Written by a contributor for Tjen Folket Media
School shootings in the US are being protested with good reason. But they are not being protested enough. For rather than going to the root of the problem, the debate still revolves around issues that in the best-case scenario can limit mass murders—but not stop them.
School shootings in the US are not the result of mental health or guns laws alone. Not even these two in combination. To a larger degree, they are the result of a society that is sick on so many levels. The US distinguishes itself as a country with an extreme number of massacres. Which overall conditions separates the US from Western society? I believe we can point to a few factors.
First, the obvious: that there are so many privately-owned guns and that it is relatively easy for most people to obtain them.
Another issue, something that can be seen quite quickly, is that the US is a society that fosters individualism. People are supposed to take care of themselves and this permeates everything, from the culture’s collective myths (“The American Dream”) to city planning methods that assume that all will drive everywhere in their own cars.
Another obvious, yet often overlooked issue when talking about school shootings is that the US stands in a special position as the world’s only superpower. They are decidedly the world’s largest military power. They have military bases all over the world. They have the world’s largest military budget—by a large margin. It is an extremely militarized society. They start wars all over the world. The US has been at war almost continuously for over a century. Today they are deep within Iraq and Afghanistan and involved in wars in a number of other countries.
A fourth factor is that this militarization is part of the culture and civil society. The police, who routinely murder black youth, are armed to the teeth. All over its society, one can find commercials and propaganda for the police, military, US wars and so on.
A fifth factor is American fascism and chauvinism. The US is a settler state—that is, it was established on occupied and colonized land. With military power, Europeans took over North America, nearly ethnically cleansed the entire population, and established their own state with violence. Through war, they conquered new areas from Mexico. An internally oppressed black nation was established through slavery and the slave trade. The violent chauvinism against indigenous peoples and blacks has its roots in the structure of its society. It is no less strong today as it was then. When Trump said “Make America Great Again”, Clinton’s answer was that America has always been “Great”. Democrats and Republicans alike agree that the US is the best, while people around the world largely agree that the US is the worst, and the biggest threat to peace. The American state does not only exercise fascism and terror against occupied peoples in other countries, but several internal nationalities experience violent oppression in ghettos that are practically war zones where militarized police enforce the law arbitrarily—in a way that is systematically discriminatory and brutal.
Sixth, one can also see an astounding heroin epidemic in the US today. Drug abuse is spreading. Very many people are extremely unhappy with their own lives and self-medicate against loneliness, depression, and anxiety. These conditions do not only arise from individual biology or personal choice but have a societal side as well. A sick society begets sick people.
I believe these factors influence the US from top to bottom—and everyone in between, And I do not believe this is a coincidence. I believe it is tightly connected to the USA’s position as the world’s biggest imperialist. When Britain was the world’s foremost colonial power, it also led to a particular British culture of militarism, combined with chauvinism towards other peoples. Marxism’s analysis of capitalism is that it leads to imperialism and war, and therefore presupposes militarization and chauvinism. It is impossible to remove chauvinism in a system whose roots are in the oppression of individuals and nations, in holding them down and systematically exploiting them. It is also impossible to remove militarism in a society supported and maintained through violence, occupation, military recruitment, and the legitimization of wars all over the planet.
Who commits school shootings? There isn’t a single type of person, but some groups are overrepresented. Those who dominate the demographic are young white men, typically living in suburbs and almost always with chauvinistic political convictions. There are very few black youths who have carried out similar attacks. The shooters hardly ever live in poor proletarian neighborhoods. In the past year alone, several of these attacks were carried out by people with strong fascist convictions. Like most fascists, they are not society’s most marginalized people—but rather those most marginalized among the privileged. Petit bourgeois people who are “down on their luck”, according to the middle class’s moralistic standards.
It is a “killer combo”, a deadly combination, when a society fosters individualism, militarism, and chauvinism. Taken with the growth of fascism, the availability of automatic weapons, drugs, loneliness, and dissolved communities, the result is not surprising—though tragic they may be.