By Nathan Barton
More and more of the world has fallen into a state which can be considered either wartime or peacetime, depending on your view, your opinions, and a lot of other factors.
We see it now in Canaan, on both the Gaza and Israeli sides of the line. We find it in Venezuela, especially in recent weeks. It is the typical state of affairs in the United Mexican States, Iraq, Libya, Sri Lanka, and many other places. At times it can even be said to be the condition in places like France and Turkey and Zimbabwe. And then of course we have Ukraine, and some of the Russian republics.
Some people say these places are at war – others view it as just various levels of confrontation and low-level violence. In many places, the actual level of violence is less than what is “normal life” in some places. Such as Chicago. Or Florida.
It is often all in the view of the beholder. And it doesn’t just apply to war or peace. A similar confused interpretation of events is found in dealing with crimes. What is “normal” and what is deserving of special condemnation? Why are some humans’ deaths “more important” than others?
Consider this situation from my part of the country. Metro Denver, with a population pushing 1.5 million or more, is a community well-known for the Columbine Massacre 20 years ago, and the Aurora Theater killings in 2012. A Wikipedia article is a “List of Shootings in Colorado” which I looked at on 30 May 2019. Although it doesn’t explicitly state so, it is easy to think that is is a list of “mass shootings.” It contains info on a total of 14 incidents, including both the Columbine and Aurora attacks. It includes both the Sand Creek Massacre (of Cheyenne and Arapaho) in 1864 and the Ludlow Massacre (of striking miners) in 1914. It also includes the very recent STEM school attack of 7 May 2019 (1 dead and 8 others wounded). And a shooting and killing of 3 people at a Thornton Walmart in 2017 (Thornton is a suburb of Denver). It was last updated just three days after the STEM attack.
It is, however, a very selective list. For example, last Thursday (23rd of May, 2019) three members of a family were shot to death in their home in Southwest Denver. Yet that attack (a) did not get national news coverage – and very little even in Colorado, and (b) is not listed in the Wikipedia article. Yet the three dead in Thornton is. The list contains shootings in which no one actually died, and few (1-2 were wounded), or in which one of the two people killed was the shooter. It includes a single report of a police killing in which one officer was killed and one wounded.
Yet it also leaves out many “shootings” of importance and significance. For example, the Meeker Massacre of 1879 is not listed. In that rather treacherous attack, a group of Utes gunned down eleven men, while taking a like number of women and children hostage. It was followed by an ambush by those Utes on a squadron of the US Army, in which more on both sides were killed (the Battle of Milk Creek Canyon). Other examples include the dozens of law enforcement officers killed over more than 150 years, and the far larger numbers of rustlers, cattle ranchers and cowboys, sheepherders, cavalrymen and infantrymen, fur traders, horse-thieves, raiders, hold-up artists (stage and railroad), claimjumpers, and more. And in more modern times, gangsters and bootleggers and gangbangers.
Indeed, there are some especially bizarre examples of homicide by gun that Colorado should be infamous for: Grand County, where the Sheriff and one County Commissioner ambushed and killed the other two County Commissioners. And Archuleta County, where a County Commissioner defeated for reelection raised an invading army in New Mexico to stay in power – killing various people in the process.
And in doing so, it gives a very false impression of Colorado and death. Including the fact that you were in far greater danger of getting killed by gunfire in Colorado in 1859 and 1909 and even 1949 and 1989 than you are in 2019. Even in Metro Denver, and even in the worst barrios and ghettos of that part of Colorado.
The Fifty States – no, America – is and has been a violent society. This violent nature existed when it was expressed with flint knives and rocks tied to sticks with rawhide, when it was done with spears and arrows, muskets and Kentucky rifles, swords, artillery, and firearms of every sort.
But America was and is not alone. One reason we are prone to violence (whether one-on-one, or groups) is because our ancestors were. Whether they came across the Bering Straits in hide boats, across the Pacific in reed or bamboo, across the Atlantic in wooden hulls (above decks or in slave cargo holds) or 777 aircraft, across the Carib in whatever, or with wet backs or torn knees from crossing from Mexico. The modern immigrant (whether a border jumper or green card holder) is no less violent than those whose ancestors came across thousands or years ago – or in the 1800s.
It is pointed out by many that “America” (the Fifty States) is and has been a very militaristic society, and this cannot be denied. It is also true that few if any periods in American history have been free of war – not “declared war” but actual combat. Whether we want to admit we are at war, or not. This includes both internal and external war, and there is no reason to believe that it will change.
Many (not all) of the reasons for violence here in the Fifty States can be laid at the feet of governments: local, state, and national. Though sins of both omission and commission. Governments create problems and fail to address problems, both. Most important, governments can seldom prevent violence. They can only do violent acts themselves and react to violence. And all too often their response is the wrong one.