The massacre organized by the “psychologically unbalanced” student Cho Seung-Hui at the Virginia Polytechnic has given rise to another global dispute about the deep systemic and moral crisis of the American society. All the more so, as the U.S. administration is claiming leadership in the modern world, believing it to be its right and even duty to teach other nations ideals of freedom, standards of democracy and respect to human rights.
Meanwhile, many observers attribute the tragedy in Virginia, one of the two U.S. states with the most liberal laws concerning purchase and possession of firearms, to the “weapons culture” that is blooming in the United States and the violence cult deeply rooted in its society. The United States has not only the world’s most powerful armed forces, which Washington uses without hesitation to achieve its foreign-political goals, but also the world’s most heavily armed population. U.S. citizens own about 280 million units of different weapons, experts estimate.
Over 30,000 people die in America from gunshot wounds a year, but few American politicians risk to call for tougher control over weapons sales, to say nothing of bans. The impregnable weapons lobby, which represents interests of weapons producers and numerous proponents of free sale and possession of “firing means of self defense”, is such a powerful force that any president and any Congress have to take it into account.
Even a tiny attempt to deprive Americans of the right to freely buy weapons is immediately interpreted as an attempt on the sacred cow of the U.S. democracy, the Constitution. Its provisions, formulated by the founding fathers of the American nation, give U.S. citizens the right to carry weapons and protect private property.
It was no coincidence that on the day of the tragedy in Virginia George W. Bush, after offering his condolences to the relatives of the shot students, hurried to announce that every American has have the right to own and carry a gun. Simultaneously, representatives of one of the most influential structures within the weapons lobby, Gun Owners of America, demanded that all laws on “gunfree areas” be abolished, including those that prohibit teachers and students to carry handguns and revolvers at educational institutions. The Virginia Tech tragedy could have been prevented if students had had weapons and could have stopped the gunman, they alleged.
This logic leaves us wondering how many people would have died in an indiscriminate fire in classrooms. Or how the police (should it arrive at the scene) would have known who of the numerous armed people in the building is the offender and who are victims. This also raises a logic question: why did the numerous university security guards admit a heavily armed person in and was unable to stop him when he started killing people? Nevertheless, arguments of the weapons lobbyist, who say that about every American needs to get armed, have found fairly broad support in the U.S.
It is necessary to note that availability of weapons in America is only part of the problem. After all, thousands of draft-age men in Norway, Switzerland and some other countries keep automatic guns and ammunition at home, as envisaged by these countries’ defense doctrines. But there have been no cases of mass killings in public places, at schools and universities so far. Independent experts say that, perhaps, a more serious problem of the American society is its weapons culture, which does not only make a cult out of weapons itself, but also encourages violence to solve a person’s problems.
The famous saying of Wild West cowboys, “God created men, but Colt made them equal,” is ingrained in the U.S. mentality, which, by the way, is quickly picked up by everyone who wants to be a member of the “equal opportunities society” and is greedily trying to carry out “the American dream.” Most probably, Cho Seung-Hui, who had come to the United States from South Korea at the age of eight, developed such a mentality during his immersion in the U.S. society. And when he encountered psychological problems caused by one-way love, misunderstanding of fellow students and imagined unfairness of teachers, he solved them with the help of two guns and a hundred of cartridges easily bought at the nearest weapons store.
The mass killings that occasionally take place at U.S. educational institutions testify not only to the imperfection of the American law, but also to the deep psychological and moral problems of the American society, first of all of the young. The American civilization with its cult of money, tough fight for “a place under the sun”, permanent stress and devastating spiritlessness, combined with Puritan bigotry and hypocrisy, suppresses and cripples people morally, damaging their psychics.
This is contributed to by the notorious mass culture, when children are early immersed in a world of violence, from news broadcasts, Hollywood films and TV crime series to heavy music and violent computer games, which they later try to play in the real world. As a result, there are a growing number of people in the streets of American cities whose behavior is inadequate and socially dangerous, and the availability of lethal weapons only aggravates the problem. A significant part of these people go to the armed forces, where their “inclinations” are manifested not only in torturing prisoners or firing at Iraqi or Afghani civilians, but sometimes even at their own fellow servicemen.
The tragedies of Virginia and other American schools and universities before will be inevitably repeated again and again. America’s domestic security is now threatened not so much by some outside Al Qaeda terrorists as by the products of its own weapons culture, the quiet murderers from the next block, mad with hatred to the world around them.
Unfortunately, as America is an obtrusive exporter of its cultural model for the biggest part of the rest of the world, the same dangerous trends are relevant not only for the U.S. Similar signs are now seen in many countries, including Russia. This is the dark side of globalization that worries experts and scientists. Thanks to Hollywood, the Internet, satellite television, computer games and other achievements of technical progress, the U.S. weapons culture is spreading across the world. There are already calls for free gun sales in Russia. Others call for building “a truly democratic society” following the American model, etc.
To all appearance, America, which has been hit by the increasingly powerful boomerang of its weapons culture not for the first time, is so far unable to learn from the terrible incidents at its educational institutions. Yet it is high time the rest of the world considered the problem seriously and did certain conclusions. The sooner it does, the better.