Hamid Karzai is demanding an explanation for the “assasination” of numerous Afghan civilians, including several little girls, by a rampaging US soldier who evidently just went door to door, shooting whoever he happened upon. What could Obama possibly say? “Nothing personal, that’s just how we roll in the USA”? Just in the past week or so, we’ve seen a school shooting in Ohio, a college clinic shooting in Pennsylvania, and a courthouse shooting in Washington state. (We’re also “number one” in serial killers, for what it’s worth.)
I’m serious here: Afghan officials are (reasonably, in their in their minds) requesting an explanation for something that, for most Americans, requires no explanation. It seems normal to us that, relatively regularly, an armed male will go on an indiscriminate shooting rampage. Each of these episodes is seen as an ultimately unexplainable anomaly even as they are collectively accepted as a kind of normal (albeit horrific) periodic natural disaster.
It doesn’t look that way from the outside. Which provokes me to wonder: What would it take for Americans to see themselves as others do or even to look more critically at themselves, regardless of what others think? Short of something like losing World War II, what does it take for members of a violent culture to inquire deeply into the sources of the violence that seems so natural to them?
Because, of course, there are all sorts of things we could do, individually and collectively, to undermine the sources of violence in our everyday lives. But for those kinds of actions to add up to substantial cultural change, they’ve got to be undertaken by a sufficient number of the people who co-create the culture through their collective choices every day. And for that to happen, maybe, there needs to be an awareness of both the bad news that something’s gone wrong and the good news that the way things are right now isn’t how they always have to be. Both require the knowledge that what happens to be normal here and now isn’t the only possibility.
How might artists and activists make that manifest? Any ideas?
(Let’s count this as part 2 in the “to be real” series.)