Wednesday, August 14, 2019

No, this isn't just "racism."

A blatantly racist and sexist billboard in North Carolina which reads:
"The 4 Horseman Cometh are Idiots - Signed, the Deplorables (sic)
CHEROKEE GUNS - 1 MILE ON RIGHT"

"In a tweet on Wednesday evening, Tlaib asked how the billboard could not be considered an aggressive inducement.

'How the hell is this not inciting violence?' she wrote.

Pressley tweeted: '#Racist rhetoric from the occupant of the @WhiteHouse has made hate our new normal. We are still vulnerable.'

But appeals for civility appear to be falling on deaf ears. Wacholz amped up his attack when the store posted a statement on Facebook that said it planned to produce clothing with the billboard’s image.

'Alright my fellow Infidels for Trump … due to OVERWHELMING demand … you may come by the shop (next week) and get your very own FOUR HORSEMEN COMETH STICKER … simple … eat a piece of bacon … tell us you’re voting for Trump in 2020 … then get your limited edition bumper sticker! (While supplies last!) Snowflakes and Liberals are not eligible … sorry ...'"

- Sourced from this Guardian article.

"An advertising company has announced it will take down a billboard in Murphy, North Carolina, calling Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley "idiots." The billboard was promoting a local gun shop, and the shop's owner said he wants to go to court to keep it up.

The billboard received national attention after Cherokee Guns posted a picture of it on Facebook. Cherokee Guns stood by its ad and even sold bumper stickers of it for those who wanted to show support...

...The president tweeted earlier this month that the "'Progressive' Democratic Congresswomen" should "go back" to where they came from, even though three of them were born in the U.S. and the fourth has been a citizen for two decades. Since then, they've been singled out repeatedly by opponents on the right.

On Tuesday, the owner of Cherokee Guns spoke to WTVC-TV. He said the billboard had only been up for a few days, but it had already brought him more business."

- Excerpt from this CBS online news report.

"A shattering weekend in which two mass shootings left at least 29 people dead and injured dozens put Donald Trump at the center of a storm of outrage over racism and the failure on gun control in America.

Even as the president said “hate has no place in our country” and blamed the shootings on mental illness, investigators in El Paso confirmed that a massacre at a Walmart superstore on Saturday that left at least 20 people dead in the Texas border city had been preceded by the suspected gunman publishing an anti-immigration screed via the darker recesses of the internet.

And in a mass shooting in the early hours of Sunday, just 13 hours later, a gunman in Dayton, Ohio, was wearing body armor and carrying 100-bullet magazines to arm his high-powered rifle, with law enforcement warning he could have killed many dozens of people if he had not been shot by police within 30 seconds of opening fire.

The shootings were carried out just a week after a 19-year-old, also armed with a high-caliber rifle, opened fire at a popular annual food festival in Gilroy, northern California, killing three and wounding others."

- Sourced from this August 4, 2019 Guardian report. Also see CNN's Another weekend, two more mass shootings in America. Actually there were 4 mass-shootings in the States this weekend: 2 were in Chicago.

"Gun Violence Archive, frequently cited by the press, defines a mass shooting as firearm violence resulting in at least four people being shot at roughly the same time and location, excluding the perpetrator. Using this definition, there have been 2,128 mass shootings since 2013, roughly one per day.

The United States has had more mass shootings than any other country. Shooters generally either die by suicide afterwards or are restrained or killed by law enforcement officers or civilians. Studies indicate that the rate at which public mass shootings occur has tripled since 2011. Between 1982 and 2011, a mass shooting occurred roughly once every 200 days. However, between 2011 and 2014, that rate has accelerated greatly with at least one mass shooting occurring every 64 days in the United States. According to the non-profit Gun Violence Archive, there were 250 mass shootings between January 1 and August 3, 2019 - the 215th day of the year.

The majority of perpetrators are white males who act alone. According to most analyses and studies however, the proportion of mass shooters in the United States who are white and male is not considerably greater than the proportion of white males in the general population of the US."

- From the Wiki entry for Mass Shootings in the United States. I'm not exactly sure what that last line in the quote proves, but, well, whatever. Another article addressing the mass murderer is this NY Times offering from 2018: "Mass Shooters Are All Different. Except for One Thing: Most Are Men". There is also a short listing of mass shootings in the U.S. found here.

***

"In Ancient Rome, the Dog Days extended from July 24 through August 24 (or, alternatively July 23-August 23). In many European cultures (German, French, Italian) this period is still said to be the time of the Dog Days.

Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time "when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, Quinto raged in anger, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and frenzies" according to Brady’s Clavis Calendarium, 1813."

- "Dog Days" entry via Wiki.


(Note: I began writing this post Monday, August 6. The Sunday I'm referring to fell on August 5th.)

I woke up in a weird, crappy mood Sunday. Not that this is or was front page news... but,  then again, for some individuals, waking up in a crappy mood means they have to go out and shoot a few people before breakfast, thereby creating the day's Top Story. And, as it worked out, competition was fierce for the top spot this past Sunday with the exploits of four psychopaths clamoring for our attention. I grew more upset than usual, over the sort of "news" which has become so common these days it's like, well, no news at all. But, something about the 4 shootings occurring so close together was oddly familiar... bringing me back to September of 2001, and the utter horror and disbelief I felt while helplessly watching the TV screen as one of the massive Twin Towers began to collapse while, at the same time a plane was surrealistically flying straight into the other (inset right). (BBC video.) While the tragedy of 2001 differed in many ways, the tragedies of this past weekend somehow had a similar effect on me.

Terrorism is, after all, terrorism. One doesn't need to qualify it; its effects are the same regardless of the weapons involved, the perpetrators responsible, or the number of casualties. Presently, in the U.SA., terrorism is an existential scourge brought directly from hell to earth by an emotionally-dead, sociopathic minority: primarily young men who are so out-of-touch with reality that death might be no more than the temporary handicap it is in their virtual worlds. But, is this the whole picture?

Of course, we can always blame recent insanity on the folklore effects of the Dog Days of summer. I have in the past. But, as it was, just as I was following up on the various massacres via the internet that same morning, I came across the billboard (introducing this post). More incredulousness on my part... because on the billboard were the faces of 4 women... 4 members of Congress who were recently disrespected by possibly the most disrespectful President this country has ever seen. Moreover, the billboard seemed to be an odd advertisement for CHEROKEE GUNS (those words beneath "idiots" and "deplorables" in big block letters). Alarmingly, the billboard's purpose seemed to imply that CHEROKEE GUNS had just the solution for removing the four problematic "horsemen"... forever.

The thing is, I was always under the impression that publicly advocating the murder of members of Congress was, in fact, a felony, or, at the very least, a form of sedition. Certainly, I can't recall ever seeing anything like it before. Had there been four male members of Congress on that sign, we can rest assured that the reaction would've been a bit more extreme... and CHEROKEE GUNS wouldn't have gotten as far as the T-shirt/bumper sticker phase. So, what gives? Boys will be boys... eh, Meryl?*

You do realize, of course, that singling out four women in this way is not very far from the "Burn witch, burn!" mindset of the not-too-distant past. So, for those who feel women have made immense, unassailable strides across the board and need fight no further... well, the billboard informs us that this is not the case... certainly not in the States. In global terms a recent World Bank study concluded that there are only 6 countries which have equal rights for men and women: Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden. But, I'm not convinced that any country is a truly safe haven for women. And, obviously, in the States, nobody is safe, regardless of gender. And this malaise increases exponentially if your skin isn't white enough, your gender is ambiguous, and/or your path through life diverges in any way from the mainstream.

But, it wasn't always like this. There was a time - and it truly wasn't all that long ago - when, at the very least, kids could go to school in most places without the threat of being shot and killed. As late as the early 1980s women could walk alone in downtown Manhattan at night without being raped... or knifed on the subway when they went home. A family outing wasn't necessarily an invitation to the Grim Reaper. A trip to a department store to buy curtains was not a suicidal proposition. Mass shootings had yet to become the norm...

The four paintings featured in this post are the work of artist Jacqueline de Jong.
The first (inset left, above) is from 2012 and was sourced here.
The latter three paintings are from her 2013 series: WAR 1914-1918. Here is her website.
So, what went so very wrong?

Obviously, easily-obtainable assault weapons are a substantial part of the equation. And, considering that mass-shootings have been escalating since the 1980s its incomprehensible that stricter guns laws aren't already in place. But, that isn't the actual source of the problem. Firearms are inert matter until a human agency pulls the trigger. Guns kill but they are not the killers; humans are. Moreover, there is that niggling little fact that no one wants to address: most of the mass-shooters are white men and many are very young like Sunday's "superstars." The first, from El Paso was a juvenile white supremacist, undoubtedly encouraged by the flood of racist rhetoric currently flowing out of the oval office. The other - our Dayton, Ohio "mastermind" - was a male supremacist who had a "rape list" as well as a hit list and wound up killing his own sister. From this ABC News article:

"But officials briefed on the investigation told ABC News the suspected shooter demonstrated a misogyny that was far more extreme than any of his political leanings.

In that, he follows a bleak pattern among mass shooters...

After many mass shootings, information comes out that links the shooter to gender-based and domestic violence -- and many massacres, like this one, include female family members, partners and ex-partners among the victims."

So we're back to square one again: that evil brew of racism and sexism which inadvertently put the least diplomatic - and possibly the most dangerous - man into the highest public office in this country. And, no, this is not "business as usual." This has no historical precedent. This is merely an indication of how toxic things have become... with no end in sight.  Currently, this is where we're at: the New Terrorists are not from foreign soil; the New Terrorist might literally be the blue-eyed boy next door. Progress?



The photograph above is of French artist and sculptor Niki de St. Phalle (1930-2002) - as is the photo inset right - an artist who will be featured again in my forthcoming Empowerment post, but whose modus operandi is relevant here.

Her early life was no picnic - she was raped by her own father - an act which left permanent psychological scars. But, no, Niki wasn't shooting at rapists and pedophiles in the photo above - although she may have had them in mind - she was shooting at one of her own paintings, an act she describes as exhilarating (found here):

"After a shoot-out I felt completely stoned. I became hooked on this macabre but joyous ritual. It got to the point where I lost control, my heart was pounding during the shoot-outs. I started trembling before and during the performance. I was in an ecstatic state..." 

Also, (sourced here) she once admitted:

"On a psychological level I have all that it takes to be a terrorist, but instead I decided to use guns for good, for art."

Ponder that for a minute. Another choice: heavy-metal rock star.

In the end, St. Phalle turned to sculpture, creating some of the most phenomenal, uplifting and monumental works of art ever produced. They can be found all over the world. In other words, Niki de St. Phalle could've turned to revenge - the least challenging solution to her angst - but instead she did something more courageous: she turned tragedy into triumph, transmuting her rage into objects of sheer delight, physical forms borne of visions, blood, sweat and tears... and a sense of humor. Inset left is one of her boisterous "Nana" figures - who came in all colors of the rainbow - pirouetting on a dolphin's back along Park Avenue in New York City.

Am I saying that art and culture is an overall cure? No. Furthermore it takes love - not hate - to create. But, in a country which currently pours most of its funds into its military sector, well... allow me to quote another artist, Vivien E. Browne (1929-1993), both an American artist and political activist (who also appears in my next post). She was asked (in an interview found here) whether or not the government should support the arts. And this is how she replied:

"Oh, yes, oh, wholeheartedly, yes. I've always thought that... I think it's necessary for this country, and not really so much for the individual artists because that artist knows he has to fight. He's going to fight. But it's necessary for this country to heed what an artist gives to people, what the artist's purpose is. Because we've been going along in one direction for such a long time, and it's frightening; it's dreadful what's happening and what can happen. You know, mechanization and industrialization... And it's only the artist who can save people from this, if only by just letting them look and see. If it's a responsible government then it is incumbent upon it to keep this alive rather than... trying to stamp it out. I really think it's frightening what can happen. And I also think that the government is beginning more and more to realize that something has to balance this materialistic world that we've built up here. There isn't anything at all else but the artist to do that."

Inset right is a photograph of Browne - with a few of her paintings - taken in 1971 by Jeanie Black. (It is found on this Rutgers Center for Women in the Arts page which features contributions from a vast number of contemporary artists.)

While art might not save the day, government-funded public art projects would give more artists (and budding artists) work while filling dark, barren, utilitarian graveyards with color and spirit... and It might get a few kids away from their video games long enough to find some entertainment in the real world.

I have one more thing to say and then this rant (I felt compelled to write) will be over.  It's a slice-of-life tale but this time it's about my younger brother, Mark, who died many years ago in a car-accident. He was 18, and a little bit of me died with him. A lot of manly types do not understand the peculiar psychic connection many women have with those they love. I've been told (and I've witnessed) that for mothers it's an almost overwhelming, physical thing. You almost kill a mother when you kill her child. It's called empathy, intense empathy. And when Mark was a child he was very empathetic, especially towards animals. I think most boys are unless they've been damaged. But as a boy grows older he is often shamed for his sensitivity. It's a "girlie" thing. And that's merely one tragic consequence of a patriarchal zeitgeist.

But, I digress. The long and the short of it is that my brother was a hunter. He was also a great marksman... with guns, and a bow and arrow. The bullet casing inset left (above) was one he shot in mid-air. He actually won awards for his skill with a gun. But, I don't think for a moment that killing people ever crossed his mind. And, he would never have killed me. But, then, he died in the 70s... he'd been drag-racing; a pointless power game that has cost many a young man his corporeal future. Can't win. A sense of power is a sense of power and a guy at 18 is an androgen factory. But, power and homicide are not synonyms. Mark was irreverent, anti-establishment (and cool), but, he didn't kill and neither did his friends. Many of them were borderline sexist... and possibly racist as well, but none of them were so toxic that death became part of the agenda. So, what is the story now? Are young men becoming mass-killers because they are literally toxic, so saturated with recreational steroids they've lost all sense of reason, or is it merely that they've failed to score on a Saturday night date?**

I sometimes think that when killers are disarmed they should be forced to watch their victims die (if they're not killed instantly). Moreover, they should be required to talk to their victims, and explain to them why it is that they feel they have the right to take a human life. I think that both their victims and the rest of us (potential victims) have the right to know.

Anyway, stick around. it's beginning to look a lot like a remake of the "Fall of the Roman Empire." And, this might be interesting. As my old friend, Mac Tonnies, might say: pass the popcorn.

_________________________________

* My reference is to actress, Meryl Streep, who made the news not too long ago with a rather inane comment regarding toxic masculinity, a phrase she is apparently unfamiliar with. See: Seriously, Meryl Streep? 'Toxic masculinity' doesn't hurt men – it kills them.

** "Hormone abuse by adults and children is a serious concern. Recent studies show that 4.2% of all high school males and 2.9% of high school females report having taken anabolic steroids without a doctor’s prescription. Anabolic steroids are related to testosterone, the major male hormone. Abuse of this hormone can lead to physical and psychological side effects. These problems include breast development and hair loss among men, and facial hair growth, menstrual problems and a deepened voice in women. The possible long-term health effects can be serious: liver tumors, abnormal cholesterol levels and heart disease, and stunted height among adolescents. High doses have been related to irritable and aggressive behavior."

- Sourced from this Hormone Health Network page.

Incidentally, apparently one doesn't need to go out and buy steroids; they are now present in significant amounts in both our food sources and water supplies as well as a host of other brain-changing chemicals. See here (link fixed) and here.

And, if all that information wasn't enough, try this article about a host of other drugs - particularly antidepressants. A quote:

"The adverse events reported to the FDA are known to represent but a tiny fraction of all such adverse events. This study simply identified 31 drugs responsible for most of the FDA case reports of violence toward others, with antidepressants near the top of that list. 

In light of this finding, the many past shootings at school campuses and other public venues should perhaps be investigated anew by government officials, with an eye toward ascertaining whether psychotropic use may have, in the manner of an adverse event, triggered that violence."

Funny, you don't hear about any of this in most news stories...


***

My sincerest condolences go out to the families of the victims who died or were injured in the tragedies mentioned here. My intent with this post was never to trivialize your loss.


5 comments:

  1. The USofA is in a crisis of social and political issues and it is beginning to impact each and every citizen. The polarization of viewpoints is more divergent than at any time in the recent past.

    I think, to a point, the Political Correct tendency of our society has served to embolden those aspects that were shunned not that long ago and it has resulted in a backlash of plain speak that is often quite ugly..and in actions that are not acceptable.

    Our government embodies the Ugly American...embraces it...and shouts it to the world. We are on the way to becoming the nation that we fought against in WWII. As our government becomes even more hideous, the acts of violence shall echo that transformation.

    Art has a place, but it can never replace responsible action by a majority of citizens. Only when We, the people, get our act together, will this change again....and for the better. BUT...having said that...we need to embolden life with art...with imagination and creativity - those things that give hope and respite from the drudgery of life.

    Excellent post as always. Thoughtful and timely.



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  2. Thanks for your input, BG. I agree with your points. But, additionally, I find the tabloid-type news we find on the internet is the fodder for a lot of American angst. News stories are generally devoted to Trump and his revolting antics, violence, PC crap about how to wash your hair, and a smattering of real news. As for "culture," this amounts to little more than the cheapest entertainment, generally centered on popular celebrities: i.e., sexist trash about actresses in swimsuits. We're talking lowest common denominator across the bloody board.

    So, part my problem - and what really spawned this rant - is my source of "headline news." I think I've just reached my saturation point with murder, rape, truly grisly tales of obscure people I've never never met, pop politics, and celebrity gossip, etc.

    At this point in time, I can't imagine what "responsible action" might be...

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    1. Well...news ain't what it used to be. With the internet, anyone and everyone can write a "news" story and spread it to the world. With the rise of post-modernism, cheap IS culture and the lowest common denominator is the rule.

      Well....as for "responsible action", I think we agree it has NOTHING to do with firearms ;)

      Get out of your chair and step away from the computer....trust me, it's best for your health.

      I agree with all of your points. You're preaching to the choir. Guess we'll just sing the requiem for civilization while we're here...

      Delete
  3. Darling, if I start f*king preaching, shoot me. It wouldn't be responsible behavior, but others might thank you. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL

      Nah...I doubt that's ever going to be an issue ;)

      Delete