USA

Oh, Yeah… This Thing.

Here’s the deal. Keeping track of current events is a depressing thing to do. Rarely do things seem to be getting much better, and a realist recognizes that “It’s always darkest before the dawn” is the sort of wishful thinking that invites false hope which invites even more despair once expectations inevitably collapse.

Bearing all of that is made harder when personal issues intervene. I’m only just now recovering from a paralyzing emotional shitstorm that began shortly after my last article. And that’s the most you’ll be hearing about that.

(“You” of course being my vast audience of four or five people.)

I’ve long since lost the motivation to complete my last series, or what was intended to be a series, but fuck it, let’s power through.


Step One: Draw Down (Pt 2)

We’re still talking about reorganizing the US military, but I’m going to go down a little side street to talk about gun control. It’s relevant, trust me.

Deaths from gun crime are a major problem in the U.S. Our gun homicide rate hovers around the company of countries generally described as “developing,” or “third world.” Graphs of the US gun homicide rate compared to other Western countries generally look like… well, like this. Gun ownership rates between the US and other developed countries are pretty similar, if less dramatic.

But hang on a second. Look at these two again, side by side.

DeathOwnership

The two western countries closest to the US in terms of gun ownership are Finland and Switzerland, yet despite having around 50% of our gun ownership rate, they have less than 20% of our homicide rate. Why do you think that is?

Finland and Switzerland have something in common which is distinct from the United States: compulsory military service.

You see, all that gun control stuff I said was just a dirty bait-and-switch! I’m actually all for the Second Amendment. I think the intent behind it when the Bill of Rights was established is as relevant today as it was in 1789. Jefferson probably didn’t say

“When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” – Definitely not Thomas Jefferson

However, he most certainly did co-lead a violent resistance movement that used guns to overthrow the enforcement mechanisms of an authoritarian government.

Consider that Americans are being extra-judicially executed by the drones and police which allegedly protect us. Consider that the US government uses torture, pervasive and unqualified spying, and has a history of engaging in other incredibly disturbing practices. We have every reason to be afraid of our government, and every right to defend ourselves from it. Yet, as corporate influence marginalizes the power of popular sovereignty and gun ban laws attempt to rob Americans of the most efficient means of protecting themselves from hostility, there is less and less that the so-called “common” American can do to keep a comfortable buffer between themselves and the possibility of officially-sanctioned abuse.

I’m not arguing that there’s a vast IlluminatiJewishLizard-conspiracy to disarm us so that the New World Order can go into effect. However, if in twenty years US officials are encouraged to persecute pro-eco or anti-corporate activist “terrorists” by monopolistic corporations upon whom they depend financially, and the risk of doing so is completely negated by said activists’ inability to defend themselves physically or monetarily, what exactly is going to deter them from acting on that encouragement?

An armed populace is a pretty good deterrent against those kinds of shenanigans happening willy-nilly.

(Before you call me crazy, keep in mind that in 1995 if you said the US government was going to kill US citizens with hellfire rockets fired by robots while monitoring their communications with a technological capability that puts 1984 to shame, you would have been called crazy, too.)

However, what is definitely crazy is allowing anyone to have a gun with no training or background checks and expecting everything to be hunky-dory. That brings us back to Switzerland and Finland.

I would hypothesize, and would very much like to find a study which disputes or corroborates, that a citizen who is well-trained in the proper use and safety of a firearm is dramatically less likely to abuse that firearm. Overwhelmingly, urban centers are the source of the highest gun crime in the US, where access to guns is easy (due to the high national per capita rate) and exposure to traditional American gun culture (usually recognized more in rural communities) is low. However, we do know suicide with firearms is rising in rural areas now, and decreasing in urban ones. I’ll get back to that later.

Access to guns will never be resolved, especially in the South, which has a notoriously porous border with a country where armed drug gangs have territorial command. We can solve the training problem, though, by mandating compulsory military service for every American citizen (men and women, excepting conscientious objectors and the demonstrably unfit), via the re-institution of local militias, which could be mobilized only by the federal government.

How would we handle that? Well, remember the couple hundred thousand military personnel from my last post forever ago? Think of it now as a 450,000-strong federal militia training corps.

The military would work full time training militias, while also regulating federal standards of fitness, marksmanship, and equipment use and maintenance. Outside of those minimal regulations, militias would regulate themselves according to their financial means and community, strengthening their local identity. This would ensure an impressive statistical level of readiness for national defense, but also an incomparable moral one as well. In the unlikely event that the United States is attacked, the invaders will be facing an army which is not only a huge percentage of the population that has been in reserve for years, but will also be directly defending the territory it has been training in, and likely lived in, for much of its members’ lives. That’s a pretty daunting prospect.

Also, since mandatory military service would funnel most of the population through a process of mental and physical health evaluation, it would provide a broad opportunity for physicians to identify and diagnose key mental health problems that lead to suicide and other kinds of gun death, allowing for early, preventative treatments that might otherwise never be confronted.

Finally, since the federal military would be entirely devoted to training militias, if the government wanted to, say invade Iraq, it would have to conscript the only available forces, which would be the militias. Since militias would be most loyal to their locality, and established and employed at those locations, it’s unlikely they would be very motivated to be uprooted from their lives and deployed elsewhere. Additionally, since only limited numbers would normally be required for deployment, many militias would not be tapped for conscription, putting the government in the unenviable position of deciding which militias to single out. You can imagine the outrage such an incident would cause.

Basically, before the government made any foreign commitments it would have to make a really, really strong case for it, and need to enjoy popular support for a long time.

So in conclusion, re-instituting militias might, as far as I can tell:

  • Reduce gun homicides to rates more comparable to other Western countries with similar gun ownership rates and compulsory military service, which would mean a potential reduction of around 80%.
  • Increase the readiness of the national defense by about fifty-four times (going by current active and reserve personnel numbers).
  • Increase the likelihood of detecting mental and physical health issues among people who might otherwise go undiagnosed
  • Increase the potential morale of defense forces via natural, personal investment in their locality
  • Decrease the likelihood of costly adventures in foreign countries

There are a couple of issues I can foresee. One is funding. However, if Americans are predominantly allowed to use the firearms many of them already have, and perhaps given incentives to donate or share them with other militia members, we will be looking at significantly low costs. Additionally, existing military equipment, outnumbering a reduced military force, could simply be proportionally redistributed to militias which are trained to use it. Local selection processes could funnel members into required roles.

As for identifying mental health problems, that’s a moot point if there is no effective apparatus for treating those problems. That’s my next topic.

Ok, Fine. America’s Kinda Cool.

For the second week in a row now, what I originally intended to write about was superseded by a new realization, and that realization is this: with all I’ve said about the U.S.A. by this point, it probably sounds like I hate it and everyone who lives in it and everything about it.

That isn’t the case.

I’m an American, I see problems, I try to draw attention to them. Sure, the US does have big problems, and being a big influence on the rest of the world magnifies the scope, scale, and significance of those problems, making them more urgent to address than they might be otherwise. But the US deserves not only to exist and to thrive, but to take pride in its own culture and history, just as any other sovereign nation does.

…Just as long as the pride isn’t overwhelming and unwarranted.

So at the risk of sounding like a flag-waving sap, here’s a bulleted list of my favorite things about the USA.

1. Despite a wealth of negative stereotypes, Americans are diverse, generous, and hard-working.

As a whole country subjected to basic averages against other countries, the US is not the most diverse in the world, but it’s pretty diverse: ethnically, religiously, racially. Statistics vary as populations adjust, but on a global ranking the US is generally placed exactly in the middle on the diversity scale in every axis. Large portions of the country are homogenous, and statistics averaging those with diverse, dense population centers elsewhere in the country leads to a foreseeable standard of mediocrity. I say, in a characteristically Amurican fashion, fuck those statistics. And you know what else? The US doesn’t make a lot of “friendliest country” lists, but if you want numbers, how about this: Americans give more of their time and money than anyone else in the world. Consider also that America remains one of the best countries in the world to immigrate to. That might also have to do with why they work so hard: although a slipping opportunity, the American dream still exists. Look at how things like smartphone apps and youtube have socially mobilized individuals and entire companies to economic success, from relatively humble roots. That’s not something that can happen in just any country, and the spirit of it is quintessentially American.

2. The United States is the most innovative country in the world

Yeah,¬†this stat comes from Bloomberg, but… still. Considering everything going against it right now, the U.S. is impressively still at the head of the technology envelope that it’s been pushing for over fifty years. That’s due in no small part to the U.S.’s open-arms immigration, which has fostered the likes of such obscure expat innovators as Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein, and Nikola Tesla.

3. The United States is home to stunning beauty and geographic marvels.

In natural landmarks alone, America has unquantifiable (sometimes mankind-adjusted) wealth: the Grand Canyon, the Great Lakes, the Giant Forest. America is home to vast open plains, expansive mountain ranges, abuts three coastlines against both oceans, and is home to just about every kind of terrain you can imagine, both¬†familiar and alien. So much focus is on Amercia’s tiniest, densest population centers and small towns that it’s easy to forget just how vast it is. The US comes in at just under the total land area of China, but measures at less than a quarter of China in total population. Much of the US’s open land is actually farmland, which maintains America’s position as the breadbasket of the world. This rich mix of natural features has enriched the United States, since its inception, with an incredible level of resource independence.

4. The United States has an incredibly dynamic, if brief, history

The United States is a microcosm of every significant social, political, and cultural development in the modern era. Putting your finger on the pulse of the United States at any time in its history will tell you tremendously about developments around the world, many of which were set in motion by the US itself. The rise of democracy, threats to democracy, the progression of ethnic, racial, and sexual equality, both World Wars, the Depression, the Cold War, globalization. The United States started out as a loose collection of tiny colonies hugging the massive flank of an enormous, unspoiled country that dwarfed and overwhelmed them. Those colonies rose among brutal and unforgiving conditions. The fledgeling nation had some help, but it struggled, it stumbled, it fell, it got up. At the end of the 19th century the United States trailed behind the rest of the “civilized,” developed world. By the end of the 20th century, it led the Western World, running far ahead of its peers. The history of the United States is the history of a nation-as-underdog, the little country that could, and it’s truly awe-inspiring.

5. The United States has created or fostered some of the greatest heroes of the modern age

A lot of people have called America home, and a lot of those people have been truly great patriots. I would define a patriot here not as someone who glorifies the United States for its own sake, but who glorifies the United States in how they choose to represent it. Some patriots grabbed America’s reigns and drove it forward; some patriots rose on America’s back; still others stripped away the gilding of its vast underbelly. Many have inspired, amazed, stirred change, pushed envelopes, caused controversy, and made us question how we view the world. America has produced revolutionaries, military commanders, politicians, inventors, scientists, writers, artists, poets, actors, journalists, reform leaders, social leaders, labor leaders, whistle-blowers. I couldn’t begin to make an exhaustive list of every American who could be described as heroic. Suffice to say that there are a lot.

I stopped myself at five, but there’s one more thing to add, and although it is last, it is by far the most defining element of American culture: a profound love affair with independence.

“Freedom” is not simply a word. It is a philosophy, a determination that every individual is in fact an individual; no one is just a worker, nor just a citizen or a soldier, or any statistical number in the countless demographic labels one could cast from the population group.

Like no other country, America prides the rebel, the revolutionary, the loner, the savant, the one man or woman who stands up from a sea of convention and expresses themselves in a unique way. An American believes that everyone is a person who can make up their own mind and live their own life; anyone who infringes on that, be they a parent, a teacher, an arm of the law, or a president, is not empowered by any ultimate authority that overrides their essential right to be free. An American recognizes that what authority says is right may still be wrong, and America’s greatest literature, music, architecture, and films have challenged the status quo, eviscerated convention, and stuck a big middle finger up to powerful forces that dictated the way things “had to be.”

I hope you savored that mush, because I can only spare so much at any given time. It’s back to doom and gloom next week.

 

 

 

Wait, you know what? I forgot something.

The food.

Hamburjers

Fatty Dig Dogs

Papple Frie
Finger-Lickin Chickin's Pickin's

 

Since the industrial revolution, Americans have binged on lunch-break-quick, deep-fried, fatty foods. You really did need those calories in order to work fourteen-hour days seven days a week (see #1 and #4). That’s not so much the case anymore (well, not for everyone), but this frankly indulgent food has become a staple of American culture.

Sure, these things may be unhealthy, fattening ‘fast-food,’ nearly the opposite of the ‘gourmet’ dishes so many countries are proud of.

Fuck your gourmet. Shit’s delicious.