Fri, Aug 09, 2019 - Page 8 News List

The culture of killing in the US

By David Pendery 潘大為

Last weekend’s killing sprees in El Paso and Dayton in the US have shocked much of the world, and to be sure have shocked the US.

No doubt for most observers the feeling is: “Not again.” That such mass murders have occurred in such amazing numbers in the US elicits a feeling of immense sorrow, which haunts the country.

The list of mass murders in the US in the past 10, 20, 50 and 100 years is a litany of disaster and shame for the country, and I need hardly list the perpetrators and their acts; they are known all too well.

Probably the first mass murder that shocked me into the realization that something was terribly wrong in my country was the San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre in 1984, when 21 people were killed and 19 wounded.

After the killings in a Stockton, California-school in 1989, in which five people died and 32 were wounded, I said to my friends and family: “Ban all those weapons.”

I feel the same to this day about automatic arms.

The latest killings, as always, give rise to many thoughts about why such tragedies happen, and why the US in particular seems cursed by them.

Such mass killings are rare in other countries. In Taiwan, they are virtually unheard of, and law enforcement would say the main reason is because firearms are for the most part illegal and very difficult to obtain.

The same could be said for any number of other countries. Those in the US trying do something about the devastation often cite this fact, and validly.

However, the US is a seemingly firearm-crazed nation that boasts a constitution that addresses, and some say endorses, such ownership.

A cult of firearms seems more than present in the US, what is often called a “gun culture.” In this respect, Americans are cursed — many would say blessed — by a love of guns that has evolved over hundreds of years of expansion within the nation, evincing a frontier ethos and a history of hunting as a popular pastime.

Many blame this “gun culture” for the rise in violence and the mass killings that have occurred in the US. I can see the point, but I do not think I agree.

Gun culture certainly breeds a code of casual enjoyment of guns and the potential for harm they can do, but this is not necessarily different from most other countries around the world.

In most countries you can obtain guns for protection, hunting and even simply as a hobby, and for all such gun owners, anywhere in the world, they very much like their guns and have their own brands of “gun culture.”

Yet, as noted, you rarely see these horrid mass killings in other countries.

This is not to ignore the reality of terrorism, which is also mass killing. The recent killers in the US have been called “terrorists,” but this is very different from what we normally think of as terrorism, as practiced in Africa, the Middle East, to some extent Asia and also often in Western countries.

Terrorists are a different breed of mass killers, and their acts are normally thought to have a “political” motive. Nevertheless, their acts also often stem from stark hatred of others who are different, such as racism and the like.

Many killings in the US have had racist motives, although by no means all, and this introduces another facet of what drives these killers.

I have a worrisome explanation that I suspect many people will strongly disagree with. Again, it is not the gun culture in the US behind these killings.

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