EDITORIAL: Violence in America

School is barely open a month and six young girls and a principal are dead. Five girls remain in the hospital with gunshot wounds. The tragedy for the families and communities is profound.

Killings that target girls are a disturbing new feature: the murderers in Colorado and Pennsylvania bound young girls and shot them execution style. Violence against women and girls has been escalating over the past decade. Behind the far-right’s unrelenting attacks on women’s rights and status in our society lurks the twisted notion of “Eve” as evil. Such sick ideas come viciously to life in targeted assaults on girls.

There is a sickness in the U.S. that is below the radar. When working-class and minority communities are victimized by violence and murder that is considered ho-hum, just routine. Domestic violence and sexual abuse is infrequently reported, leaving victims to abuse, even murder, by family and friends. Violence on football fields and school playgrounds is expected.

Is it the availability of guns? Definitely there are too many guns, too widely accessible. But Canada has access to guns, but a startlingly lower murder rate. However, Canada doesn’t have a political culture of gun-toting militarism, glorification of war and okaying of racism and torture.

Is it sick people? Certainly, slashing of community health services, plus skyrocketing costs and the continuing stigma attached to mental illness, doesn’t help.

Our president and top officials promote violence as the answer to the world’s problems. On the Internet, on the airwaves, in movies and TV, right-wingers sing the same song — got a problem? go in blasting with nukes, bombs, tanks, guns. Pandering to their National Rifle Association pals, they make sure everyone can stockpile assault weapons in their basements or under the bed. Meanwhile they slash education, health and community programs that build community and a culture of life.

Bush has convened a national conference on school violence, including the FBI. It signals an emphasis on turning our schools into jails. More metal detectors, armed security guards and surveillance of school grounds and kids are easy, quick responses. But they will not make our schools and communities safe, positive, nurturing places.

A change in priorities is needed.