The popular myth of America is that it was settled by those escaping the oppressive British Monarchy in order to pursue religious freedom. The truth is, the Pilgrims were considered cultists and the British were only to happy to ship them off so they’d stop making trouble, as religious fundamentalists are wont to do.
The popular myth of American Independence was that it was perpetrated by those who longed to be free of the oppressive yoke of the British Monarchy who had the temerity tax the American Colonists while allowing them no voice in their fate. The truth is, the tax was nominal and was levied so that the British could recover the costs from the French-Indian War, which was started by the colonists. The British had no desire to go to war and warned the colonists NOT to initiate one. Still, forced to protect its citizens and its interests, The Brits came to the aid of the Colonists, and that intervention brought an end to the war.
In America’s DNA, is the conflation of freedom with action without accountability and/or consequence. We are infected with the idea that to have power is to have the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want to whomever you want without consequence and with nothing and no one able to stop you. In our country, Wealthy White Males (WWM) have historically claimed this as their exclusive province, and it is the source of what we refer to today as “privilege.”
Throughout history, this privilege has been asserted through slavery, misogyny, human trafficking, genocide, income inequality, racism, nationalism and discrimination – all of which are tools used to perpetuate and protect WWM impunity of action.
Over the centuries and decades, true believers of Democracy and Equality have worked together at blunting some of these tools through legislation, policy, international cooperation and activism all for the purpose of leveling the playing field. It has been a slow slog, but there have been notable successes – the abolishment of slavery, the civil rights movement, the ERA, establishing paths of citizenship for immigrants and refugees, equal pay laws, marriage equality, etc.
In fact, it is arguable that the eight years under the Obama Administration saw some of the most dramatic progress towards greater equality than ever before. The fact that the GOP adhered steadfastly to a stringent agenda of obstruction could be considered strong evidence to support that theory.
It could also be argued that the staggering number of mass shootings in this country perpetrated by White Men is the pushback to this greater leveling of the playing field – a condition they equate to the “theft” of the privilege and status they feel pathologically entitled to. If so, it can be surmised that the ferocious intractability against reasonable gun regulation is tied directly to the belief that the ability to kill – easily and with utter impunity – is the last and most extreme manifestation of privilege left to them.
The ultimate Trump card, as it were.
On Sunday, September 30, 2017, a 64 year old man holed up in a hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino and, with a converted automatic weapon – 23 of them, and thousands of rounds of ammunition – fired indiscriminately into a crowd of 20,000 concertgoers, killing at least 59 of them and wounding over 500 more. He fired hundreds upon hundreds of bullets into people he couldn’t see, never met, didn’t know. He could not look in their eyes, he could not see the expressions on their faces. He could not know if they were Americans, how young or old they were, where they lived, what they’d done, what religion they were, if they were gay or straight or transgender. They could not see where he was, they could not fight back or defend themselves – many of them couldn’t even take cover. They were helpless, he was the ultimate arbiter of whether or not they lived or died. They could not hold him accountable for what he did, and no one could stop him from doing it. It was the ultimate power of privilege fantasy – the quintessential expression of everything that WWM’s dream of. It transcended race, gender, immigration status, religion – everything that could be combated and legislated.
It was the promise of privilege fulfilled. And it was, is and always will be the ultimate expression of total detachment and the unimaginable horror it leaves in its wake.
People across the spectrum and across the world are looking for reasons why this man did what he did. They are looking at our leaders begging to know why these tragedies keep happening and what they are going to do to stop them. People are asking how high the body count has to be before this qualifies as a problem.
The answers to those questions are there will be no answers. Because the answers will only come when we, all of us, are willing to take a good, long, hard look at ourselves and the narcissistic entitlement that is embedded in the American DNA. We need to consider that the Declaration of Independence was a Declaration of Toxic Individualism. We need to acknowledge that we started our existence with red in our ledger, and have been building that brand in the blood of others ever since, in a society that has mastered manufactured “othering” to meet that demand.
Because until we can take a good, hard look at ourselves as a nation, the events in Las Vegas won’t be where we’ve reached our limit, it will just be the point where we’ve raised the bar.
Your mileage may vary…