crazyjane: (eclipse)
Hundreds of thousands of people just to our north crawl through the splintered remains of their lives, trying to ignore the smell of stagnant water, raw sewage and rotting bodies. They're looking for something, anything, that they can salvage. Each day they queue up in front of the trucks for their ration of water and rice, perhaps the odd ready-to-eat meal. It's not enough to feed a family - in fact, barely enough calories for one person - but it's better than starving, or risking disease. They can't rebuild without help, but they're not getting it.

A country claiming to be the chosen homeland of at least three religions sits under the control of one. It exercises power ruthlessly, building walls and allowing infrastructure in selected areas to degrade to shocking levels. When it learns that one of its traditional enemies has agreed to a deal that will prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, it responds with anger. Why? It doesn't think the deal is tough enough. It wants to be the only power in the region with nuclear capability. It threatens to 'take matters into its own hands' - in other words, to provoke another war in the Middle East, which would draw in nations from all over the world.

Back home, our government systematically breaks every one of its election promises. It cuts education funding, punishes low-income workers for the 'crime' of being underpaid, unravels even the most pitifully small action to mitigate climate change. It rewards the highest paid with handouts and tax cuts. It threatens to keep those unable to work on a pittance that, as time goes on, is less and less able to meet daily needs, let alone medical expenses. Our hideously-misnamed 'Immigration Minister' spearheads the effort to refuse those most in need of refuge, doing everything he can to demonise them while at the same time giving out as little information as possible.

Meanwhile the press prattle about Kardashians, satire TV programs provide better information and comment than the news, and we wring our hands or march in the streets and confess our outraged impotence, over and over.

And I'm no better. I ask myself daily, what is the fucking point anymore?

Nothing changes.
crazyjane: (eclipse)
I woke up this morning to hear about the bombs that ripped through spectators at the Boston Marathon's finish line. Three dead (one, an eight year old boy), 141 injured as things stand right now. According to medical personnel, there are still many people on the critical list. The surgeons have performed multiple amputations and taken bucketloads of shrapnel - ball bearings, nails, and the like - from people's bodies.

The footage is all over both the mainstream and social media, dominating YouTube. It's an understatement to say it's hard to watch.

The thing that got to me most was learning that the last mile before the finish was dedicated to the memory of the children and teachers killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Some of the families were at ground zero. That was widely publicised - so it's hard not to think that these people were deliberately targeted. Especially when the second bomb went off a few moments later, as people - unknowingly - were running towards it.

Add to that it's Patriots Day, this is a televised event, and there's also been a fire (possibly started by an explosion) at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, and a really sour taste creeps into the mouth.

They're calling it an 'act of terror' - but not saying that it was perpetrated by 'terrorists'. Apparently, terrorist is now an official, card-carrying thing. You have to be a member of some designated organisation. I wonder if Anders Breivik would find that amusing. Personally, I think you're a terrorist the moment you commit an act like that.

And inevitably, as soon as media go to wall-to-wall coverage, there are the cries of 'Oh, but this happens in Iraq or Afghanistan every day, and hundreds of people die. Western bias, the Americans think they're the only ones, how shameful, etc'. To an extent, that's true. Oddly enough, American media tends to spend a lot of air time on incidents that happen on its own soil. (/sarcasm)

I even read an op-ed that declared the Boston bombing was 'just desserts', because of how prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were treated, so we shouldn't get all upset about it. Right. Because the Sandy Hook families shaped government policy, and somehow deserve it. Seriously. Sometimes I despair of humanity.

I did get to thinking, though. Apart from my initial horror when I first found out about what happened at the marathon, and my admiration for the bravery of those runners who gave up their recovery cots to victims or kept running all the way to the nearest hospital to donate blood - I was scared. Why? I don't live in Boston. I'm fairly sure this will turn out to be an act of 'domestic' terrorism, perpetrated by someone with an extreme right-wing outlook and an axe to grind about 'protecting his right to bear arms', or something similar. There's no reason to suggest this is the beginning of anything larger, or that there's any danger to me or mine.

Yet I'm still scared.

I finally put my finger on it. It's not the incident itself - it's what might happen next. Already, media have started to draw the comparison between this and 9/11, a terrorist event aimed at private citizens (and particularly, at citizens who are already suffering from another act of senseless mass killing). In a way, it's the equivalent of bombing or shooting at an IRA funeral. It's despicable - and America tends to lash out violently and think later if it thinks it's under attack.

There's something about a bombing. It's not the same, in people's eyes, as a disturbed kid with an assault rifle, or even a guy hiding in a van sniping complete strangers and holding an entire city hostage can be grasped. It's personal. A bombing, though, immediately suggests a political motive. And when it comes to America, a political motive immediately suggests al Qaeda or the Taliban.

Take the Oklahoma Federal Building bombing, for example. Two wannabe-militia guys who wanted to 'get revenge' on the FBI for the fiasco at Waco with the Branch Davidians - but when the bomb went off, reports abounded of 'four guys with turbans', and the backlash against Muslims (who don't even wear turbans) was vicious. This was before 9/11.

The FBI announced just a few moments ago that they had issued a BOLO (Be On The Lookout) for a 'darker-skinned, possibly black' man, who they described as a person of interest. Of course, the immediate assumption is that he's Muslim. FOX News is still reporting that the FBI are interrogating a '20 year old Saudi national' - a report that's already been debunked. The Saudi man is being questioned, yes - like all the others in the hospitals. The FBI is trying to find out what happened. But that doesn't matter, does it? It's a terrorist act - it 'must' be Muslims. And therefore terrorist organisations Striking At Our Way Of Life.

'America's enemies' must be punished.

And that's what terrifies me. The idea that America will go to war. Oh, not 'officially'. Maybe a few drone strikes on a terrorist camp or two, but not some massive mobilisation. I'm talking about the America that carries guns and shoots a kid in the back because he's black in a white neighbourhood, beats up or sexually assaults a woman in a hijab, spews hate speech until some idiot thinks they've got a mandate to attack anyone who 'looks Muslim'. (And let's not forget 'Patriot Act'-type laws, straight out of Orwell.)

And as America goes, so goes Australia. We already have hatemongers like Senator Corey Bernadi telling us that we are being 'Islamised' by stealth, 'forced' to eat halal meat and threatened by 'creeping sharia law'. We have Tony Abbott and his disgusting lackey, Scott Morrison, telling us that our borders are under attack from desperate people seeking asylum, who just happen to be Muslims (even when they aren't). We have a cowardly government that panders to xenophobia instead of giving people a well-deserved smack around the ears, because they'd rather see people persecuted than risk losing office. Every time there's an incident that might involve someone who might be Muslim, the rhetoric ratchets up and the violence and the hatred escalates with it. We may not have the guns, but we have the fists and the knives and the hate.

President Obama said, 'We shouldn't jump to conclusions about who might be responsible for this - but ...' - and that 'but' was a warning to 'groups'. And most of the media aren't taking any notice of the President. They've got no problem speculating wildly, and damn the consequences.

So yeah, this bombing scares me. Not because I think this is a prelude to invasion of some foreign land, or because I'm blinded to the suffering of people in other countries who deal with this sort of horror every day - because it's all too likely that this will become the excuse for further violence and suppression.

And in all of it, the most important thing gets lost. People suffered terribly - are still suffering - and that suffering becomes nothing more than a political tool.

I hope I'm wrong. I really do. It would be wonderful to see this handled with a level of sanity, of clarity.

I hope I'm wrong. I fear I'm not.
crazyjane: (eclipse)
I just do not understand human beings.

In Newtown, Connecticut, a young man who may have been mentally ill took his mother's guns and murdered her. He went to Sandy Hook Elementary School, shot his way in, and when the principal and school psychologist tried to stop him, killed them.

In two small rooms, twenty cowering children were slaughtered, shot multiple times. Countless others were terrorised, and the teachers who tried to protect them were gunned down.

We don't know why he did it. We may never know. And even if we did, it wouldn't really help. For some things, there is no explanation. As hard as that is to accept.

Beyond the killer's motives, though, is so much more that defies understanding - almost defies belief.

Even before the children's bodies had been removed from the school, the gun debate surged into prominence. It was inevitable, of course - it happens every time there's a mass shooting in the USA. After the Aurora Cinema ... Virginia Tech ... Columbine ... and yet somehow that debate always ends the same way. Nothing changes.

This time, perhaps, there's a little more fervour. Because these were kids. And that's understandable.

What's not understandable - at least to me - is the speech from Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert lamenting the fact that schools in that state are 'gun-free zones'. If only the principal had an M4 in her office, he opined - that guy wouldn't have gotten past the front doors. She could have 'taken his head off before he got near those precious kids'.

(For the record, an M4 carbine is functionally identical to the assault rifle used by the killer - a weapon capable of firing 700-950 rounds per minute. Ideal for school protection, apparently. And legal in Connecticut. No licence required.)

Guess Congressman Gohmert believes in Mutually Assured Destruction. If the Bad Guy has a big gun, then if you get a big gun, he won't try to kill you. 'More guns, less violence' is the popular slogan.

Except it doesn't work that way, as this study graphically illustrates. At best, it's ineffective. At worst, it causes more casualties.

But don't try to tell the National Rifle Association that, or the pro-gun politicians who seem to have all inexplicably become impossible to contact. Because they've got a right to own guns. All hail the Second Amendment.

Then there is the conspiracy theory. I won't dignify it with too much elaboration, but the short version goes something like this: this was all set up by the government so that they could take away 'our' guns. Just like all the other mass shootings. This first popped up the day after the shootings, and there were even suggestions that members of the school community were complicit.

I can understand people wanting to make sense of a tragedy. After all, there's got to be a reason, right? But to insinuate that other parents and teachers helped set up the cold-blooded massacre of their friends and colleagues? Uh, no. Who even thinks that?

Maybe it was those pesky chemtrails. The government experiments on us, dontcha know.

And finally - most horrifically - the hoaxes.

While grieving members of the community gathered in a local church, someone thought it might be a fun idea to phone in a bomb threat. Police armed with semi-automatic rifles charged in to evacuate the congregation.

Wow. Inspired.

Other jokers took to the internet to exercise their questionable senses of humour. One attributed some pithy comments to actor Morgan Freeman. That was pretty mild, actually. According to Newtown's police chief, however, others were far worse. Some decided to impersonate the gunman and post taunts and manifestoes.

And some - who deserve to be named, shamed, and forced to apologise face to face to every bereaved person in Newtown - thought it would be chucklesome to post messages purporting to be from the murdered children.

Yes, you read that right.

Just imagine being one of those parents. Your child, who could be a brat sometimes, but who you loved. Your child, who painted pictures that are still stuck to your fridge with a magnet. Your child, who you saw off to school that day like every other day.

Your child, whose bullet-riddled body lies in the morgue.

What kind of person thinks it's funny to traumatise these people, who have already endured so much, who will have to bury their children and try, somehow, to keep living?

The standard question, when something horrific like a mass shooting happens, is, 'Who wakes up in the morning and decides to shoot people?'

But what I wonder, today, is, 'Who wakes up in the morning and decides to capitalise on that tragedy by pushing the very instruments used to cause it? Who thinks, over their morning cup of coffee, that this is a good opportunity to publicise their own private version of The Turner Diaries? And who - who, for gods' sake - goes to the trouble of creating fake accounts and posting messages to torture complete strangers, just for their own sick amusement?'

The short answer is: human beings.

Why?

For some things, there is no explanation.

I can't accept that.

August 2017

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