Saturday, December 15, 2012

What Does, and Doesn't, Kill People

Yesterday, in two great nations, alike in self-regard but different in nearly everything else, there were startlingly similar attacks. Young men, afterwards described as mentally disturbed, each burst into primary schools, attacking over twenty children, and some adults, with intent to kill.

In Chengdeng, China, Min Yingjun stabbed twenty-two children and one adult outside the local school, sending nine to hospitals. No one is reported to have died, and no life-threatening injuries are reported.

In Newtown, USA, Adam Lanza shot twenty children and seven adults, only three of whom survived long enough to reach a hospital. All twenty children and six of the adults are dead.

The gun-rights folks like to say that crazy people are everywhere, and that we can never completely stop them. That is true but besides the point. Maybe Yingjun was just as crazy as Lanza, and maybe there was no way to stop either of them before their murderous rampages. Even granting those arguments for the moment, Lanza had access to a bulletproof vest and high-powered handguns, so he was able to kill people in an industrial, hideously efficient way that similarly crazy, murderous people in most nations of the world simply can't.

Maybe Newton will finally be the USA's Dunblane, the uniquely shocking event that makes this country wake up and realize that its gun policies are insane and horribly destructive. (And I write that as a man who worked for a book club for hunters for five years; I believe in the rights of individuals to own some guns, under some circumstances, for some purposes.) And maybe the discussion, and the legal framework of gun control, will finally move forward from the NRA's paranoid scorched-earth defense of the right of every last lunatic in the country to have military weaponry and armor, though I suspect the NRA itself will need to be marginalized and shouted down to make that happen.

For that to happen, though, we'll all need to remember Min Yingjun as well as Adam Lanza. This was not that cliche, the one lone crazy young man -- the world has thousands of similarly lonely crazy young men. Some countries do a better job than others of identifying them and getting them help, and some countries do a better job than others of protecting themselves when those young men go on rampages. And we can identify the policies that work, in both ways, and fight to have them implemented where they don't already exist.

Because the USA is currently horrible at both things: we don't find and help these men, and we don't stop them from arming themselves like elite soldiers to slaughter our children. And that is simply unacceptable for a nation that keeps insisting that it's the beacon of liberty and the wellspring of justice for the world.


Jordan179 said...

You do know that the country you're holding up as a model of relative nonviolence for the United States of America to follow is the same country that allowed a still-popularly-revered leader to kill around 60 million of its own people in pursuit of his mad ideology and acting out of his even-madder personal psychological problems, and currently punishes people for Christianity by tossing them in slave labor camps, and sometimes kills them for spare body parts? And that gun control was one of the ways in which the Communists remain in power there?

Seriously, what you're saying is roughly the moral equivalent of condemning the American road network's flaws as being those of decentralized government, and then approvingly holding up Nazi Germany by way of contrast, while remaining blind to the fact that there may have been a few (ahem) unsavory acts committed by its regime.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Jordan179: You really should learn to read the words that are actually there, instead of what you think is there; it will serve you much better in life.

Your argument can as easily be used against the US (world leader in drone strikes on civilians, gun murders, and incarceration) on any issue you'd like to aim it at, which strikes me as a very poor choice of argument. If every government in the history of civilization is unitary, and nothing that it did can be considered by other nations without immediately implementing their worst faults, then we're all already irretrievably doomed.

Jordan179 said...

The United States never killed almost one-tenth of her own population, not even during the two civil wars we've fought. Our drone strikes tend to have less collateral damage (assuming that you don't define the terrorists themselves as "civilians") than other methods of warfare: you find them more horrific in part because there's been an intense propaganda campaign focused against them, and in part because "robot" war is terrifying). The US rate of gun murders is trivial compared to the Chinese rate of state murders of its own citizens.

As for "incarceration," whether one considers this a problem or a solution depends on who is being incarcerated. I personally believe that we should legalize drugs, gambling and prostitution, an act which would so empty the prisons that we would then have the room to put most habitual and violent criminals -- the people we should really fear -- in prison for the rest of their natural lives.

And if we did that, I'd be glad, rather than sorry that the habitual violent offenders were locked away. And so would you.

As for the People's Republic of China, the reason why it's worse than (say) modern Germany is that it still idolizes Mao. The person who murdered almost one-tenth and enslaved practically all of China's own population is considered a role-model. There is nothing like that in American history -- even at our Amerindian-killing, slave-holding worst we did not kill one-tenth of our own people, even counting slaves.

In short, your arguments only work if one assumes that the magnitude of misdeeds are entirely irrelevant. If you want to make that assumption, I'm sure that you were rude to or hit someone at some time in your life, which makes you (by that Insane Troll Logic) just as bad as Adolf Hitler. Though I suspect that if you make the assumption of the irrelevance of magnitude, you don't apply it to yourself.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Jordan179: Piss off, troll. Go muddy issues somewhere else.

Jordan179 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Andrew Wheeler said...

Jordan179: I repeat: piss off. I'm sure there's some Usenet swamp you can crawl into.

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