into Manchester from J.F.K. on Friday morning, I was driving through my home town of Leeds listening to the radio. “We’re getting reports of another mass shooting at a school in the United States,” the announcer on BBC Radio 4 said, “this one at an elementary school in Connecticut.” By the time I reached my destination, a holiday charity event at Leeds Irish Center, the big television screen above the bar, which is usually dedicated to sports, was showing live pictures and footage from Newtown: buildings and vehicles cordoned off with yellow plastic tape, burly police officers sporting submachine guns, teary parents leading away some of the young survivors.

At that stage, the number of the victims and the name of the shooter hadn’t been established, but it was clear that something terrible had transpired. A few of the revellers near the bar were avidly watching the story develop. Others glanced at it occasionally, shaking their heads. Most people were ignoring the screen, talking to their friends, and drinking their beer—an attitude that wasn’t as heartless as it might seem. From three thousand five hundred miles away, the narrative emerging from Newtown seemed all too familiar. A lone nut arms himself like Rambo, drives to a locale packed with innocents, and savagely takes out his resentments on the world. In July, the location was a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado. A few weeks later, it was a Sikh temple near Milwaukee. Now it was an elementary school in leafy Connecticut. Just another American horror movie.

For me, of course, it was something much closer to home. My holiday spirit having dissipated, I called my wife in Brooklyn and talked about what we should tell our two young daughters, both of whom attend local schools. Then I drove back to my mother’s house and turned on the BBC News channel, which was covering the shooting as if it had taken place in Glasgow or Grimsby. Other countries, the U.K. included, have experienced school massacres of this nature. In March, 1996, a former Scout troop leader called Thomas Hamilton entered a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland, and shot to death sixteen pupils before killing himself. But nowhere have mass shootings been as prevalent as the United States, and nowhere has the policy reaction been so pathetic.

As the coverage continued, the true scale of what had taken place—including the apparent execution of an entire kindergarten class—became clear. But did it really make much of a difference to the underlying narrative? At various points in recent years, the American gun plague has struck down college students, high-school students, department-store shoppers, moviegoers, and religious worshippers. Unstopped, it was sure at some point to claim the lives of kindergarten and grade-school students.

Deprived of much truly revealing footage from the scene, the BBC dug up some eyewitnesses, local residents, psychologists, criminologists, and an academic from Yeshiva University whom it billed as an expert on school massacres. (In what other country can you make a professional specialty of the mass shootings of children?) The presenters dutifully brought up many of the pertinent questions about gun control and school security, not that they, or anybody else here, was really expecting to get any persuasive answers. After watching so many of these terrible events from afar, a lot of Britons and other foreigners, including many who greatly admire the United States, have given up even trying to figure out why it doesn’t do more to prevent them.

In fact, things have gone in the other direction. The U.S.’s addiction to gun violence and its capacity to generate these acts of astonishing selfishness, cruelty, and nihilism is sometimes seen as an immutable national trait—something as American as baseball and fast food. From this perspective, producing crazed shooters like Adam Lanza is just one of those things that American does better than any other nation, the criminal equivalent of churning out New York comedians and Silicon Valley billionaires.

This thinking is wrong, of course. All societies have deeply troubled and alienated young men, some of whom end up violently lashing out at the world. But in most other advanced countries, such as the United Kingdom, which banned handguns after what happened at Dunblane, these misfits don’t have easy access to guns and the gun culture that glorifies them. During recent years, politicians of both parties, President Obama included, have been far too reticent about spelling out this elemental truth. In the immediate aftermath of the massacre at the cinema in Aurora, President Obama refused even to talk about the gun laws, preferring to keep the focus on the victims.

On Friday, it looked for a time as if the White House was going to give another pitiful response, especially when Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney, at his regular morning briefing, said that this wasn’t the day for a discussion of gun control. President Obama recognized the magnitude of the occasion and grasped that something more was needed. In his emotional statement, which the BBC ran live and then showed repeatedly, Obama artfully expressed the nation’s grief and horror and also called for “meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

They were only words, of course—words and tears. If we really want to persuade people overseas, people such as ones I grew up with, that what happened today was an aberration—a desecration of American values rather than a twisted display of them—more, much more, will be needed: a willingness to face down the N.R.A. and introduce proper gun control. Until such a display of national resolve materializes, the massacres will occur at intermittent intervals, the toll of needless deaths will climb, and our overseas friends will continue to shake their heads, saying, “It’s America, you know. That sort of thing happens there.”

Photograph by Jessica Hill/AP.

See our full coverage of the Newtown shooting.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/johncassidy/2012/12/after-the-newtown-shooting-americas-gun-shame.html#ixzz2F8dzUoJb