Vigilante Nation

Why the United States loves guns

Photography by Alan Chin

• 3,291 words

Photograph by Alan Chin
Grief in Newtown The December 2012 mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Connecticut, has reinvigorated the gun control debate.

My mother’s family arrived in Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1633 in the figure of John Prince, a Puritan fleeing Britain. My father’s family landed with William Hedges, also a Puritan refugee and a tanner, in East Hampton, New York, in 1650. As time passed, the huge tributaries of these two families intersected with every major event in American life. They were present for the massacre of Indians on western Long Island. Because the Indians drew their myths, mores, and values from the wilderness, they held beliefs that were antithetical to the Puritans’ rigid, controlling convictions. They were said to be in league with Satan, so the Europeans tried to annihilate them.

My forebears produced soldiers, sea captains, farmers, a few writers and scholars, and a smattering of political leaders who ascended to governorships. By the time of the Civil War, the family included a Union general on one side and a Confederate spy on the other. A couple of my ancestors took part in the brutal Indian wars. One was an scout for General Philip Sheridan on the western plains; he was murdered by Sioux warriors, a fate he appears to have deserved, given the drunken, murderous rampages against Indian encampments he describes in letters home to Maine. Others were sober, dour-looking Anglican ministers, teachers, and abolitionists. A distant relative of my father’s family became the largest landowner in Cuba after 1898, when it was seized from the Spanish; some of this family’s descendants worked with the CIA in the fight against Fidel Castro, in the waning days of the Cuban dictatorship. My maternal grandfather, who worked most of his life in a small-town post office, served as a master sergeant in the Maine Army National Guard in the 1930s. He and other guardsmen regularly waded into the crowds of striking textile and mill workers to violently break up labour unrest. He kept his army-issued truncheon in his barn; it had twenty-three small nicks he had made with his penknife. “One nick,” he told me, “for every communist I hit.” My father and most of my uncles fought in World War II; and one uncle was severely maimed, physically and psychologically, in the South Pacific. I was in Central America in the 1980s during the proxy wars waged by Washington. I accompanied a Marine Corps battalion as it battled Iraqi troops into Kuwait during the first Gulf War.

Violence, at home and abroad, has been a constant in America. The gun culture Canadians and Europeans find hard to fathom is its natural expression. There are some 310 million firearms in the United States, including 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns. There is no reliable data on the number of military-style assault weapons in private hands, but the working estimate is about 1.5 million. The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world—an average of ninety per 100 people, according to a 2007 Small Arms Survey. By comparison, Canada has thirty-one per 100 people. An estimated thirty Americans are killed with a gun every day. Canada rarely tops 200 gun-related homicides a year. The lives of my ancestors and the experiences they endured, as well as my own life, chronicle the nation’s persistent and savage addiction to firearms.

The view of ourselves as divine agents of purification, anointed by God and progress to reconfigure the world around us, is a myth that remains firmly embedded in the American psyche. Our historians, with a few exceptions, such as Eric Foner, Howard Zinn, Richard Hofstadter, and Richard Slotkin, fail to address the pattern. They examine a single foreign war. They chronicle an isolated incident, such as the bloody draft riots in New York during the Civil War. They write about the Indian wars. They detail the cruelty of Jim Crow and lynching (one of my country’s contributions to barbaric forms of murder). They do not recognize in the totality of our military adventures—including our bloody occupation of the Philippines, where General Jacob H. Smith ordered his troops to kill everyone over the age of ten and turn the island into “a howling wilderness”—a universal truth. This creates a dangerous historical amnesia. It hides from us our propensity for murder. And no wonder. As D. H. Lawrence observed, “But you have there the myth of the essential white American. All the other stuff, the love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.”

Violence in America is primarily vigilante violence, used most often to crush dissent, to keep a repressed minority in a state of fear, or to exact revenge on those the state has branded as traitors. It is a product of hatred, not hope. It is directed against the weak, not the strong. The slave patrols and the Ku Klux Klan that terrorized blacks; the Pinkertons and the gun thugs who shot dead hundreds of workers and wounded thousands more in the bloodiest labour wars in the industrialized world; the anti-communist Cuban exile groups that waged a reign of terror against fellow Cubans in Miami—all of these are expressions of a long history of mob-led violence that is tolerated, and often encouraged, by the ruling elite.

Citizens feel free to settle their disputes with weapons, because violence, as the black activist H. Rap Brown once said, “is as American as cherry pie.” We have always mythologized, even idolized, our killers. The Indian fighters, gunslingers, and outlaws on the frontier, as well as the mobsters and the feuding clans such as the Hatfields and McCoys, colour our popular history. Figures like Davy Crockett, as Richard Slotkin writes, “became national heroes by defining national aspiration in terms of so many bears destroyed, so much land preempted, so many trees hacked down, so many Indians and Mexicans dead in the dust.”

So it is that even after twenty first-graders and six adults are gunned down in a Connecticut elementary school in December 2012, the US Senate cannot pass legislation imposing stiffer background checks on gun purchasers, nor a ban on assault weapons. Since the Newtown massacre, over 5,000 people, including more than 100 children, have been shot dead in random acts of violence. But Newtown, like the mass shootings at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado (twelve dead), at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg (thirty-three dead), at the immigration centre in Binghamton, New York (fourteen dead), and at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado (fifteen dead), has no discernible effect on mitigating our gun culture. The state has never opposed the widespread public ownership of guns, because these weapons have rarely been deployed against it. In this, the United States is an anomaly. It has a heavily armed population and yet maintains remarkable political stability.

We are not a people with a revolutionary tradition. The War of Independence, while it borrowed the rhetoric of revolution, merely replaced a foreign oligarchy with a native, slave-holding oligarchy. The founding fathers were deeply conservative; the primacy of private property, including slaves, was paramount. To thwart popular will, the framers of the Constitution established a series of mechanisms, from the Electoral College to the appointment of senators, buttressed by the disenfranchisement of African Americans, women, American Indians, and the landless. George Washington, probably the wealthiest man in the country when the war was over, shared exclusive economic and political power with his fellow aristocrats. This distrust of popular rule among the elite runs like a straight line from the Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention to the 2000 presidential election, where the Democratic candidate Al Gore received over half a million more popular votes than the Republican George W. Bush. Revolution is not in our blood.

The few armed rebellions—the 1786 and 1787 Shays’ Rebellion, the 1921 armed uprising by 10,000 coal miners at Blair Mountain in West Virginia—were swiftly and brutally put down by a combination of armed vigilante groups and government troops. More importantly, these rebellions were always local. They were never about anything more than specific grievances. For example, the miners at Blair Mountain, who held off armed militias for five days, wanted only the right to organize unions. The universal, radical ideologies and utopian visions that sparked revolutions in Russia or Germany after World War I are foreign to our intellectual tradition. The United States has never produced a great revolutionary theorist, no Alexander Herzen, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, or Antonio Gramsci. Our greatest radicals are either anarchists—Randolph Bourne, Emma Goldman, Noam Chomsky—or advocates for oppressed minority groups: Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, W. E. B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Cornel West.

The closest America came to a genuine revolutionary was Thomas Paine, although he was British by birth. While useful to the aristocrats who wanted to supplant the British during the war, he was ruthlessly persecuted when it was over, especially after he published an open letter in 1796 to George Washington that read, “The world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any.” When Paine died, only six people—two of whom were black—attended his funeral.

There will never be serious gun control in the United States, and not only because its violence is usually vigilante violence. White people, who have enslaved, lynched, imprisoned, and impoverished black people for generations, are terrified that those they have subjugated will seek revenge. As the nation circles the drain, as the economy implodes and climate change brings with it apocalyptic weather patterns, white Americans, who are becoming a minority, cling to their assault weapons with even greater ferocity. (Guns are readily available to white people, but for African Americans, especially those in our impoverished inner cities, gun ownership is largely criminalized.) The dark ethic of right-wing militias, the Tea Party, the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, the National Rifle Association,and the survivalist cults is that the gun will keep the home and family from being overrun by the crazed black hordes who will escape from their colonies in our urban slums. The mother of Adam Lanza, who carried out the Newtown massacre, was a survivalist, stockpiling weapons in her home for impending social and economic collapse. Scratch the surface of the survivalist cult in the United States, and you expose white supremacists.

This dark, inchoate terror of black violence in retribution for white violence percolates within the culture. It is articulated in The Turner Diaries, which inspired Timothy McVeigh to bomb the federal building in Oklahoma City. It is the undercurrent in Quentin Tarantino’s film Django Unchained. And it is given brilliant expression in Robert Crumb’s savage exploration of white nightmares in his comic “When the Niggers Take Over America!” It goes all the way back to the film The Birth of a Nation, which, as James Baldwin wrote, “is really an elaborate justification of mass murder.”

“Again I say that each and every Negro, during the last 300 years, possesses from that heritage a greater burden of hate for America than they themselves know,” Richard Wright noted in his journal in 1945. “Perhaps it is well that Negroes try to be as unintellectual as possible, for if they ever started really thinking about what happened to them they’d go wild. And perhaps that is the secret of whites who want to believe that Negroes really have no memory; for if they thought that Negroes remembered they would start out to shoot them all in sheer self-defense.”

The pattern of violence, and especially vigilante violence, makes the United States a very different country from Canada and the nations of western Europe. It means that as internal stability unravels, we will respond in a different way. The breakdown of American society will trigger a popular backlash, a glimpse of which we saw in the Occupy movement, but it will also energize the armed vigilantes. The longer we remain in a state of political paralysis, dominated by a corporate elite that refuses to respond to the mounting misery of the bottom third of the population, the more the rage of the underclass will find expression through violence. If it remains true to the American tradition, this violence will not be directed at the power elite but will single out minorities and scapegoats.

Gabrielle Giffords, a member of the House of Representatives, was shot in the head in January 2011, as she held a meeting in a supermarket parking lot in Arizona. Eighteen other people were wounded, and six of them died. Sarah Palin’s political action committee had previously targeted Giffords and other Democrats with crosshairs on an electoral map. Giffords’ opponent in the House election had hosted a campaign event with the call to action “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M-16 with Jesse Kelly.” The use of violent rhetoric, a staple of the right wing, feeds the demented visions of desperate men and women who have easy access to weapons. We have avoided the genocidal rhetoric of those who call for the wholesale extermination of a race or a class, but we are not far from it.

The longer the economy stalls, the more the poor and working classes feel trapped and are unemployed or underemployed, and the longer that political paralysis makes the state unable to respond, the closer the country comes to a full-blown confrontation. Muslims, undocumented workers, homosexuals, liberals, feminists, intellectuals, and African Americans will all become targets. Disdain for traditional liberal institutions will be replaced by a call for their eradication. As the nation deteriorates economically and morally, the last refuge for self-respect will be found in the hyper-masculine values of military chauvinism, violent retribution, and a mythic past.

As Richard Rorty noted in Achieving Our Country, when our breakdown begins, “the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words ‘nigger’ and ‘kike’ will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.”

There is a disturbing attempt under way in the southern United States to rewrite the history of the South, a desperate retreat by beleaguered whites, battered by a flagging economy and few prospects, into a mythical self-glorification. I witnessed a similar retreat into self-delusion during the war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. As the country’s economy deteriorated, Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim ethnic groups built fantasies of a glorious past that became a substitute for history. The ethnic groups vomited up demagogues and murderers such as Radovan Karadzic and Slobodan Milosevic. They sought to remove, through exclusion and finally violence, competing ethnicities to restore a mythological past. The embrace of non-reality-based belief systems made communication among ethnic groups impossible. They no longer spoke the same cultural language. There was no common historical narrative built around verifiable truth.

This mythology of the past is being replicated in many parts of the United States. Flyers reading “Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Wants You to Join!” appeared in residential mailboxes in Memphis in early January. Later that month, the Klan distributed pamphlets in a suburb of Atlanta. Last year, the governor of Tennessee declared July 13 Nathan Bedford Forrest Day, to honour the birthday of the Confederate general and first leader of the KKK. There are thirty-three historical markers commemorating Forrest in Tennessee alone. Montgomery, Alabama, which I visited a few months ago, has a gigantic Confederate flag north of the city, planted there by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Confederate monuments dot the city centre. There are three Confederate holidays in the state, including Robert E. Lee/Martin Luther King Day. Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi also officially acknowledge Lee’s birthday. Jefferson Davis’s birthday is recognized in Alabama and Florida. And re-enactments of Confederate victories in the Civil War crowd Southern calendars.

“People pay for what they do, and, still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become,” Baldwin wrote of the American South. “The crucial thing, here, is that the sum of these individual abdications menaces life all over the world. For, in the generality, as social and moral and political and sexual entities, white Americans are probably the sickest and certainly the most dangerous people, of any color, to be found in the world today.” He added that he “was not struck by their wickedness, for that wickedness was but the spirit and the history of America. What struck me was the unbelievable dimension of their sorrow. I felt as though I had wandered into hell.”

The rise of ethnic nationalism over the past decade, the replacing of history with mendacious and sanitized versions of lost glory, is part of the moral decay that infects a dying culture. Myth breeds intolerance and eventually violence. Violence becomes a cleansing agent, a way to restore a lost world. Ample historical records disprove the myths espoused by the neo-Confederates, who insist the Civil War was not about slavery but about states’ rights and the protection of traditional Christianity. However, these records are useless in puncturing their fantasies, just as documentary evidence does nothing to blunt the self-delusion of Holocaust deniers. Those who retreat into fantasy cannot engage in rational discussion, for fantasy is all they have left of their tattered self-esteem. When their myths are attacked, rather than a discussion of facts and evidence, it triggers a ferocious emotional backlash. The challenge of the myth threatens what is left of hope, and as the economy unravels, as the future looks more and more bleak, myth gains in potency.

What Canadians struggle to grasp is that the language of violence is our primary form of communication. We have built within us a belief that we have a right, even a divine right, to kill others to purge the earth of evil. We do this in Iraq. We do this in Afghanistan. We do this in Pakistan. We have always done this. The many millions of corpses the American empire has left behind, from three million Vietnamese to millions of American Indians, loom like Banquo’s ghost over the declining empire. The core faith of the United States is not found in the Gospels—which have been perverted to fuse the iconography of Christianity with that of the state to sanctify the nation—but in the satanic lust of purification through violence. We have carried out bloodbaths on foreign soil and on our own land for generations, in the vain quest for a better world. The worse it gets, the deeper our empire sinks under the weight of its own decay and depravity, the more we question and deeply fear losing our identity as imperial masters, the quicker we will be to reach for the gun.

This appeared in the September 2013 issue.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize winner and co-author of Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.

Alan Chin contributes to Newsweek and the New York Times.

  • The Phantom

    This is one of the most hateful diatribes against a racial group its ever been my misfortune to read. Let me just say, if the odious Mr. Hedges had used any group other than White Americans as the object of his racism, your magazine offices would have been raided by a Human Rights Commission SWAT team within hours of this issue hitting the street, and Justin Trudeau would be denouncing you in the House of Commons.

    It is also a very badly written article, a cut-and-paste of unconnected scraps that the author had sitting around on his hard drive. He threw this together over coffee one morning and then The Walrus paid him good money for it. Its only a -Canadian- mag, right? Not like anyone important is going to see it.

    If this is what The Walrus is all about, I think I’m going to have to take it up with my MP and MPP. Not to censor you, that’s your thing. Just to make very, very sure that The Walrus, any of its organs and various hangers-on are receiving -zero- support from my taxes.

    You boys want to spread hate and evil propaganda, you do it on your own dime.

    • SpecialAgentA

      Ironically, you illustrate Hedges argument. Try not to believe everything you think. “If this is what The Walrus is all about, I think I’m going to have to take it up with my MP and MPP. Not to censor you, that’s your thing…”. Bewildering comedy. Please listen to yourself, try to become conscious (and I’ll try to do the same). You provide the bullying extreme “White American” ideology that Hedges is writing about in the first place. Or I guess don’t and go further into deceptive certainty. (A “Human Rights Commission SWAT team”. Really? Jesus…)

      • The Phantom

        …”try to become conscious”… I love this. Refusal to have my taxes pay for The Walrus printing a propagandist smear is “bullying extreme White American ideology”. Tell me SpecialAgentA, what proportion of my income should the government set aside for funding racist propaganda?

        You want to become conscious? First, read the whole Walrus article, not just the little snippet above. When you’re done with that, try this: http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf

        Turns out Hedges isn’t just a hateful propagandist, he’s also flat wrong.

        Bewildering comedy indeed.

    • Henry Do

      Mr. Hedges only put in contemporary terms what Mark Twain laid out, over one hundred years ago, in the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. By your standards then, Mark Twain was also an odious and racist writer.

  • John Newcomb

    A historical view would probably not put Canada very far from America at all. My grandfather was invited to join the Ku Klux Klan in Saskatchewan, but not wanting to part with $2 membership fee, he opted for CCF instead as that membership was only 25 cents.

    Canadians know what the language of violence is about and Hedges has missed the boat – the American empire has been largely Canada’s empire in the late 20th Century, and its been a pretty good one at that. Relative to many other empires, the American Empire has had a rather low corpse-quotient.

    • Mark

      Christian Children’s Fund?

  • Mark

    “…An estimated thirty Americans are killed with a gun every day. …. ” Uh- no. However, some are killed by other PEOPLE armed with guns each day, or kill themselves. Now– the question is, how many of them NEEDED to be shot?

    As for me, I am armed at all times. And I avoid stupid people and stupid places.

    I also keep a fire extinguisher and first aid kit in my car, and I carry auto, home, health, and life insurance.

    • Jim

      Mark, you can play around with linguistics all you want. The fact is that 30 people were killed. Very few of them “needed” to be shot. Don’t hide behind your word games.

      • Mark

        How many didn’t need to be shot?

        What will YOU want to do when That Day comes and the Bad Man wants you or someone you love?

        • Jim

          Mark, I do not live my live in paranoia like you do. If you want to hoard guns to prepare for the apocalypse, go see a shrink.

          • Mark

            No need to hoard guns. And who is paranoid? Do tell how making preparation for a fire, earthquake, auto accident, or other contingecny is paranoia.

            That Day came for me. I was ready. The other person wasn’t. He left in a hell of a hurry. I went back to sleep. He might be a happy old man now. Or he might be in prison. Or someone else may have stopped him. I just hope that he didn’t invade the home of anyone else.

            All’s well that ends well. Had I not been prepared to deal with such a visit, it may not have been. If you don’t mind wagering your well being and that of your family on such fortune, please, do go right ahead. Just don’t expect all of us to play such a game. Because when that game is played it all too often ends badly. I rather not be in the “badly” side of such an exchange.

            And leave other people alone who aren’t bothering you. First, do no harm.

  • Jason

    This article is epic in every single way. I can’t say I totally share your very very pessimistic but beautiful appraisal of the situation. There’s a lot of good too in the USA, and a lot of good in the world.

  • J_Q_Public

    Hedges, in his dishonest, one-sided, possibly even hateful diatribe, failed to acknowledge the legitimate, moral, and ethical use of a firearm for self-protection by the physically weak such as the elderly, disabled, or women, from violent crime such as assault, rape, or robbery. I would expect the editors of ‘The Walrus’ to be more selective in the future, and be able to refrain from the publishing of such sophomoric fluff.

    • unvanquished

      You’re more likely to be killed by your own firearm than to successfully use it for self defense. Most people who own them don’t have proper training and someone who is elderly or disabled is less likely to be able to handle the kickback of a gun. If you fire once, miss and end up on the ground, how useful is that?

      • J_Q_Public

        Unvanquished, your first statement is not valid as many crimes are thwarted simply by display of greater, available defensive ability. I also observe no factual citation. I agree that a certain level of firearms skill is useful, but training in the law of self-defense is also important. Regarding the elderly or disabled, you may be aware there are numerous calibers and firearm designs suitable for a range of physical ability and skill levels. Finally, the act of firing, even a miss, is often sufficient to stop the threat of death or bodily injury from an attacker; not only useful, but the goal of armed defense.

        • Think2wice

          Oh boy. Get that gun toy.

          What if no one had guns, and so people had to be nice to each other or have the shit kicked out of them?

          • J_Q_Public

            My friend, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

          • Think2wice

            And if horses were Americans, riders would beg.

          • J_Q_Public

            Now that’s just silly.

          • GaJoe1950

            An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.

            Robert A. Heinlein

      • Rob Price

        BS -present estimates are that there are way more defensive gun uses per annum in the US than gun crimes – and defensive gun uses don’t necessarily mean shooting someone – just means showing it to someone dissuaded them and they ran away.

    • Think2wice

      No need for protection from assault by ??? persons here in Toronto. Perhaps we’re fortunate, but perhaps violence begets violence. Perhaps you should not all have guns to protect yourselves, when, at the end of the day, you can all end up dead as a result because y’all have gunz.

  • riseofnations

    Give it up. Be glad you can write, be published, and have status. Tons of white people, ESP poor, disabled, have no voice. Yes, slavery was wrong. But stop grouping all white people together. You have more than many do. Thousands of animals are in cages andbeing either. Focus on the present life or death issues. Be glad you have a car, house, Med insurance and have never been raped. Stop whining and do something. What cognitive dissonance and hate. Perhaps of youwould see the beauty in some whites..reparations can finally be made that serve all life.

  • riseofnations

    Blaming all whites is such BS. As you are whined and dined..all races of children are starving in America and around the world. Go do something positive with your rich status.

  • riseofnations

    Wow. If every white and Caucasian word was changed to black..would you have published this?

  • riseofnations

    If your so against violence then work on your own hates.

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  • unvanquished

    Can I just ask, what was the point of this rant? You’re just telling us how much you hate guns, how much more peaceful Canadians and Europeans are, how horrible Americans are, how they relish their history (how shocking!), how they all love their guns. There is nothing new here. The only thing I learned is that you have an anger problem and you don’t know how to do research because Canada has very active hate groups too.

    • Think2wice

      woah boy! guess we all have anger problems if you’re the definer. thick skin is about conversation where other peoples’ opinions get to check out with yours. Not all good. Not all resonates, but there’s always something to learn from an alternate perspective. Americans could learn from that!

  • J_Q_Public

    I’m not a little surprised ‘The Walrus’, a magazine whose self-described ‘mandate’ is “to be a national general interest magazine about Canada” includes so much U.S. content.

  • guest

    don’t forget Nat Turner, John Brown

  • donilo252525

    All this talk of the importance of guns. Back in the day there was an importance – they were an efficient way of putting dinner on the table. Also, with living within much more sparsely populated areas provided by the wide open spaces of the midwest and west, they did provide needed protection.

    Today we hardly need to hunt to feed ourselves. The option is there, but we don’t NEED to hunt. The relatively few who do hunt are not those who face objection from society regarding tragedies such as Newtown.

    And while there will be anecdotes of a gun “solving” an attack or dangerous situation, by and large having a gun in such situations for many people is actually a danger and disadvantage. Even consider dealings with swat teams breaking into your home in error – having a weapon anywhere near you is your death warrant.

    But I’ve yet to see a comment here regarding how Canada and the rest of the world (just about all, if not all the other countries) manage to do it every year – having far fewer weapons AND far fewer weapon-related deaths. Is there no lesson to be learned from them?

  • Shawn Boadway

    It seems that as harsh as Mr. Hedges seems to be on White Americans (at times I questioned his moments of seemingly borderline vitriol), one must note that he himself is a White Male American. Rather than labeling this racism (though many will, notwithstanding), would it not be more apt to label it critique from within. That does not mean you have to agree with the critique or how far it goes at times to paint the most dire picture. However, if this article is over the top it seems that it comes from a very understandable place of outrage against his own nation which has continued its intransigence in the face of gun violence and has consistently refused to forge ahead with even the most basic attempts to deal with the issue. Let’s face it, the US can’t even pass the most basic and mild changes to gun control laws due to a vocal and powerful opposition which believes that this would be the first step to the government taking all the guns away and a fundamental violation of a constitution which is in places somewhat archaic in spite of its privileged standing as sacred text.

    I do think that the general bewilderment Canadians have with how impassioned people are with the gun issue within the US demonstrates that, while we have significant issues to deal with in our own backyard, there is, nonetheless, a pronounced difference between Americans and Canadians on this issue. That does not negate the fact that there are Canadians and Americans who don’t fit the generalizations made in this article, which I think Mr. Hedges would echo. But is there nothing we can learn from what we read here? Is there no truth to it at all? Is it so odious to some because touching so close to the truth is uncomfortable and hard to swallow? The US has never been very good at saying “Sorry, maybe we’re part of the problem after all.” At least there’s one area that Canadians are completely different! (that was tongue-in-cheek for all those who didn’t see me smile when I said that).

  • Canadian

    As always Chris Hedges is absolutely brilliant. He integrates his extensive (and very impressive reading) with an understanding of politics, war and the american psyche. Another thing – he is absolutely right. The statistics on gun deaths in america are mind-numbing and politicians do nothing but accommodate the NRA as they call for more guns – always more guns. The evidence of climate change is overwhelming and terrifying. The IPCC reports are becoming more alarming as oil and gas companies are given more power and protection from environmental regulations. I always enjoy reading Chris Hedges but he scares me to death.

  • Canadian

    As always Chris Hedges is brilliant. He integrates his extensive (and very impressive reading) with an understanding of war, politics and the American psyche. Another thing – he is absolutely right. The statistics on gun deaths are mind-numbing yet politicians do nothing but cater to the NRA and call for more guns – always more guns. Every IPCC report is more dismal and more alarming than the last but politicians do nothing to limit the powers of the oil and gas lobby. I always enjoy reading Chris Hedges but he scares me to death.

  • Don Derc

    This is an article/subject that only a handful of Canadians talked about 20 years ago. What needs to be discussed in the 51st state (Canada) is how this scenario is coming (and has already begun to arrive) here north of the 49th parallel. Q:How do you raise the consciousness of a nation? A: After you kill 10,000 children in Afghanistan.