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The NRA as America’s Cosa Nostra

Why is the U.S. public remaining curiously silent on gun control after the shootings at Virginia Tech?

April 20, 2007

Why is the U.S. public remaining curiously silent on gun control after the shootings at Virginia Tech?

Let us look at the stunning — and revolting — ironies of the Cho shooting spree. NBC's Brian Williams — who distinguished himself by his dogged coverage of the New Orleans/Katrina disaster — evidently does not even realize how he was used by Cho.

Unfortunately for NBC, the ratings of Mr. Williams's show have declined in recent months, quite possibly because he was "too tough on the American people." After all, he was the one to remind them that nothing much had improved in New Orleans — despite the president's promises that the city would shine again, soon and better than ever.

In the ratings race, Mr. Cho's package must have seemed like a God-send. The decision to broadcast it, despite pretensions of complicated deliberations, was as easy as it was patently false.

Why, one wonders, give a sick man such a stage posthumously? Why not turn it over to law enforcement, saying that NBC did not want to have any part in broadcasting the gyrations of a disturbingly sick mind to the world?

Of course, NBC News’ President justified the broadcast essentially by saying it provided a unique insight into the mind of a mass murderer. Oh, really?

NBC's management ruled that the students' families evidently deserved less respect than those of soldiers. Let us remember that the U.S. news media obediently followed the Pentagon's orders not to broadcast any images of funerals of U.S. soldiers, presumably out of respect for the grieving families.

And yet, death in military action comes with the turf of being a soldier, so families are inevitably prepared for such news. But enrolling as a student in Blacksburg, Virginia, does not entail a similar preparedness.

It's a pure case of selling base instincts of voyeurism as a case of the public's right to know. The video tapes showed nothing that one would not expect a sick mind to stammer.

Beyond NBC's massive failing, the real one unfortunately spreads much wider. On TV and radio and on the websites and in the newspapers in the U.S. of A, one can get coverage of every possible angle — except for the one that really matters.

Did the university management make a bad mistake by delaying notification after the first shooting? Can one read the signs of a budding mass murderer before he explodes? Can such a person be compelled to receiving psychiatric evaluation or treatment?

And on and on. Every conceivable angle — except for: Why did this ticking time bomb have such easy access to handguns?

Truth be told, nobody in the United States is afraid of the Soviet Union anymore — but virtually everybody in power is deadly afraid of the NRA — the National Rifle Association. It acts as the ruthless countrywide enforcer of gun libertinism, the perverse and irresponsible, completely self-absorbed love of guns.

A society that is so much in the throes of an organization like the NRA, as the rest of the world is quick to point out, is getting tragically close to issuing an every day death wish upon itself.

To paraphrase Primo Levi, chronicler of the Holocaust and author of “Survival in Auschwitz”: if not now, when? If this moment is not enough for a groundswell of opposition against the non-existent gun laws in the United States, when will this society ever show the will?

The U.S. media are not the only ones studiously careful to avoid the issue.

Democrats are similarly avoiding the issue, believing that taking the only ethically and morally correct stance — to ban most hand guns — keeps them from winning elections.

The gun control issue should be seized by all presidential candidates — and none more so than Barack Obama. He has consistently held himself as morally above the fray of his co-competitors — and he certainly knows everything there is to know about the corrosive effects of widespread availability of guns from his social work on Chicago's South side.

And he does have a special responsibility to speak up in this case — on behalf of all young black males who have been far less blessed with the privilege of education than he himself has been.

The world waits with baited breath whether he will show the moral rectitude to lead on this issue — or lowers himself to do what is considered the politically expedient thing and stay silent (or waffle at best).

The fact of the matter is that the silence after Blacksburg equals the failure of so-called U.S. opinion elites to speak up in time and with clarity against the Iraq War.

Then as now, the U.S. media and the Democrats feel chastised to stand by a course that every person with one moral fiber in their bones would have to recognize immediately as totally ill-advised.

But, then as now, the majority of them prefer to stay silent — on Iraq as on handgun control.

This deafening silence, of course, is the real issue. This society — so determined to bring the gift of democracy to far-away lands completely unprepared for such a venture — does sadly not have the democratic rigor and courage to speak up on its own behalf at a time when it really matters.

The students and teachers murdered at Blacksburg are a national monument to an agenda committed to changing the course on handgun control immediately.

Or so one would think. Instead, everybody whom one asks is hushed, expresses surprise — and says if only somebody had the courage to step forward to lead on the issue — and take on the Herculean forces on the other side…

Hearing such soliloquies from Americans reminds one of Italian television series describing the corroding influence of the cosa nostra. Everybody knows full well that what they do is highly illegal — or at least ought to be illegal.

And yet, most of the folks in Sicilia and the south of Italy go along with the decrepit activities of the mafia. Silence is golden — and speaking up might result in one being murdered, or so the local logic goes.

True, as in the case of Italy, there are a few courageous people trying to fight the beast. Some judges and prosecutors in Italy showed extraordinary courage in pursuing the mafia — and, yes, they ended up murdered.

But they made a conscious choice. They realized that fighting a longstanding cancer on their home society was the only choice they could ethically make — even if it meant to pay the ultimate price

The same applies in the United States today. The NRA is as pervasive and destructive a cancer on American society as la cosa nostra is on Italy's.

And all people of moral rectitude ought to stand up to defeat this monster. Failing that, Americans will have to realize that what they perceive as their innate sense of moral righteousness really is a twisted case of self-righteousness that nobody else in the civilized world is able to follow.