Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

Richard Krawiec, Writing for Peace Adviserby Richard Krawiec

Writing for Peace Adviser

A teenaged boy recently told me that shooting an assault weapon in someone’s home shooting range was great fun.  “It was just fun, shooting it.  And it was such a thrill knowing you could turn around and shoot the person with you – BUT that you wouldn’t do it.  That you could, but wouldn’t.”

I lacked both the restraint and opportunity this teenager has when I was in high school.  Floating through my days drug-addled and troubled, I arranged to purchase an ounce of hash at a housing project.  The deal failed when the middle man, a guy named Mike, took my money and never returned.

Ronnie, a mid-20-s dropout who had set up the deal, acted incensed.  “Let’s get the tire irons from your truck and wail on these mother fuckers,” he said.  “We need to do some damage, show them we mean business.”

I shook my head.  The thought of entering a hostile project armed with tire irons seemed unwise at best.

“You got to do something man.  You can’t let them get away with it.”

As we settled in the car I thought about what I could do to get my money, or my pride, back.  I remembered Denny, a man who was dating my friend’s older sister.  He had shown me a small silver handgun at a party and said, “Let me know if you ever want one.”

I turned to Ronnie, who had settled in the passenger seat.  “I’m going to get a gun and shoot him.”

All that weekend I hung in the pool hall, waiting for Denny to show up.  I told everyone my plans, let it be known Mike was going to pay for robbing me.  To a person, they all thought I was crazy.  The slackers, the outcasts, the hardened criminals – everyone told me that thought I was being stupid.

When neither Denny, nor a gun, materialized by Sunday night, I was able to step back from my rage and think it through.  The lack of opportunity and encouragement allowed me to let my plan go.

It’s a different world today.  Anyone can walk into a gun show and, without an ID, purchase as many military assault weapons as they can load into their SUV.  As for encouragement – beginning with Sarah Palin’s public taunting that everyone should ‘lock and load’, ‘target’ their opponents, ‘get them in the ‘crosshairs’, ‘reload’, ‘take them out’, the airwaves have been full of vitriolic hatred that seems to encourage the notion that ‘taking out’ those you hold a grievance against is acceptable.

The NRA’s calculated paranoid rants about the need to protect yourself from imagined marauding gangs intent on stealing your goods, and/or a Communist dictator president determined to steal your tax money and constitutional rights, offers encouragement of a violent solution to perceived or imagined threats.

Boortz, Hannity, Limbaugh, Savage, Beck – all the white male right wing shock jocks have raged against their ‘enemies’ in a way that creates a violent emotional geography for one’s dissatisfaction or imagined grievances against liberals and non-whites.  And in many cases they have called outright for murder.

In 2011, Neil Boortz said flat out we should shoot people in the street. “We got too damn many urban thugs, yo, ruining the quality of life for everybody. And I’ll tell you what it’s gonna take. You people, you are – you need to have a gun. You need to have training. You need to know how to use that gun. You need to get a permit to carry that gun. And you do in fact need to carry that gun and we need to see some dead thugs littering the landscape in Atlanta.”

In 2007, Sean Hannity aired a video clip of Ted Nugent holding up what appeared to be two assault rifles and saying that then-Sen. Barack Obama should “suck on my machine gun,” and that then-Sen. Hillary Clinton “might want to ride one of these into the sunset.”  Hannity refused to disavow those comments, saying: “No, I like Ted Nugent. He’s a friend of mine.”

Glenn Beck once asked, “Why would you get a gun? To prepare for tough times, that’s why,” while pointing at a picture of President Obama.

Speaking about the 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically-elected president, Rush Limbaugh said “the coup was what many of you wish would happen here…If we had any good luck, Honduras would send some people here and help us get our government back.”

These jocks don’t just ‘target’ politicians, but anyone they disagree with. Rush is quoted as saying,  “I tell people don’t kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus–living fossils–so we we’ll never forget what these people stood for.”

Ann Coulter agreed with Tim McVeigh’s bombing that killed 168 people, just not his target. “My only regret with Tim McVeigh is that he did not go to the New York Times building.”

Michael Savage: “I say round liberals up and hang em’ high. When I hear someone’s in the civil rights business, I oil up my AR-25.”

In many of the mass shootings in this country we have seen a direct connection between this rhetoric, the opportunity to own weapons, and the mayhem that ensued.  These examples are taken from the examiner.com:

 On July 27, 2008 Former U.S. Army private, Jim David Atkinsson, who hated Democrats, liberals, African Americans and homosexuals, murdered two people and injured seven others inside the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN.

 The day after Obama’s inauguration, white supremacist Keith Luke went on a killing spree in Brockton, Massachusetts. His goal was to kill as many Jews, blacks and Hispanics as possible. He had stockpiled hundreds of rounds of ammunition, proclaimed that he was fighting the extinction of the white race.

 In April of 2009, Richard Popalowski, a white supremacist in Pittsburgh, shot and killed three police officers following a domestic disturbance call. He feared the government would take his guns away.

Later that year a right-wing white supremacist and Holocaust denier walked into the National Holocaust Museum and killed an African-American security guard. Two weeks later, three Neo-Nazis were arrested for bombing a diversity office in Scottsdale, Arizona.

 On Aug. 5, 2012 Wade Michael Page, a 40-year old white supremacist and U.S. Army veteran murdered six people and wounded four others inside a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI with a Springfield XD(M) semi-automatic pistol.

 The ready availability of all kinds of weapons presents the opportunity for people to enact revenge fantasies. The hate rhetoric encourages unstable people to act out.  Adam Lanza’s mother was a far right wing ‘doomsday’ survivalist.  She purchased an assault weapon because she could.  Obviously, the vitriol of those on the airwaves gave her a rationale for why it was necessary. Nothing in her background would lead any reasonable person to believe she would have bought one illegally on a street corner. Just as nothing in Adam Lanza’s murderous enactment of his rage would lead one to conclude he would have taken hunting knives to school if he didn’t have an automatic weapon.  Whether he had a political agenda, we don’t know.  We do know he deliberately chose weapons that would create rapid carnage, and even adapted them so he could fire more quickly.  The knife-armed avenger was not the fantasy he wished to act out.

Opportunity, and public encouragement.  You don’t need decades of study to put those two together.

 

Richard Krawiec, Writing for Peace AdviserAbout Writing for Peace Adviser, Richard Krawiec

Richard Krawiec is the founder of Jacar Press, A Community active Press dedicated to paying writers and working in under-served communities and has worked extensively with people in homeless shelters, women’s shelters, prisons, literacy classes, and community sites, teaching writing. Richard’s second book of poems, She Hands me the Razor, (title poem nominated for a Pushcart Prize) was published by Press 53. It was one of 17 finalists for a SIBA Award.

To learn more about Richard Krawiec, check out his page here.

 

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One Response to Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

  1. A powerful commentary, Richard, made doubly powerful by your story. I kept thinking, “if Richard can have once planned to kill someone and was stopped only by circumstances he didn’t control, then anyone can kill for nearly-no reason.”

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