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Andrea Mazzarino, The Right-Wing’s Attempt to Militarize American Politics

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Once upon a time, if you had told me about it, I would have thought you were joking — and I would have considered it among the worst jokes ever told. On my mind is the ad recently posted on Facebook and Twitter by the Republican Senate campaign of former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens (who resigned less than two years after taking office “amid allegations of sexually assaulting and blackmailing a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair”). In it, you see him standing on the front porch of a house, dressed normally but holding a shotgun. Around him are what look like well-armed Special Operations forces. He identifies himself as a former Navy SEAL and then his companions promptly bust down the front door, as explosions go off. Greitens walks into the house, saying, “Today, we’re going RINO hunting… Join the MAGA crew, get a RINO hunting permit. There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.”

RINO, of course, stands for “Republican in name only,” the insulting term for any Republican — think Adam Kinzinger or Liz Cheney on the House January 6th committee — who doesn’t back to the hilt former President Trump and his mad election claims.  And MAGA, in case you’ve forgotten, was The Donald’s 2016 election slogan, Make America Great Again — emphasis on that “again.” At the time, it was an American politician’s unique implicit admission that this country was on the decline, a claim that turned out to ring a distinct bell among so many voters.

And keep in mind that, in the America of 2022, Greitens is anything but alone in such a vision of armed madness personified. Consider it a sign of what TomDispatch regular Andrea Mazzarino, co-founder of the invaluable Costs of War Project, calls our “anger problem.” Let her explain. Tom

America’s Anger Problem

Dealing with Trump’s Occupation of All Too Many American Hearts and Minds

Increasingly, it seems, Americans have an anger problem. All too many of us now have the urge to use name-calling, violent social-media posts, threats, baseball bats, and guns to do what we once did with persuasion and voting. For example, during the year after Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, threats of violence or even death against lawmakers of both parties increased more than fourfold. And too often, the call to violence seems to come from the top. Recently, defendants in cases involving extremist violence have claimed that an elected leader or pundit "told" them to do it. In a country where a sitting president would lunge at his own security detail in rage, I guess this isn't so surprising anymore. Emotion rules the American political scene and so many now tend to shoot from the hip without even knowing why.

Increasing numbers of us, however, respond to the growing extremity of the moment by avoiding the latest headlines and civic engagement, fearful that some trauma will befall us, even by witnessing "the news." As a psychotherapist who works with veterans and military families, I often speak with folks who have decided to limit their news intake or have stopped following the news altogether. Repeated mass shootings in places ranging from schools to houses of worship combined with the increased visibility and influence of militias at theoretically peaceful demonstrations can be more scarring than the wounds soldiers once sustained in combat zones.

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William Astore, Up in Arms and Armor in America

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Consider this a rarity. In my introductions to TomDispatch pieces, I’ve seldom quoted myself, but in April 2021 I wrote a piece I called “Slaughter Central” and, as a lead-in to retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, historian, and TomDispatch regular William Astore’s thoughts on the mad Republican response to the recent school slaughter in Uvalde, Texas, let me offer these excerpts from it. Sadly enough, I wouldn’t change a word.

“By the time you read this piece, it will already be out of date. The reason’s simple enough. No matter what mayhem I describe, with so much all-American weaponry in this world of ours, there’s no way to keep up. Often, despite the headlines that go with mass killings here, there’s almost no way even to know.

“On this planet of ours, America is the emperor of weaponry, even if in ways we normally tend not to put together. There’s really no question about it. The all-American powers-that-be and the arms makers that go with them dream up, produce, and sell weaponry, domestically and internationally, in an unmatched fashion. You’ll undoubtedly be shocked, shocked to learn that the top five arms makers on the planet — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics — are all located in the United States.

“Put another way, we’re a killer nation, a mass-murder machine, slaughter central…

“Before we head abroad or think more about weaponry fit to destroy the planet (or at least human life on it), let’s just start right here at home. After all, we live in a country whose citizens are armed to their all-too-labile fingertips with more guns of every advanced sort than might once have been imaginable. The figures are stunning. Even before the pandemic hit and gun purchases soared to record levels — about 23 million of them (a 64% increase over 2019 sales) — American civilians were reported to possess almost 400 million firearms. That adds up to about 40% of all such weaponry in the hands of civilians globally, or more than the next 25 countries combined.

“And if that doesn’t stagger you, note that the versions of those weapons in public hands are becoming ever more militarized and powerful, ever more AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, not .22s. And keep in mind as well that, over the years, the death toll from those weapons in this country has grown staggeringly large. As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote recently, ‘More Americans have died from guns just since 1975, including suicides, murders and accidents (more than 1.5 million), than in all the wars in United States history, dating back to the Revolutionary War (about 1.4 million).’

“…Think of all of this as a single weaponized, well-woven fabric, a single American gun culture that spans the globe… Much as mass shootings and public killings can sometimes dominate the news here, a full sense of the damage done by the weaponization of our culture seldom comes into focus. When it does, the United States looks like slaughter central.”

And with that in mind, let Astore, who also runs the Bracing Views blog, take you into the response from hell to that reality, the “hardening” of American schools. Tom

Why Going “Hard” Is Taking the Easy Way Out

Hardening Schools and Arming Teachers Is the Wrong Approach

American schools are soft, you say? I know what you mean. I taught college for 15 years, so I’ve dealt with my share of still-teenagers fresh out of high school. Many of them inspired me, but some had clearly earned high marks too easily and needed remedial help in math, English, or other subjects. School discipline had been too lax perhaps and standards too slack, because Johnny and Janey often couldn’t or wouldn’t read a book, though they sure could text, tweet, take selfies, and make videos.

Oh, wait a sec, that’s not what you meant by “soft,” is it? You meant soft as in “soft target” in the context of mass school shootings, the most recent being in Uvalde, Texas. Prominent Republicans like Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz have highlighted the supposed softness of American schools, their vulnerability to shooters armed with military-style assault rifles and intent on mass murder.

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Rajan Menon, One War Too Many on Planet Earth

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: A last reminder that a signed, personalized copy of To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change, Alfred McCoy’s already classic history of empire from the 16th century to this moment, is still available at the TomDispatch donation page, as is John Feffer’s Splinterlands trilogy of dystopian novels and his latest work of nonfiction, Right Across the World.  It’s the perfect chance to stock up on summer reading and, while you’re at it, keep TomDispatch rolling along. Tom]

Consider two odd realities of the Ukraine war in this country. The first is that a Congress otherwise seemingly incapable of agreeing to spend money on issues that would truly matter to so many Americans — like easing child poverty — has proven remarkably eager to repeatedly fork over striking sums in military and humanitarian aid to the embattled Ukrainians. By mid-May, such aid had hit $54 billion and another billion will soon be heading out. Yes, indeed, the Ukrainians deserve support against the brutal Russian invasion, but so, you would think, do embattled American children.

The second is that the war that ate the news when Vladimir Putin’s invasion began in February — that seemed unavoidable if you turned on your TV or simply opened your computer — the war that every news outlet wanted to cover nightly at length with its top journalists or even anchors, is if anything, fiercer and more devastating now. Yet, on most nights, it’s little more than a footnote in the news. Still, whether headlined or footnoted, it rages on, all too near the heart of Europe and — from the continuing overuse of fossil fuels on a heating planet to the possibility of widespread starvation across significant parts of our world thanks to missing Ukrainian and Russian grains — all too dangerously for the rest of us.

At this point in our history, such a war is a kind of madness, even if that madness has largely become a footnote in our lives. With that in mind, TomDispatch regular Rajan Menon (who was, I believe, the first person to reveal how the Russian invasion might induce starvation across significant parts of the planet) considers a subject that should be of importance to us all: How might the Ukraine war actually end someday, for end it must, mustn’t it? On this planet at this time, it can’t happen fast enough, although the Biden administration seems in no hurry to begin working diplomatically to try to hasten its end. Tom

Ending the War in Ukraine

Three Possible Futures

When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, I was easing my way into a new job and in the throes of the teaching year. But that war quickly hijacked my life. I spend most of my day poring over multiple newspapers, magazines, blogs, and the Twitter feeds of various military mavens, a few of whom have been catapulted by the war from obscurity to a modicum of fame. Then there are all those websites to check out, their color-coded maps and daily summaries catching that conflict's rapid twists and turns.

Don't think I'm writing this as a lament, however. I'm lucky. I have a good, safe life and follow events there from the comfort of my New York apartment. For Ukrainians, the war is anything but a topic of study. It's a daily, deadly presence. The lives of millions of people who live in or fled the war zone have been shattered. As all of us know too well, many of that country's cities have been badly damaged or lie in ruins, including people's homes and apartment buildings, the hospitals they once relied on when ill, the schools they sent their children to, and the stores where they bought food and other basic necessities.  Even churches have been hit. In addition, nearly 13 million Ukrainians (including nearly two-thirds of all its children) are either displaced in their own country or refugees in various parts of Europe, mainly Poland. Millions of lives, in other words, have been turned inside out, while a return to anything resembling normalcy now seems beyond reach.

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