Thursday, February 11, 2016

Visceral Reflections From Today's News

It's only mid-morning, but already there is news that has unnerved and distressed me, led me to gasp in wonder-horror. Carrier Corporation - maker of air-conditioning systems - has announced that it will shut down its giant plant in Indianapolis, eliminating 1,400 jobs over the next two years. It is moving this plant's operations to Monterrey, Mexico.

NAFTA, we more than know ye. American "corporate citizens" - we know ye too well.

In Maryland yesterday, a 67 year old man shot an officer who approached him in a restaurant, then fled. He was pursued by another officer, and the 67 year old shot him, too. Both officers died. As it has been reported, the first officer was not attempting to arrest the 67 year old, but asked how he was, and was then shot in the head. I have no information about the man's motive(s) or mental state.

I have no wisdom about these events, but they are exemplars of two of the major political-cultural issues of the U.S. in our time - employment/corporate behavior and availability of guns.

Regardless of Carrier Corporation's prospective improvement in its bottom line, removing 1,400 families from the ranks of the employed middle-class cannot increase the number of families that are available to purchase air-conditioners from Carrier. And it will not only be the 1,400 families' purchasing power that is affected. I recall the time in my childhood in Evansville, Indiana, when Chrysler Corporation closed its local automobile assembly plant. It did not affect my father's employment with Peabody Coal Company, but when we had to move because my father was transferred, two years later, my parents could not sell our house because the housing market in Evansville had crashed with the closure of the Chrysler plant. In fact, it was after two transfers, and two moves for our family, that my parents were finally able to sell the Evansville house - at a loss - 4 years later. So, there was a ripple effect of that plant closing that damaged the entire region and affected people's ability to buy houses ... and air-conditioners.

It has not yet been reported whether the Maryland killer had a concealed-carry license, or whether he had a mental health (or other) condition that should have prevented him from owning or carrying a gun. If he had a concealed carry license, clearly he should not have had one. If he did not have such license, he still carried a concealed weapon. If she should have been disqualified, he still carried a concealed weapon. The common variable: the existence, presence and possession of a gun ... an artifact of our society's culture of gun specialness.

As it is plain to those who will see that racism is endemic in our culture and has had, and continues to have, enormous and deleterious effects on people who are not white, it is plain that corporations doing whatever they choose in order to pursue profit has damaged and is damaging our society. As is just as plain, the presence and unique position of guns in our culture is killing us - individually and as a whole. We are not an 18th Century society without a standing army, needing a citizen militia. We are not an 18th Century society that possesses only single-shot, muzzle-loading firearms. We are a society that has not grown up; we have a culture of adolescence - we cling to laws and rules from another time that we simply hold onto because some of us want what we want and refuse to grasp that we can only prosper (in all senses) from recognizing that we are a community. We can be healthy as a community - a group that recognizes our sameness and supports ourselves generally - or we can continue our dysfunction as a failed proto-community that nurtures self-destruction. We can care and be oriented to the health of a society, or we can seek our individual desires and demands. We can choose "us" or "me." We cannot choose both.