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In an earlier essay about three weeks ago, I wrote in part on the increasing inability, as it seems to me, of people in our times to live with themselves and with their thoughts. Other commentators have spoken of this age as one of ‘instant gratification’, but I would underscore the word ‘instant’.  Even ‘thoughts’ must be shared instantly.  That essay was prompted by some reflections on the news that the British government had effectively appointed a “minister of loneliness”. Those who are not afflicted by cancer, diabetes, obesity, or a heart condition may nevertheless be overcome by loneliness.  I distinguished between solitude, the virtues of which have been extolled by writers across generations and cultures, and loneliness—the latter a largely modern-day pathology.  Loneliness is not singular either: there is the loneliness that one experiences when one arrives in a large city, knowing no one and feeling somewhat adrift; there is also the loneliness one sometimes feels amidst a very large crowd of people, even a crowd of well-wishers or fellow travelers; and then there is the loneliness in moments of intimacy.  Perhaps some moments of loneliness are also critical for self-realization:  it is, I suspect, only when loneliness becomes the norm that it starts to take on the characteristics of a pathology.

Solitude may perhaps be similarly parsed, but my subject at present is the prison cell and the education that the Reverend James M. Lawson, who turns 90 tomorrow, derived from his time after his first prison term following his arrest and conviction for resistance to the draft in 1950.  I do not speak here of solitary confinement, which in the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries alike is nothing but barbarism, but of the prison as a site of reflection, education, contemplation, quietude, as much as a site where revolutionaries have often been made.  The movie industry, to the contrary, has largely feasted on the idea of the prison as a place where criminals are hardened, the will of political prisoners is broken, men are sodomized and women raped, and sadistic prison guards rule like little kings.  In what follows, in two parts, I relay the conversation that transpired between Rev. Lawson and myself, first around Nelson Mandela and Robben Island, and then on the circumstances that led to Lawson’s own confinement to Mill Point Federal Prison in West Virginia.  Our very first conversation took place a few days after the passing of Nelson Mandela in early December 2012; it has been only slightly edited:

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Nelson Mandela, on his return to his cell at Robben Island in 1994, after being elected as the first President of a free South Africa.  Photo:  Jurgen Schadeberg/Getty Images.

VL:  I just want to go back to Mandela for a moment.  I think whatever one might say about Mandela and the founding of the Umkhonto we Sizwe [the armed wing of the African National Congress], and his decision to embrace violence alongside nonviolence—Mandela was very clear that nonviolence would not be given up entirely—so, whatever one might say about all of that, I think to most people the Mandela that comes to mind is the man who walked out of prison after an eternity in there.  Those years in Robben Island—those become the heroic years.  There are, very often, two kinds of outcomes when people have spent many years in jail, the better part of their lives behinds bars.  One is, they come out really bitter.  And, very often, we know that this has been one of the critiques of the prison system… I mean, other than the kind of argument, which I think you and I are familiar with, and we need not enter into at the present moment, and that’s about the so-called prison industrial complex, about the fact that the prison construction industry is one of the largest revenue earners for the state of California—the whole relationship between the prison complex and capitalism and so on… And I think that those are very important and interesting questions. But, here we are interested in the other outcome, something that may be seen from the life of Mandela.  He came out of prison not just, in a manner of speaking, ‘intact’, however reservedly one might use that word; he came out of it, remarkably, with a more enhanced sense of the need for inclusiveness in a new South Africa.

JL: Stronger in his character and his visions…

RobbenIslandPrisonMuseum

VL: And I daresay this is where his generosity is most palpable…  You know, the way in which he decides to handle certain problems, the way in which he decides to look at the whole issue of, well, what are we going to do with the Afrikaners now, what will be the place of white people in this society?… And this is where, as I said, his sense of inclusiveness is really very palpable. Much the same can be said for people like Gandhi, King, Nehru, and many others who spent [time in jail].

JL: Also, Castro.

VL: Castro… I hadn’t quite thought of him in this regard, but you may be right, when we think of the two years to which he was confined to jail by Bautista.  But many people who served fairly long prison terms, they actually –in the case of Gandhi, I am quite certain of that because I’ve looked  at his life in very great detail, I think that he almost welcomed prison terms because . . .

JL: He did.

VL: . . . it helped him to renew his sense of life, it energized him, it also gave him solitude; he was far from the maddening crowds, it gave him time for deep introspection and reflection.  And I think that this is what happens in Mandela’s life, too.  Now, here perhaps Mandela had far too much time for introspection, so to speak, because I have the distinct feeling that one of the things that happened is that Mandela really was no longer in contact with what was happening in the wider world outside; he no longer had the full pulse of the nation he would later have guide through the first flush of freedom.

JL: But, but, he turns Robben Island into what they called at one point the University.

VL:  Absolutely.

JL:  The prisoners, sharing what they did know, really engaged in long conversations about their situation, about their country, about their philosophy.  And that, of course, he may have learned from Gandhi.  I learned it from Gandhi. And that is very clear in Gandhi’s life.  I’ll never forget the first time I was arrested in Nashville, in 1960.  I was physically exhausted, though very intellectually and spiritually alive.  And I welcomed the knowledge that the police issued a warrant for me. And we arranged for us to do it jointly. And I went to First Baptist Church, and I was arrested out of First Baptist Church; but I had an armful of books with me that my wife had brought to me from home, and she came to the church.  And as I got arrested, there was a great sigh of relief, and I had these books… and when I hit the jail, my first impulse was, first of all, to sleep through the night, get up in the morning, and begin over with the books. And I’ve read that in Gandhi as well. I’ve read that about Gandhi on two or three occasions.  He welcomed jail in the Champaran campaign. He came to the court ready to go to jail because he knew it was going to be a time for him to do reflection and the rest of it… rejuvenate himself there in the isolation that he would have.

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Yerwada Central Jai, Pune, where Gandhi was confined more than once.

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VL: And he’d had that experience already in South Africa.

JL: That’s right. Exactly.

VL: You’re right by the way about the prison yard at Robben Island being turned into a university.  There’s an Indian sociologist in South Africa by the name of Ashwin Desai, a good friend of mine, who published a book very recently last year [2011], called “Reading Revolution:  Shakespeare on Robben Island”.

JL:  Oh, really!  My goodness!

VL:   And this whole book is really a study of how people like Mandela and Tambo and Ahmad Kathrada and many others, how they actually read Shakespeare and discussed Shakespeare and each person marked their favorite passage.  Because, of course, to read Shakespeare is also to enter into discussions of ethics, political rebellions, and the whole idea of—we were talking about it earlier—assassinations, as an example.  So, I think that what you are saying is absolutely on the mark.  Nevertheless, I think there are some serious questions that have to be entertained, such as Mandela’s views on globalization–what did he really understand by globalization? Because I think, to some extent, Mandela was not sufficiently aware of the manner in which the world has changed in the long years that he was actually confined to prison. When you look at Mandela’s economic policies, what I would call something of a capitulation to free-market policies takes place rather quickly.

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The Robben Island Shakespeare was wrapped in a cover with images of Hindu deities.

(to be continued)

 

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RevJamesLawsonAtVanderbilt

 The Reverend James M. Lawson of Los Angeles is quite likely the greatest living exponent of nonviolent resistance in the United States, and he turns a glorious 90 on September 22nd.  This is as good a time as any to pay tribute to a person who has the distinction, though it has never been acknowledged as such, of having been a dedicated and rigorous practitioner of nonviolence for longer (nearly seven decades, by my reckoning) than anyone else in recorded American history.

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Most scholarly histories of the American Civil Rights movement have recognized the distinct contribution of Rev. Lawson, presently Pastor Emeritus of the Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles’ Adams District, as one of the most influential architects of the movement.  In his dense, indeed exhaustive, narrative of the Freedom Rides, Raymond Arsenault recounts how James Lawson, who commenced his nonviolent training workshops in the late 1950s, gathered what would become a stellar group of young African American men and women—Diane Nash, John Lewis, Bernard Lafayette, John Bevel, among others—around him in Nashville.  Martin Luther King Jr. himself acknowledged Lawson’s Nashville group as “the best organized and most disciplined in the Southland,” and King and other activists were “dazzled” by Lawson’s “concrete visions of social justice and ‘the beloved community’” (Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, Oxford UP, 2006, p. 87).

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Rev. Lawson (in sunglasses, front) with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and others at the James Meredith March Against Fear, Mississippi.

Andrew Young similarly speaks of Lawson in glowing terms as the chief instigator of the sit-ins and “as an expert on Gandhian philosophy” who “was instrumental in organizing our Birmingham nonviolent protest workshops”; Lawson was, as Young avers, “an old friend of the movement” when, in 1968, he invited King to Memphis to speak in support of the sanitation workers’ strike (see An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America, HarperCollins Publishers, 1996).  Most strikingly, the chapter on the campaign for civil rights in the American South in Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall’s global history of nonviolent resistance, A Force More Powerful (St. Martin’s Press, 2000), is focused not on King, James Farmer, A. Philip Randolph, or Roy Wilkins, to mention four of those who have been styled among the “Big Six”, but rather unexpectedly revolves around the critical place of Lawson’s extraordinary nonviolence training workshops—most recently featured in the feature film, Lee Daniels’ The Butler—in giving rise to what became some of the most characteristic expressions of nonviolent resistance, among them the sit-ins, the freedom rides, and the strategy of packing jails with dissenters.  Ackerman and Luvall echo the sentiments of Lafayette, who credited Lawson with creating “a nonviolent academy, equivalent to West Point”; they pointedly add that though Lawson was “a man of faith, he approached the tasks of nonviolent conflict like a man of science” (pp. 316-17).

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A mug shot of Rev. James M. Lawson after he was arrested in Mississippi for his role in the Freedom Rides.  Source:  https://breachofpeace.com/blog/?p=18

It is no exaggeration to suggest that King derived much of his understanding of Gandhi from Bayard Rustin and Rev. Lawson, though most histories mention only Rustin in this regard.  John D’Emilio’s exhaustive biography, Lost ProphetThe Life and Times of Bayard Rustin (New York:  Free Press, 2003) affirms what has long been known about King, namely that he “knew nothing” about Gandhian nonviolence even as he was preparing to launch the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  D’Emilio states that “Rustin’s Gandhian credentials were impeccable”, and it fell upon Rustin to initiate the process that would transform King “into the most illustrious American proponent of nonviolence in the twentieth century.”  Though Rustin’s command over the Gandhian literature is scarcely in question, the more critical role of Lawson in bringing King to a critical awareness of the Gandhian philosophy of satyagraha, and more generally in inflecting Christian traditions of nonviolence with the teachings of Gandhi and other vectors of the Indian tradition, has been obscured.

Uniquely among the great figures of the Civil Rights Movement, as I noted in an essay penned last year, Lawson spent three formative years in his early twenties in central India.  As a college student in the late 1940s, Lawson discovered Christian nonviolence, most emphatically in the person of A. J. Muste, who was dubbed “the No. 1 US Pacifist” by Time in 1939 and would go on to be at the helm of every major movement of resistance to war from the 1920s until the end of the Vietnam War.  Lawson was a conscientious objector during the Korean War and spent over a year in jail; as Andrew Young remarks, “His stand on the Korean War was courageous and unusual in the African-American community” (An Easy Burden, p. 126).  Lawson spoke to me about his year in jail at considerable length during the course of our fourteen meetings from 2013-16 during which we conversed for something like 26 hours, and in future essays I shall turn to some of these conversations.  Following his release from jail, Lawson, who had trained as a Methodist Minister, left for India where for three years he served as an athletic coach at Hislop College, Nagpur, originally founded in 1883 as a Presbyterian school.  He deepened his understanding of Gandhi and met at length with several of Gandhi’s key associates, including Vinoba Bhave.  When he returned to the US in June 1956, Lawson uniquely embodied within himself two strands that would converge in the Civil Rights movement:  Christian nonviolence and Gandhian satyagraha.  Lawson was never in doubt that satyagraha was to be viewed as a highly systematic inquiry into, and practice of, nonviolent resistance.

Strangely, notwithstanding Reverend Lawson’s place in the Civil Rights Movement and American public life more generally, very little systematic work has been done on his life and, in particular, on his six decades of experience as a theoretician and practitioner of nonviolent resistance.  It is worth recalling that Lawson was a student of Gandhian ideas and more generally of the literature of nonviolence several years before King’s ascent into public prominence; five decades after the assassination of King, he regularly conducts workshops on nonviolence .  No American life, in this respect, is comparable to his.

I shall be writing on Rev. Lawson often, I hope, in the weeks ahead. Meanwhile, I offer him my warmest felicitations on his 90th birthday!

 

For previous essays on Rev. Lawson on this blog, see:

The Nashville Sit-ins:

https://vinaylal.wordpress.com/2017/09/23/the-nashville-sit-ins-the-workshop-of-nonviolence-in-jim-crow-america/

and “Martin Luther King and the Challenge of Nonviolence”:

https://vinaylal.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/martin-luther-king-and-the-challenge-of-nonviolence/

 

 

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The US Open Women’s Final on Saturday between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka was as unusual a match as any in the annals of professional tennis history and has generated an intense commentary which will doubtless continue for the next few days and, among tennis professionals, into the foreseeable future.   Let me state at the outset that, with this brief essay, I do not intend to contribute to the chatter in the ordinary fashion; rather, I intend to focus on one issue, “racquet abuse”, and pursue the philosophical and cultural implications of this idea.  Let us dispense quickly, for the benefit of those readers who have little interest in tennis and have not kept abreast of the “controversy”, with the fundamentals:  the match pitted Serena Williams, who had 23 Grand Slam singles titles and was in quest of her 24th, which would have tied her with Margaret Court for the world record, against 20-year old Naomi Osaka of Japan who was in the final of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.  At their only previous meeting, earlier this year, Osaka had defeated Williams quite handily; but the latter, who had given birth to a daughter just months ago, was not quite in her element.  The outcome at the US Open was expected to be rather different.

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Williams was down by one set, and—though the outcome of tennis matches, as indeed of other sporting matches, is often uncertain except when the match is extremely lopsided—the young Osaka was most likely on her way to a victory in the second set and thus the match when trouble erupted.  Williams got called for a violation of the rules by the veteran Umpire, Carlos Ramos, on the grounds that she had received illegal coaching from the stands.  Williams denied that she had received such coaching, and told Ramos that she would rather lose a match than win it by cheating.  Some 10-15 minutes later, unable to capitalize on the service break she had achieved and finding herself being outplayed by Osaka, she smashed her racquet on the ground and was docked a point for “racquet abuse”.  It is immaterial whether Williams was expressing her frustration at squandering her advantage, or whether she felt outraged at what she perceived to be the insinuation that she was violating the rules or, quite simply, cheating.  Her heated words at Ramos would turn into a volley of recriminations; her “rant”, as it is being called, can be heard clearly on video.  She threatened Ramos that she would see to it that he would never again preside over any of her matches:  one hopes, whatever one’s view of the matter, and for the sake of the integrity of the game—or whatever integrity is possible in an age when professional sports is only another form of blood-capitalism—that such a threat will never be acted upon.  Indeed, it is imperative that Ramos should be called upon to preside over another Serena Williams’ match, unless the tennis world is prepared to capitulate to the whims and dicta of a sporting superstar.  And, then, to cap it all, Williams went on to call Ramos a “thief”, since she had been docked a point.  For this third violation of “verbal abuse”, Ramos, playing by the rule book, docked her an entire game.  Williams went on to lose, 6-2, 6-4.

We need not be detained by the details, and there is much in this set of events that calls for an extended commentary.  The words “sexism” and “racism” are in the air, quite predictably so, but let me turn to the little explored question of “racquet abuse”.  The discussions thus far in the public domain have focused on whether docking a point for breaking one’s racquet from a player’s score sheet is an excessive penalty or should even invite a penalty at all. The common, all too common, view is that players are “human”, as though this were not a self-evident truth, and that in the heat of the moment a player might lose his or her cool.  The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rulebook sets out the player’s code in Chapter 8, and the portion on “Racquet or Equipment Abuse” appears under “Offenses” and states the following:

Racquet or Equipment Abuse i) Players shall not violently, dangerously or with anger hit, kick or throw a racquet or other equipment within the precincts of the tournament site. For purposes of this rule, abuse of racquets or equipment is defined as intentionally, dangerously and violently destroying or damaging racquets or equipment or intentionally and violently hitting the net, court, umpire’s chair or other fixture during a match out of anger or frustration. ii) Violation of this section shall subject a player to a fine up to $500 for each violation. In addition, if such violation occurs during a match [emphasis added], the player shall be penalized in accordance with the Point Penalty Schedule.

Ramos was, then, clearly within his rights in penalizing Williams for “racquet abuse” by issuing a point against her, as specified in the Point Penalty Schedule.  (Note:  I am aware that professional women tennis players fall under the jurisdiction of the WTA, Women’s Tennis Association, but the rulebook is one and the same.)  But just exactly what is “racquet abuse” and why should it incur a penalty at all?  It is understandable that, had Serena threatened to hit another player with her racquet, she would have been called out for her offence—and that the penalty would have been far more stringent.  Let us suppose that she had destroyed communal property:  here, too, it is unlikely that anyone would have disputed the decision to penalize her.  But Williams destroyed her own racquet and in common law one’s possessions and property are for one to dispose as one pleases.  There may well be circumstances under which the state might prevent one from treating one’s own property or possessions as purely one’s own and might even claim jurisdiction over them.  If, for instance, I was in possession of the sole copy of the first Bible printed in the Americas, or I had made my home in the oldest surviving building in the state of California, I might well be prevented on pain of severe punishment from burning the Bible or tearing the building down and using the lumber for my fireplace.  Yet the most that can be said of Williams is that she squandered a few hundred dollars:  more likely, given capitalism’s voracious appetite for pecuniary inventiveness, the destroyed autographed racquet will end up on the auction block and become worth a few thousand dollars overnight. For all we know, it may even be used to raise some money in the name of charity, or it may find a place in a museum.

The answer to the question is obvious:  racquet abuse calls for a penalty because it shows the lack of sportsmanship.  This answer is, not so obviously, little more than drivel.  We are not living in an age of chivalry; the very word, “chivalry”, is no longer part of the lexicon of most modern societies.  (Ladies, in any case, cannot be chivalrous; that quality is strictly a masculine preserve.) The idea of “sportsmanship” is attractive in the abstract but it exists only to be violated, mocked, and transgressed at every turn.   Patrick Mouratoglou, who showed not the slightest hesitation in admitting that he had indeed been coaching his pupil from the stands, giving it as his justification that every coach did so, had something rather more revealing to say:  “It is not a big deal breaking a racquet.  She [Serena] will struggle to get back from this.”  The fact that he thinks is it “not a big deal” suggests to me that there is something seriously amiss.  Mouratoglou, I make bold to say, exemplifies the modern condition:  he is only functionally literate, and thought is entirely alien to him.  He is, of course, far from being the only one partaking of this sinister condition.

Williams has made her living from tennis racquets and acquired a fortune in the process.  Her disrespect for the humble racquet is all the more disturbing for that reason.  I suspect that a racquet to her is only an object which serves a purpose; it exists to be instrumentalized.  Not surprisingly, Williams has a habit of abusing her racquet: in 2014, during a WTA final against Caroline Wozniacki, she smashed it repeatedly on the ground and after the match explained with a hint of thrill in her voice, “I don’t know how many times I hit it but, boy, that racket will never do me wrong again.” Her racquet is to her also a disposable object, purely inanimate.  There is a story to be told about homo consumerus, with a nod to the orgiastic delights of shopping experienced by certain specimens of homo erectus, but I have a different story to relate at this juncture.

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A garlanded tool at Vishwakarma Puja, Delhi.  Source:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Iy3vUwSrmw [video footage]

That story begins with an exploration of the worker and her tools.  Vishwakarma Puja, the Indian ‘festival’ which is observed in factories, workshops, and industrial areas, has always struck me as one of the more inspired instantiations of worship.  Vishwakarma is the divine architect, credited with having built the city of Dwarka and crafted the weapons of the Gods.  In much of India, especially northern and eastern India, during the annual Vishwakarma Puja workers—carpenters, welders, mechanics, electricians, smiths, artisans, electrical engineers, network engineers, and others—lay aside their tools and worship them.  This is a grateful admission of the fact that the worker acknowledges the life-giving properties of his or her tools.

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Vishwarkarma Puja, Amrtisar, 2012.  Source:  https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/vishwakarma-day-keeps-all-markets-closed-today-121403-2012-11-14

It is singularly interesting, then, that the professional tennis players’ code includes a provision against “racquet abuse”, a provision all the more arresting in that it specifies that a player may not even abuse or throw the racquet “in anger”.  My own view is that modern culture, which is nothing if not barbarous in its self-aggrandizing and narcissistic drives, often retains a place, howsoever unself-consciously, for characteristically pre-modern ways of thinking. The ATP code is but a reflection of norms from which we have all become distanced, never more so when money does all the talking. Serena Williams owes, I dare say, a great many apologies, most evidently to the young Naomi Osaka and the Umpire Carlos Ramos.  But her road to redemption can only begin with an apology to the humble racquet with which she crafted an entire universe for herself and her adoring fans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
https://www.atpworldtour.com/-/media/files/rulebook/2017/2017-atp-rulebook.pdf

 

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John McCain, a Vietnam War veteran, a “real gentleman”, and “an American hero”, was laid to rest on Saturday.  Since he passed away a week ago the previous Saturday, the media has been awash with eulogies and celebrations of his life.  In a ‘bitterly divided Washington’—an argument sensible only to those who are strongly of the view that Democrats and Republicans are from different planets, or at least have very little in common, never mind their shared love for unvarnished capitalism, gun culture, military prowess, and much else—what the Americans call “bipartisanship” has always been spoken of as some desirable objective, and the adulatory tone that has been adopted throughout the last few days in writing about McCain owes much to the fact that he spoke, or is alleged to have spoken, to those across the aisle.  Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times’ headline read, “Farewell to John McCain transcends partisanship.”  “A Rare Moment of Unity Inside the Capital”, noted the New York Times as it recounted the “dignity, seriousness and respect” with which the deceased senior senator from Arizona was remembered in the Capitol at a time when these qualities are “so lacking in American politics.”  The same newspaper described him as a “towering statesman”, though the article in question offers barely any hint of what made him either “towering” or even a “statesman”. One hopes that the definition of a statesman in the United States of America has not been reduced to “a public figure who is quite unlike President Donald J. Trump.”

It is entirely possible, indeed probable, that John McCain was in private life everything he has been described:  a devoted husband, a father who got along famously well with his children, a man who remembered his friends and was generous in spirit, and someone who acted with civility most if not all of the time.  These are all doubtless admirable qualities and one presumes that McCain will be remembered with affection and fond memories among those who knew him.  He would not be the first person, however, to be in the possession of such qualities.  It is instructive to remember that the hundreds of thousands of German men implicated in the work of the Nazi regime were perfectly good fathers:  in fact, most of them came back after a hard day’s work to share food, prayer, and Christian thoughts with their family at the dinner table.  Since McCain was an eminently political figure with a long history of public service and is among a few dozen people in the history of the US who has been honored with what is a state funeral, it behooves us to ask what it implies for a man such as him to have been practically raised to the level of a saint.  McCain has been buried; but if the United States, still a young country (if the oldest constitutional democracy), hopes to arrest its precipitous decline into senescence, it would be best if it digs up a few questions, sooner rather than later, about him.

I shall not call this article “The John McCain you never knew”.  Everything I have to say is a matter of public record; one need not search for state secrets, or resort to the Freedom of Information Act.  It is important to state as well that this critique shares absolutely nothing in common with the remarks against McCain by the trolls who form part of Mr. Trump’s “base”.  It is well and good that McCain stood up to Trump, though here again this argument is only a profound testament to the fact that the bar for any kind of ethical political life has shrunk so low that even the remotest resemblance to anything that might be called ‘decency’ or ‘civility’ is supposed to signal ‘virtue’.  I can barely think of anything that endears McCain, a public figure, to me; but I can think of a great many things that make the present spectacle of the celebration of a ‘great American life’ nauseating.

It was a life full of shenanigans, but here are a thoughts.  First, it is an indisputable fact that McCain, in common with the preponderant number of his soulmates in the US Senate, was relentlessly hostile to the working class.  By the standards of this country, where a ‘socialist’ is in many places something akin to the Black Death, McCain may not have been a die-hard conservative of the Storm Thurmond or Barry Goldwater variety, but it cannot be doubted where his sympathies lay.  He waffled for many years on the question of abortion, but did nothing to put into question the position he finally adopted in 2007 when he said, “I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned.” He then supported a constitutional amendment that would bar abortion except in cases of risk to mother’s life, incest, and rape.  His conservative credentials were never in doubt; however, it is his persistent efforts to overturn the federal minimum wage that point to his disdain for the ‘common American’ whom he supposedly championed.  McCain voted on 24 January 2007 to support legislation that would allow employers to pay less than the federal minimum wage if a state set a lower minimum.  Similarly, McCain joined the filibuster to prevent the federal minimum wage being increased from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour.  Throughout, he remained a foe of the federal minimum wage—and we can imagine what he would have thought of the idea of minimum livable wage, or the notion of Universal Basic Income.

Secondly, it should be recalled that McCain was consistently opposed to the idea of federal holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., and he went so far as to support the Governor of Arizona when he decided to rescind the holiday in his state in 1987.  McCain would, in time, come to repent of his decision and eventually called for both a state and a federal holiday to mark the life of one of the greatest figures in American history.  He issued this apology in 2008, “I was wrong and eventually realized that, in time to give full support for a state holiday in Arizona. We can all be a little late sometimes in doing the right thing.”  I have written elsewhere, and on many occasions, on this wonderful expedient of a belated apology that has characterized white civilization’s attitude to the other races:  say you’re sorry, and then throw another bomb to civilize the savages or bring them the blessings of democracy.  We may perhaps infer McCain’s sentiments on this question from his refusal to call for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Statehouse when he was campaigning for the state’s Republican presidential primary against George W. Bush.  He called the flag “a symbol of heritage” and objected to Federal encroachment on states’ rights in these matters.  McCain lost the primary, and what does one suppose he did thereafter?  He apologized, what else: stating that he had equivocated on the flag issue, McCain said:  “I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary. So I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth.”

Thirdly, among those who served in either house of the Congress over decades, John McCain must be counted among those who were hawkish in the extreme.  He was, needless to say, an ardent advocate of the war on Iraq, a war-monger who turned to the neo-cons Robert Kagan and William Kristol for advice on American military intervention.  It is not an accident that the mammoth $716 billion defense appropriations bill that Trump signed into law barely three weeks ago is formally named the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.  McCain’s acolytes and admirers trumpet the fact that, in signing the bill, Trump refused to mention it by its formal name.  Trump’s meanness is thus established, but of course we are to think nothing of the fact that McCain took pride in having the bill named after him.  With single-minded intent, McCain for decades advocated for one, and only one, position—namely, that the United States should continue to remain unrivaled as a military power.  It would never have occurred to him that no one country should have such power:  if circumstances should turn China into such a power, then one would be duty bound to oppose China.  This view would have struck McCain as implausible since he had neither the intellect, nor the capacity for self-reflection, to adopt a critical perspective on the course of American history.

McCain&SarahPalin

Finally, McCain’s admirers and all those who now swear by him, often for no other reason that he was (to return to an earlier argument) not Donald Trump, should ask what role McCain played in bringing his nemesis to power.  It is a curious but pertinent fact that his running mate during the Presidential race in 2008, Sarah Palin, was also not invited to the funeral ceremonies which McCain had himself planned in meticulous detail.  (Narcissist would seem to be the operative word to describe one who had decided upon a magisterial state funeral for himself, notwithstanding his unenviable record of constantly striving for, but never achieving, the highest office of the land, but I fear that the followers of neither Trump nor McCain will tolerate this comparison.) That McCain should not have invited his vice-presidential pick, more so when he congratulated himself for anointing a woman to fill the second highest office in the country, for his funeral ceremonies is puzzling if not astounding.  McCain had gone on record in recent months, expressing “regret”—no surprise, since McCain’s entire life can be written in this vein—that he had picked Palin, rather than Joe Lieberman, for his running mate.  McCain doesn’t specify exactly why he regretted his decision, but it had to do with more than the fact that Palin was not even remotely an asset for him.  Perhaps McCain had come to the realization, quite late in his life—yes, here again that pattern of late recognition, long after others had reached some degree of enlightenment—that in legitimizing the Tea Party—and Palin was nothing if not the Tea Party—and the lunatics who have come to dominate American politics, he had played a substantial role in birthing the political rise of Trump.

John McCain believed profoundly in American exceptionalism.  The best that can be said for him is that, as a member of the US Congress over several decades, he led a life of exceptional mediocrity and mendacity.

 

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Earlier this year, newspapers reported an unusual development in Britain before the subject of the story was quickly orphaned.  Considering that the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, and her ministers have the lofty and calamitous matter of Brexit on their minds, it is a wonder that anything else gets reported at all.  According to the Guardian and the New York Times, Ms. May has appointed a “Minister of Loneliness”.  It has been said that those who wield power at the very top are generally lonely:  as the example of Donald Trump suggests, the strong man always expects the unyielding loyalty of his inferiors and the slightest deviation from that norm puts the offender under suspicion.  It is not only dictators or autocrats who have few, if any, friends.  Many have sought to augment the (to put it mildly) deservedly tarnished reputation of Winston Churchill by suggesting that at critical moments in the conduct of the war against Nazi Germany, the British Prime Minister cut a very lonely figure.  Churchill’s supposed heroism, as it is described by some of his admirers, can never be appreciated by those who fail to recognize how he relied only on his strength and indomitable will power in the face of resistance from his own cabinet colleagues.

It is, of course, not this kind of loneliness that Prime Minister May had in mind when she appointed Tracey Crouch “Minister of Loneliness”.  Strictly speaking, Ms. Crouch is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society, having previously served as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism, and Heritage.  Ms. Crouch’s present brief includes the portfolios not just for sport and civil society, but also lotteries, horse racing, gambling, and, since January 2018, “loneliness”.   This entire list is itself worthy of comment, but let it pass for the moment.  In announcing Ms. Crouch’s new responsibilities, Prime Minister Theresa May deplored the fact that “for far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life”, and she went on to say:  “I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones — people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”

The Prime Minister’s comments appear to have been prompted by the release, late last year, of a report from the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, named after the Member of Parliament who was murdered by a white supremacist in 2016. The Commission found that, in Britain, 9 million people, or around 14% of the population, described themselves as always or often lonely.  Nearly 52% of parents had experienced a “problem with loneliness” in the past, and 21% had felt lonely at some point in the previous week.  Among those who are at least 75 years old, one in three stated that “feelings of loneliness are out of their control”, and among the disabled and care givers the feeling of loneliness was similarly very high.

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Just exactly how the Commission arrived at these findings is not at all evident from the report, but the numbers reported seem more than just plausible.  Nor is the “problem”—whatever the problem may be—one that uniquely afflicts the British.  The Japanese, in their customary fashion, have even coined a word, kodokushi, to designate “lonely deaths” among the elderly, that is the deaths of people which remain undiscovered for a long period of time.  The Japanese attention to this matter was spurred a few years ago by the discovery, in a residential complex where the apartments were packed cheek by jowl, of a 69-year old man three years after his death; all that remained of him, to be more accurate, was his skeleton, as rodents, maggots, and beetles had done their job.  The problem of loneliness in the United States may be even more acute, if the opinion of the former US Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, carries any weight.  Murthy’s considered view is that social isolation is “associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day”, and the title of his essay, “Work and the Loneliness Epidemic”, suggests that we ought to be paying at least as much attention to loneliness as we do to the opioid or obesity epidemics.

The Jo Cox Commission report is, in the argot of the day, “a call to action”, and the authors recommend the close monitoring of loneliness across all ages, the inclusion of measures of loneliness in “major national studies”, the issuance of annual reports, the creation of a literature with “easy-to-understand messages” to help people connect with others, and a nation-wide strategy to combat loneliness under a “lead Minister”—thus the appointment of Ms. Tracey Crouch.  The report exhibits some taste, insofar as it does not dwell on how much the “loneliness epidemic” has cost the exchequer; however, the co-chairs of the Commission, in a separate pamphlet, estimate that loneliness inflicts massive pain on the British economy, to the tune of 32 billion pounds [$42 billion], annually.  Ouch!

It is no surprise that ex-Surgeon General Murthy’s article should have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, which is not exactly a journal known for exhibiting any concern for the poor, the disabled, and the lonely.  If the Harvard Business Review has any interest in the subject of loneliness, one can speculate that some economist or policy wonk at that esteemed institution must have modeled loneliness and derived a formula which would help to alleviate this condition.  One suspects, too, that much of the concern about the lonely is feigned, inspired only by the thought that the lonely, like the poor, are a problem.  If the poor are despised because they cannot enter into the ranks of a consumer society and cannot therefore be fulfilled as human beings, the lonely are suspect because they appear to have brought their malady upon themselves.  However, under the present dispensation, that is to say on the worldview that predominates today, there is absolutely no problem that cannot be resolved through management techniques.  So long as one has clear “outcomes”, good “thought leaders” (an abominable phrase, if there was one), and and a healthy appetite for the gobbledygook that passes for English at the great business schools and other “centers of excellence”, problems can be managed effectively.

What, however, is loneliness?  Have societies always suffered from loneliness?  Is there more loneliness in some countries than in others?  Do the rich get afflicted by loneliness as much as the poor?  Might one even dare to think that the rich are perhaps lonelier? For all its limitations, the Cox Commission report offers a definition of the malady which is not entirely inane.  “Loneliness is a subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship,” write the authors, “which happens when we have a mismatch between the quantity and quality of social relationships that we have, and those that we want. It is often associated with social isolation, but people can and do feel lonely even when in a relationship or when surrounded by others.”  The turgid prose of the first sentence, adverting to the “mismatch between the quantity and quality of social relationships that we have, and those that we want”, is far from being helpful; indeed, after encountering such a sentence, it occurred to me that I would much rather be lonely and depressed than have the company of the authors of the report.  But the second sentence suggests that the authors are not without some insight, as it reminds us that “people can and do feel lonely even when in a relationship or when surrounded by others.”  This is of singular importance, since there is a commonplace view that loneliness can be alleviated by placing oneself in the company of others.  If one is by oneself and yet desirous of company, one is lonely; but the loneliness that one sometimes experiences when one is surrounded by friends or “loved ones” is yet more wretched.  Henry David Thoreau captured this well in Walden:  “We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers.”

HenryDavidThoreauSolitude

The Jo Cox Commission report on loneliness does not venture into the more difficult terrain of trying to understand why such a large percentage of Britain’s population describes itself as feeling lonely.  Public spaces survive in Europe to a much greater extent than they do in the United States:  public transportation is heavily in use, cafes spill over onto the streets, and pedestrians often command the streets.  Europeans do not generally live in gated estates; the idea of the communal meal still has its attractions, as anyone who has spent an evening in Barcelona, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, London, or countless other cities and towns across Britain and Europe can testify.  The Post-Millennials who do not know of an age when there was neither the internet nor the cell phone are perhaps surprised to hear that anyone could be lonely at all:  after all, one has merely to turn to Facebook, Twitter, or Google to be on one’s way.  There is little awareness of how digital technologies, which claim to foster relationships and produce a highly inter-connected world, produce distancing.  The social implications of such distancing are not apparent to most people.  One can also be quite certain that the Post-Millennials, perhaps more so than any other generation, will face the brunt of the loneliness epidemic.  Loneliness has yet to extract its pound of flesh from those who most mightily mock it.

It is a telling fact that the Cox Commission report has nothing to say about “solitude”.  The word does not appear in the document.  It matters because a phenomenon such as loneliness can only be understood dialectically, through its opposite; and the opposite of loneliness is not the company of others, or ‘relationships’, but solitude.  It is an egregious mistake to suppose, as often happens, that loneliness and solitude are one and the same thing.  Loneliness is never cultivated or sought; it is something to be avoided.  The sources of loneliness in pre-modern societies were rather few, most likely the loss of a family member, bereavement, enforced exile, and imprisonment; in such societies, a surfeit of human company rather than loneliness was more likely the source of discomfort for some.  Solitude, by contrast, is something that is cultivated and sought for, even valorized among those who value creativity or are predisposed towards a life of reflection.  In American, and more broadly modern, culture a dread of solitude is pervasive:  those who prefer solitude are often taken to be misanthropic in disposition.  Here, again, is Thoreau:  “I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.  To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating.  I love to be alone.  I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

The cure for loneliness is not going to be found merely, or even at all, by connecting the lonely person with others.  The management gurus with their mantras of efficiency, and the personal relationship managers who pedal the anodyne languages of ‘caring’ and ‘customer satisfaction’, have nothing worthwhile to contribute in understanding the largely modern pathology of loneliness.  Perhaps, only perhaps, some sustained reflection on solitude may yet help us better to minister our loneliness.

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Fourth and Concluding Part of “Dispossession, Despair, and Defiance:  Seventy Years of Occupation in Palestine” 

As I argued in the last part of this essay, there is no gainsaying the fact that anti-Semitism remains rife among most Arab communities—and indeed among Christians in many parts of the world, as the attacks on synagogues, which have increased since the time that Mr. Trump assumed high office, amply demonstrate.  Nevertheless, it is equally the case that the charge of anti-Semitism has itself become a totalitarian form of stifling dissent and an attempt to enforce complete submissiveness to the ideology of Zionism.  On the geopolitical plane, the leadership (as it is called) of the United States, has done nothing to bring about an amicable resolution, even as the United States is construed as the peace-broker between Israel and the Palestinians.  Indeed, one might well ask if the United States is even remotely the right party to position itself as an arbiter, and not only for the all too obvious reason that its staunch and nakedly partisan support for Israel, punctuated only by a few homilies on the necessity of exercising restraint and Israel’s right to protect itself in the face of the gravest provocations, makes it unfit to insert itself into the conflict as a peacemaker. We have seen this all too often, most recently of course in the carnage let loose on the border last week as Israel celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding and the Palestinians marked seventy years of the catastrophe that has befallen them: even as Israel was mowing down Palestinian youth and young men, most of them unarmed and some evidently shot in the back, the United States was applauding Israel for acting “with restraint”.

13 Falk cover

In an essay that Richard Falk wrote a few years ago at my invitation, entitled The Endless Search for a Just and Sustainable Peace: Palestine-Israel (2014), he advanced briefly an argument the implications of which, with respect to the conflict and its possible resolution, have never really been worked out.  Falk observed that the Abrahamic revelation, from which the two political theologies that inform this conflict have taken their birth, is predisposed towards violence and even an annihilationist outlook towards the other.   There is, in Regina M. Schwartz’s eloquently argued if little-known book, The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism (The University of Chicago Press, 1998), an extended treatment of this subject, though I suspect that her view that monotheistic religions have an intrinsic predisposition towards exterminationist violence will all too easily and with little thought be countered by those eager to demonstrate that religions guided by the Abrahamic revelation scarcely have a monopoly on violence.  It has, for example, become a commonplace in certain strands of thinking in India to declare that nothing in the world equals the violence perpetrated in various idioms by upper-caste Hindus against lower-caste Hindus over the course of two millennia or more.  One could, quite plausibly, also argue that there is a long-strand of nonviolent thinking available within the Christian dispensation, commencing with Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount and Paul’s injunctions towards nonviolent conduct in Romans and exemplified in our times by such dedicated practitioners of Christian nonviolence as A. J. Muste, Dorothy Day, the Berrigan Brothers, and the stalwarts of the Civil Rights Movement, among them the Reverends M. L. King, James M. Lawson, and Fred Shuttleworth.

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Whatever one makes of the view that the political theologies that inform the Abrahamic revelation make a peaceful resolution of the Palestine-Israel conflict an immense challenge to the ethical imagination, what is perhaps being tacitly expressed here is a serious reservation about the fitness of the United States, which evangelicals would like to have openly recognized as a land of Abrahamic revelation, to intervene in this debate. I would put it rather more strongly. The supposition that the United States, which has all too often harbored genocidal feelings towards others, and has been consistently committed, through the change of administrations over the last few decades, to the idea that it must remain the paramount global power, can now act equitably and wisely in bringing a just peace to the region must be challenged at every turn.  There is, as well, the equally profound question of whether there is anything within the national experience of the United States that allows it to consider such conflicts on a civilizational plane, not readily amenable to the nation-state framework and the rules that constitute normalized politics.Pa

Richard Falk sees, in the willingness of British government after decades of violence, arson, terrorist attacks, and a bitterness that surprised even those hardened by politics, to negotiate with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) as a political entity some precedent for discussions that might lead to a framework for an equitable peace.  Assuming this to be the case, one must nevertheless be aware that all proposed solutions to the conflict are fraught with acute hazards.  Those who are inclined to see the conflict entirely or largely through the prism of religion have displayed little sensitivity to the idea that if religion repels frequently because of its exclusiveness it just as often attracts because of its potential inclusiveness. Those who look at the conflict entirely as a political matter will not concede what is palpably true, namely that the present practice of politics precludes possibilities of a just peace.  The advocates of the two-state solution, clearly in an overwhelming majority today, must know that if such a solution becomes reality, Palestine will be little more than a Bantustan.  Some may claim that even an impoverished, debilitated, and besieged but independent Palestine would be a better option for its subjects than the apartheid which circumscribes and demeans their lives today, but any such solution cannot be viewed as anything other than a surrender to the most debased notion of politics.

Israel should not be permitted to use the rantings of the Holocaust deniers, or the more severe anti-Semitic pronouncements of its detractors, as a foil for the equally implausible argument that the Palestinians are committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.  The greater majority of the Palestinian leaders and intellectuals, as many commentators have points out, have signaled their acceptance of the pre-1967 borders of Israel provided that Israel withdraws from the territory it has occupied since the 1967 war and displays a serious willingness to address the refugee problem.  In a more ideological vein, most Palestinians are reconciled to the idea that the Zionist project, originating in a desire to establish a Jewish state on Arab lands, is a fait accompli.  However equitable a political solution—and that, too, seems to be a remote possibility—the more fundamental questions to which the conflict gives rise are those which touch upon our ability to live with others who are presented to us as radically different, even if the notion of the ‘radical’ that is at stake here is only grounded in historical contingencies.  Living with others is never easy, and is not infrequently an unhappy, even traumatic, affair; but it is certainly the most challenging and humane way to check the impulse to gravitate towards outright discrimination, ethnic cleansing, and extermination.  “We cannot choose”, Hannah Arendt has written, “with whom we cohabit the world”, but Israel appears to have signified its choice, terrifyingly so, not only by the erection of the Separation Wall, but also by imposing a draconian regime of segregationist measures that reek of apartheid.  In so doing, it behooves Israel to recognize that victory is catastrophic for the vanquisher as much as defeat is catastrophic for the vanquished.

(concluded)

See also Part III, “Settlements, Judaization, and Anti-Semitism”

Part II, “A Vastly Unequal Struggle:  Palestine, Israel, and the Disequilibrium of Power”

Part I, “Edward Said and an Exceptional Conflict”

For a Norwegian translation of this article by Lars Olden, see: http://prosciencescope.com/fjerde-og-avsluttende-delen-av-bortvising-fortvilelse-og-defiance-sytti-ar-med-okkupasjon-i-palestina/

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Part IV of “Passions of a March–and of Gun Culture

The student-initiated “March for Our Lives”, two months old to this day, has already been characterized as a novelty in the annals of American political action.  History is, of course, always being ‘made’ in the United States: in a metrics-obsessed culture, this or that phenomenon—ten dunks in a single game by LeBron James, or the single-season rushing record in a NFL game, ad infinitum—becomes ‘one for the history books’.  The “March for our Lives” has doubtless made it to the history books as the expression of a certain sentiment involving a larger number of school students than any previously recorded movement of dissent—and perhaps this is all the more ‘historical’, if one is accepting of such a worldview, in that the present age is often described as one characterized by student apathy.  It may be that the noxious and equally nauseous politics of the Trump regime and its supporters has energized student bodies into political action.

NandlalBoseGAndhiWalking

It is well to remember, however, that “the march” is not a singular thing.  The “Long March” was itself comprised of several marches; most famously, it entailed the movement by Mao and fellow comrades from Jiangxi Province to Shanxi, a distance of some 4,000 miles across mountain ranges and two dozen rivers, over a period of 370 days from October 1934 to October 1935.  The stranglehold that Chiang Kai-shek had attempted to place around the communists was broken; the march would help to seal Mao’s ascent to power.  Gandhi’s march to the sea likewise may have done more than anything else to transform him into a world-historical figure, just as Nandlal Bose’s rendition of the Gandhi of the strident walk would yield one of the most iconic images of the Mahatma.  In its wake, came the Round Table Conferences:  whatever their place in the narrative of independence, and some have critiqued the conferences as clever stratagems on the part of the colonial power that deferred Independence for another fifteen years, the British for the first time sat down to negotiate with Indians.  Numerous marches have sought to reconfigure the American landscape, none more so than the 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”, which itself demonstrably took a page out of Gandhi’s march to Dandi.  A quarter of a million were gathered to hear some of the stalwarts of the Civil Rights movement; none present there had any anticipation of the soaring speech that King was about to deliver.  Less than a year later, the Civil Rights Act, inarguably the most transformative piece of legislation in modern American history, was passed.

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The March on Washington, 28 August 1963:  civil rights supportres carrying placards seeking equal rights, equal employment opportunities for black people, and an end to discrimination.  Photograph:  Warren Leffler.  Source:  Library of Congress.

US civil rights leader Martin Luther King,Jr. (C)

Martin Luther King, Jr. waving to supporters from the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington, 28 August 1963.  Source:  AFP/Getty Images.

The most recent “March for Our Lives” cannot be likened to any of these marches, and yet it has earned the moniker of a “march”.  Will it, in time, be similarly transformative and thus be deemed historic?  Few remember today the Million Mom March, held on Mother’s Day in 2000, when an estimated 750,000 women and men converged in Washington in support of gun-control legislation following a shooting at a Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, California.  Another 250,000 people then took part in sister marches held simultaneously around the country.  The legislation that may legitimately be described as having in part emerged from this activism, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (November, 1993), mandated federal background checks on firearm purchasers and imposed a five-day waiting period for purchases, though the latter provision was rendered obsolete by the introduction in 1998 of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  The NRA, expectedly, offered stiff resistance to the Brady bill; its defeat, at that moment, was roundly celebrated as a demonstration of the fact that dents can be made in the NRA armor.

The Brady Act, however, did nothing whatsoever to put into question “the gun culture” that occupies an immense space in the American imaginary.  The long-standing and militant Executive Vice President of the NRA, Wayne La Pierre, is scarcely the only exponent of American exceptionalism, and believes with many of his countrymen and women “in America as the greatest nation on earth”; but he is also certain that America’s greatness owes everything to the Second Amendment, and that gun owners were critically important in handing Hilary Clinton an unexpected defeat.  Clinton is far from being an enemy of the Second Amendment; much like the students who marched on Washington, she believes only in sensible gun control—though, it is necessary to state, gun control laws in most nations are far more stringent than anything that could be contemplated under the rubric of “sensible gun control” in the United States.

The NRA has absolute mastery over this domain: it defines, names, and maims its enemies, except that its enemies are merely somewhat more reasonable more human beings, and nothing like the radicals who, as the NRA claims, are determined to take America down and strip its citizens of their cherished freedoms.  Apart from all this, it should not be forgotten that the provisions of the Brady Act continued to be whittled down, and the NRA successfully and relentlessly waged battles to augment the rights of gun owners in other respects.  As the events of the last twenty-five years have amply shown, the Brady Act has been rendered toothless; one study, based on an exhaustive study of data from 1985 to 1997 at the National Center for Health Statistics, concludes that the Brady Act may have done something to reduce suicide rates among those who are 55 years or older, but that it had no impact nationally on homicide rates or even suicide rates for those under 55 (see Jens Ludwig and Philip Cook, “Homicide and Suicide Rates Associated with Implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act”, Journal of the American Medical Association 284, no. 5 (2000), 585-91.

(to be continued)

See also:

Part III, The March for Our Lives:  A New Generation of Activists?

Part II, School Shootings, the Lockdown, and an Aside on Masculinity

Part I, High School Shootings:  Fragments of Americana

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