Collateral Damage/Stuff Happens

President George W. Bush (and his successor Barack Obama) have lamented “collateral damage” in Afghanistan and Iraq — and Jeb Bush shrugs off a domestic mass shooting as “stuff happens” — but the tragedies have a common denominator: glorification of war and cultural acceptance of violence, writes David Marks.

By David Marks

Barack Obama responded to the shootings at a community college in Oregon last week by saying that people had “become numb to this” and that “we are the only advanced country on earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.” His frustration was directed at the lack of gun control, and although greatly reduced access to weaponry is relevant and warranted, it is arguably not the only intervention needed to reduce these repetitive acts of violence.

Relentless news about mass shootings at home along with hostilities abroad blind us to the overt relationship between events in the headlines. There is little effort in any realm considering how U.S. international actions are related to the increasing number of mass murders in the United States, but the connection became more apparent last week.

Missed by most news media, the synchronicity of events provides insight into this correlation. For example, the New York Times reported, “U.S. Is Blamed After Bombs Hit Afghan Hospital,” saying the military has conceded the attack might have been “collateral damage.” On the same front page there was a story, “Killers Fit a Profile, but So Do Many Others.” This analysis of the psychology of shooters concludes, “With many of the killers, the signs are of anger and disappointment and solitude.”

Public responses to each event have been focused on explaining their individual causes, although the relevance of these stories is uncomplicated; our country is so immersed in violence, we fail to recognize a simple association. Although seemingly disparate, reports of war abroad and mass killings at home describe disturbing acts engendered by the same forces.

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