Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Michael Moore on Gun Violence in the U.S. In Light Of The Recent Aurora Mass Shooting

(image from a previous interview)
Last night, Michael Moore was interviewed on the Piers Morgan Show, regarding gun violence in the United States.  As always, I enjoyed very much the discussion, as Michael Moore has a way of getting to the heart of the issue and is never shy about blaming both sides of the political aisle for idiotic thinking.  The same day, Moore had an article at the Huffington Post Politics blog which had much the same message as what he had to say on the Piers Morgan Show.

(Slight tangent:  The previous night, Piers Morgan interviewed pro-gun advocate John Lott, Jr., and the civil liberties lawyer and legal scholar, Alan Dershowitz.  That debate was awful, if you could call it a “debate.”  Though I agree with many of Dershowitz’s and Morgan’s views and disagree with Lott’s (who, I feel, is dangerously misleading people with extrapolated data on the value of having concealed weapons in public, in contrast to every other researcher in the field), Dershowitz and Morgan were very disrespectful, basically shouting down Lott and refusing to let him speak – even belittling him.  I say let Lott speak his mind.  From what I’ve seen and read, his arguments are easy to refute in reasoned debate.  This sort of “interview” is the reason I don’t normally watch the Piers Morgan show, or others like it.  Far be it for me to defend the pro-gun folks, but Lott’s reaction to this disrespectful behavior was more tolerant and kind than I would have been in his shoes.  Anyhow, back to Michael Moore….  )

As you may recall, Moore made the award-winning documentary, “Bowling for Columbine” in 2002, which was about gun violence in America, with a focus on the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School.  That documentary has now celebrated a 10-year anniversary.  Sadly, very little positive change has been made to gun regulation in America.  In fact, gun laws have been significantly relaxed since then in many ways.  Not surprisingly, massacres like that in Columbine and Aurora have been steadily increasing in frequency, and, despite all the consoling words from politicians after each one, almost none of them have tried to enact any legislation aimed at stopping the next one.

In both the interview and in the HuffPost article, Moore poses a very important question: why is it America leads the advanced nations in gun-related deaths?  From the article (bolding and italics not added):
But here's the difference between the rest of the world and us: We have two Auroras that take place every single day of every single year! At least 24 Americans every day (8-9,000 a year) are killed by people with guns – and that doesn't count the ones accidentally killed by guns or who commit suicide with a gun. Count them and you can triple that number to over 25,000.  
That means the United States is responsible for over 80 percent of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined. Considering that the people of those countries, as human beings, are no better or worse than any of us, well, then, why us? 

He goes on to point out the huge gulf between other advanced nations and our, in terms of numbers of people shot to death.  Fewer than 20 in Japan, for instance, and around 200 in Germany.  Canada has only around 180.  America: tens of thousands.

In most countries, even a relatively “small” mass shooting, with just three or four victims, is headline news and worthy of debate in their parliaments.  Here, you’re lucky to find it on page 2 of the local paper, and forget about politicians actually proposing solutions.  Hell, even the shooting of a fellow congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, failed to enact any new legislation.  If anything, Arizona, the state in which the shooting occurred, has become even more lax than before.

In nearly every other way, our culture is just as violent as those other nations’.  Moore points out that we have similar histories of attacking other countries and genocides.  Our kids watch the same violent movies, play the same violent video games, and listen to the same music with awful lyrics.  Rates of divorce are comparable if not less problematic than them.  From the article:

They'll say it's the violent movies and video games that are responsible. Last time I checked, the movies and video games in Japan are more violent than ours – and yet usually fewer than 20 people a year are killed there with guns – and in 2006 the number was two!  
Others will say it's the number of broken homes that lead to all this killing. I hate to break this to you, but there are almost as many single-parent homes in the U.K. as there are here – and yet, in Great Britain, there are usually fewer than 40 gun murders a year.  
People like me will say this is all the result of the U.S. having a history and a culture of men with guns, "cowboys and Indians," "shoot first and ask questions later." And while it is true that the mass genocide of the Native Americans set a pretty ugly model to found a country on, I think it's safe to say we're not the only ones with a violent past or a penchant for genocide. Hello, Germany! That's right I'm talking about you and your history, from the Huns to the Nazis, just loving a good slaughter (as did the Japanese, and the British who ruled the world for hundreds of years – and they didn't achieve that through planting daisies). And yet in Germany, a nation of 80 million people, there are only around 200 gun murders a year. 

So what’s the difference? 

I would point out here that those other countries have far more regulation of guns to keep them from getting into the wrong hands, as he had demonstrated so very well in “Bowling for Columbine.”  But Moore doesn’t stop there.  He points out two other factors in his article:  “We Americans are incredibly good killers,” what with our international invasion strategies, and “We are an easily frightened people and it is easy to manipulate us with fear.”  If you doubt that last point, just look at the surge in gun sales since the Aurora shooting.  The NRA loves to manipulate our fear.

Oh, and Moore points out a third reason that he feels separates us from those other countries:  simple lack of caring, real caring, for our fellow citizens.  From the Piers Morgan interview:

"We have to see that we're a part of each other, and we have to take care of each other. The reason why they have universal health care in Canada and Britain, these other places? Because they believe if one suffers, everybody suffers," he tells the "Piers Morgan Tonight" host. "That is not our mentality, our mentality is 'I got mine, you get yours, and the hell with everybody else.'"

It’s the image of the rugged, individual manly American with a gun strapped to his side, handling his own problems and leaving yours alone – from John Wayne to Bruce Willis, isn’t that the image projected in the movies?  The only time they care to help others is through violent vigilantism.  Isn’t that how the gun nuts like to see themselves

To me, that’s just selfishness.  “No man is an Island.”  With the exception of a few loonies out there living “off the grid” in cabins and writing their manifestos, we all rely on each other to have a civil society.  It’s time to act like it.  It’s time to be “involved in mankind.”  Instead of reaching for the gun to solve our problems and keeping it loaded at all times, let’s instead reach for the door of our local non-profits and actually give of our time and money to worthy causes that help people with the issues that lead to crime, like poverty and mental problems, support our government and police programs that protect our safety, and call for meaningful restrictions of weapons to keep them out of the hands of those we aren't able to help.  I do all of those things, in every way I can.  I demand that our legislators and our President do the same.