If you’re like me, you were horrified to watch that video of Clay Duke shooting up a school board meeting in Panama City, Florida. Ranting incoherently, Mr. Duke was shot by a security guard and then took his own life. Luckily no innocent people were killed.
Of course the media and blogosphere are filled with people prognosticating about why Duke did what he did. Some say he was just a sad, mentally ill man under great financial stress who just snapped. Others say he was a cold-blooded individual with a criminal record who planned to carry out a mass killing. And yet others are asking why he, a convicted felon, even had a gun to begin with and are questioning the validity of the Second Amendment. One thing’s for sure, interest groups of all stripes will use this tragic incident to point fingers, throw mud and advance their own agendas. But no matter how you slice it, what happened in Florida was terrible and disturbing.
But an article on the website infowars.com stated that we should expect more of this insane behavior as the recession wears on. “When Americans start losing everything,” they wrote, citing a trend forecaster named Gerald Celente, “They will start to lose it. “ They further stated, “As we warned back in June, we are in the early stages of a new ‘age of rage,’ which will be characterized by riots, revolutions and a widespread backlash against the economic holocaust that has been unleashed by the global elite. Unfortunately there will be many more Clay Dukes over the coming years, there will be more Americans who lose everything and decide that the best way out is simply to lose it altogether.”
That’s bullshit, scaremongering and, quite frankly, stupid.
If this doom and gloom prophecy were true Bernie Madoff would have gotten plugged with a high-powered rifle long ago, bankers hoarding capital and refusing to make loans would have been strung up on lampposts and bloody riots would have already rocked our nation. But this recession has been grinding away for two years and none of these horrors have come to pass. (Though I wouldn’t shed a tear for Bernie.) And what infowars.com forgot to mention is that when you live in a nation of 300 million people, statistics show that such crazy and violent incidents like this are bound to happen. But if you look at such tragedies with a sense of proportion you’d realize these incidents occur rarely. According to the most recent FBI statistics, the rate of violent crime in the U.S. is falling, not rising. But the with the 24 hour news cycle created by television and the internet constantly pumping these stories you’d think people are shooting up places everyday. If it bleeds it leads – but such news reports are not indicative of what’s happening in the nation as a whole.
The vast majority of Americans hurt in this economy are not engaging in acts of violence. If they did I think we would have heard about it by now. And stop demonizing people who are poor. Most people who live in poverty do not flip out and kill people. My mom grew up poor in Spanish Harlem with lots of other poor people. Most of them turned out to be hardworking and responsible citizens, not gun toting maniacs with a grudge.
The article also failed to examine American History as well. During the Great Depression, when there were no Social Security or unemployment benefits until 1935, (And SS benefits didn’t start coming until 1941) the American nation did not rend itself asunder. There were problems, yes – but no revolution. No storming of the palace gates or mass murders. The Union held together. If it didn’t we’d have never summed up the willpower and fortitude to win World War II.
The Bonus Marchers who descended on Washington in the spring and summer of 1932 were not violent – though the government used violence against them. The Civil Rights movement that agitated to change racist laws and conceptions used mostly non-violent techniques and riots like those that occurred Watts, Newark and L.A. did not result in the wholesale destruction of America. This nation is much stronger than we give it credit for. And no matter what you think about the War on Terror, if America was in such sad shape would hundreds of thousands of American men and women be willing to fight and die for us on far-flung battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan? Probably not. As our President recently said, “Don’t bet against America.” No matter what your political leanings are, we can all get behind that statement.
But fear is a nice cottage industry. Fear helps companies hustle gold futures, newspapers, survival supplies, guns and breeds all types of scams designed to separate you from your money. Just look these fly by night outfits offering to help settle your debts or salvage your mortgage while walking off with fat fees and not helping you in the least. There’s a lot of money to be made in scaring the shit of people. Don’t fall for it. We are not all going to lose our shit, no matter how much people like to tell you it will be so.
FDR once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” More recently Jon Stewart said, “We live in hard times. Not end times.” Let’s stop talking like it’s the end of the world. It isn’t. What Mr. Clay did was horrible but it’s not a harbinger of impending Armageddon. But the best response I’ve ever read regarding scaremongering eschatology was written over two thousand years ago.
“Take heed that no man deceive you….ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”
Don’t be deceived. We’re not losing it. What is past is prologue. And looking at our past I’d say our greatest days are still to come.