We know them by name, almost like sports teams who have grown to have so many new franchises we can't keep up with them: San Bernardino, Roseburg, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Columbine, and so many more. All tragic. All nationally lamented. All such events continuing to grow exponentially violent.
In a recent CNN/ORC poll, over half of all Americans favor sending ground troops to Syria or Iraq to fight Isis. Picture the Roman Coliseum with 54% of the people standing, crying for blood and you have a idea (yes, slightly exaggerated but think more "Hunger Games") of how much America craves violence to solve its problems, all in the name of righteousness, national security and defenders of the global helpless. But this is a myth.
The American Myth is embedded with notions of all sorts of violence. The myth includes mega-violence. Our national budget, our money...our taxes, largely go to support violence and greed through war.* War against "terror." War against "the other." Well, a history of war against almost everyone. New wars are fought through "fair trade agreements," through world banking systems, through militarized police, against the homeless, against the poor, the immigrant, against ourselves... Violence against so many.
The American Myth is also about micro-violence, hand gun violence, assault rifle violence, violence against women, violence against Black folks, violence against Native Americans, violence against Queer folk, and many more... Every week violence in America is like walking through a revolving door, until it happens to you. Then, I suppose, it's like no other day you've ever known and, no other day you will ever know again.
Even if we could elect a congress who made it a priority to curb violence through legislation, better laws might help a bit but they won't cure the problem. In America's case, better laws are just Band-Aids placed on a mortal wound. The mythological nation-state of "America the innocent, the brave, always on the side of justice," is fast becoming a bleeding-soon to be-corpse. The fix can only come when we face the truth of America's origins. Diagnosis is the most difficult part of the problem. At least the most difficult to face. America suffers from a D.N.A. of egregious and horrific violence, sanctioned and justified for centuries, to support a mythology of national virtuousness, even-handed democracy and sacrosanctity.
The truth? The Doctrine of Discovery, still upheld in case law today, justified Christian, Western European nations to force Indigenous peoples everywhere into slavery, steal their lands and for centuries murder innocent men, women and children. Why? Because those Indigenous fellow human beings were on land that they wanted. That Americans wanted. That Christians wanted. Why? Because those Native Americans loved their own friends, families and futures. Why? Because the Host Peoples resisted their own demise and extinction. The ethnic cleansing that was calculated and perpetrated against Native peoples was the actionable birth of our national American Myth of Violence.
Once the religious Doctrine of Discovery was codified, Americans expressed the myth through the zeitgeist of Manifest Destiny, White Supremacy and American Exceptionalism. The national myth became the law of the land. In order to operate effectively the American myth must rest on a foundation of hierarchy, first, those who can hear from God and those who cannot, continuing in various forms such as Christian over Muslim, White people over Brown people, male over female, wealth over impoverished, bosses over workers, Americans over the rest of the world. The myth is now ubiquitous to our laws and the national standards of society. It is embedded in business, in religion, in education, in entertainment. The myth created the de-humanization of Blacks and others; the African slave trade; scientific racism; Jim Crow and racial profiling. The myth propped up discrimination against women, insisted they were second-class citizens and supports the current rape culture. The myth sanctioned massacres, lynching, religiously sanctioned rape of children, physical abuse, cultural abuse, abuse to workers, lack of access to housing, to jobs and to other societal benefits, denying the right to vote, violence against the earth, pollution, and so much more...
The national myth subsidizing American violence is becoming more apparent as its blood spews into the streets and is reified on our television and computer screens. The mortally wounded corpse is seen walking through the streets that have until now, upheld it, in the schools that have honored and taught it, in the halls of congress and the courts who sanctioned it. The corpse is staggering, trying to find its footing but stumbling along, still trying to "rally the troops." If it were not so vile one might even pity the American Myth of Violence.
The corpse called the American Myth is dead and with him dies a close-held part of us. He is dying. He just does not realize his wound is mortal. As the truth is taught, caught and shown through social and national media, we pause to see how treacherous, how arrogant, how horrendous his nature really was and is. Still, we must lay him to rest by admitting the myth was as bad as it appeared and even more evil than we imagined. For that reason, we must also pause to memorialize the victims of his reign of terror. We must think about the many facets in which the American Myth of Violence affected our lives. We must grieve our own years of torture. We must lament other victims by showing how he used his evil power in both global and national influence. Then we must move forward.
A new national narrative is needed. A narrative that admits the past national evil and lauds past national good. A narrative big enough to restructure every area of society in true democratic process. A narrative where everyone has a voice. A narrative where everyone has a life. A narrative where everyone has a job, a community, a friend. Not utopia. There is no utopia. Just a good and safe place to live, and learn and love. America-the Peaceful, the new Beautiful. I long to see you when the old national myth finally dies.
*The U.S. military budget is $763.9 billion for FY 2016. That makes military spending the second largest Federal government expenditure, after Social Security ($938 billion). Military spending is greater than Medicare ($583 billion), Medicaid ($351 billion), or the interest payment on the debt ($283). http://useconomy.about.com/od/usfederalbudget/p/military_budget.htm
**See Robert Miller, Native America, Discovered and Conquered (Bison Books, 2008).