Distraction. We all know, intellectually at least, how the corporate media uses the endless circus of sensationalism to distract “low-information voters”, the ignorant, and the uneducated from noticing how their lives and livelihoods are systematically plundered by the moneyed classes. But yet for the last three days, while negotiations over the “fiscal cliff” have quietly continued in Washington, this bastion of progressive politics has indulged in a collective shouting match about what? About yet another sensational batch-murder by a solitary social misfit. Distraction. Look at all the blood!
First, I expect to be accused of cold-heartedness and support for the murder of small children. So I’ll admit the charges right up front. I don’t really like small children, and I’ve been inclined to murder a few myself at times although I’ve never given into the impulse. And as a borderline autistic spectrum personality with severe social phobias, I have a knack for emotionally “shutting down” when the stress gets too intense. It can make me a cold-hearted bitch in a crisis, although I can also break into tears over a dying mouse or a fish gasping its last on the dock. None of which has any bearing on what I’m trying to say: look at yourselves. Look at the political situation. Ask yourselves if this fortuitous opportunity to discuss the burning issue of gun control in America hasn’t suddenly pushed serious conversation over issues which will result in far more death and heartbreak in the long run to the sidelines.
This week, Our Fearless Leaders In Washington are busy cobbling together a compromise which may fix a nonexistent crisis (The Deficit) by destroying the economic security of 50% of our population. Cuts to pensions and health care for the elderly, health care for the poor, basic food support, road repairs, and education are all on the table. The Republicans have begun to dangle every possible inducement on President Obama’s wishlist before his eyes on the condition that he allow them to begin dismantling the essential protections of our social safety net. At the same time, important restraints to our overblown and vastly overspent military/security apparatus are all but certain to be eliminated.
This is a time when the progressive community needs to remain focused and active on the essentials. Yes, cold little bodies lying on the ground in Connecticut are heartbreaking. But they are a symptom, not a cause. In a nation where the rich daily grow progressively richer, the poor become progressively poorer, and the young are kicked to the rear of an increasingly crowded, dirty, and out-of-control bus, breakdowns are going to happen. Most of them don’t make the headlines. Most of them only kill the immediate victims. And yes, the damage could be limited by better gun control. The question is, do you put a band-aid on the stubbed toe, or a tourniquet on the spurting artery?
It’s time to get priorities straight. The dead are dead. When you’re in the middle of a firefight, you don’t stop to bury them. First you have to win the battle. Later, if you’re tough and lucky and do your job, there’ll be time for tears. And if there isn’t, chances are that you’ll be dead yourself.