Category Archives: Current Affairs

On Trump’s North Korea Crisis (2017) and Kennedy’s Cuban Missile Crisis (1962).

By John P. Walsh, dated August 9, 2017

In addition to Twitter, the media tells us that U.S. President Donald J. Trump loves to watch a lot of TV. I hope he has seen this film: Virtual JFK (2008). “Does it matter,” the film’s narrator states, “who is president on issues of war and peace? Can a president make a decisive difference in matters of war and peace? Can a president decisively lead his country into war or keep his country out of war? Or are the forces that drive nations into conflict far more impersonal (and) out of the control of any human being, even a president?”

In 2014 nine nations around the world—including North Korea—have around 16,300 nuclear weapons. Estimates are that North Korea’s arsenal today may be about 20 warheads or higher. In descending order of warhead amounts, the other nuclear states are Russia (8,000 warheads), the U.S.A. (7,300), France (300), China (250), the UK (225), India and Pakistan (about 100 each) and Israel (80). According to the National Security Archive, the last tactical nuclear weapons left Cuba in December 1962. For a rogue state such as North Korea to possess nuclear weapons is dangerous and unpredictable to the region and world.

Like JFK in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the U.S. must use its military and moral strength to seek and find a conclusion so that North Korea changes course on their nuclear weapons peacefully. Exactly what that change should look like is an important debate not explored here, but the U.S. must NOT and NEVER start or provoke a nuclear war to achieve it. Kennedy prepared for nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but always carefully did not pull the trigger. There can be no close analogy between Cuba in 1962 and North Korea in 2017. Cuba is 90 miles off American shores and North Korea about 6,500 miles from the Continental U.S. In the Cuban Missile Crisis, those were clearly Russian nukes. The Cold War by the early 1960’s was a well-worn competitive geopolitical game that hadn’t yet completely played out. The Russians built a wall in Berlin in 1961; Kennedy quarantined Cuba in 1962. In 2017 what is the multiplicity of sources Trump can hold accountable for the North Korean weapons deployment in addition to the rogue regime? China? Russia? Iran? If Pyongyang is today as remote and obscure as the Kremlin was in Kennedy’s time, today’s political and military equations are even more tangled and complicated.

Any calculations for war must include those who may or will get killed – and how many. Is American “hyper” power any good if its allies are casualties on a massive scale? No nuclear exchange must result with a hermit kingdom dictator who is not a friend of the U.S. or its allies in the region – especially if war may incalculably spread. If the U.S. has allies in the true meaning of the word then an attack on them by North Korea (or China or Russia) is equal to an attack on the homeland – otherwise what’s the point of the U.S. having allies at all? We must protect our allies in the region to the highest degree so to defend and preserve our esteemed alliances. In this dangerous politico-military crisis there are ramifications with severe strong risk for the U.S. as a global power and markedly in that part of the world. North Korea must somehow stand down for there to be success from the perspective of the U.S and its allies.

Similar to the Cuban Missile Crisis that endured for 13 straight days—the Korean crisis has gone on arguably for over 60 years — patience and cool-headed leadership joined to a perfect calibration of carrot and stick (preferring the carrot) should serve as worthwhile qualities so to craft a necessarily peaceful and successful outcome. “Because of the ingenuity of science and man’s own inability to control his relations one with another,” said JFK in 1961 in Virtual JFK, “we happen to live in the most dangerous time in the history of the human race.” The film states that experienced military advisers believed that whenever Americans committed military force – they won the conflict. But as frequent and strong pressure by many advisers is put on Kennedy to commit the U.S. to a war, the president time and again chose to avoid both conventional and nuclear war.  It may not be remembered today but after the failure of the Bay of Pigs in 1961, there was talk of John Kennedy’s impeachment for incompetence. Many in his own Democratic party wouldn’t support him because they had convinced themselves he wasn’t a serious political leader.

In 2017 the defeat of 33-year-old Kim Jong-un’s nuclear threat short of war will not be simply a victory for the status quo but a step forward in terms of American leadership in that part of the world. An actual war, unless it could be completely nonnuclear, contained, and successful – which is improbable – cannot be in any civilized people’s self-interest. Of course if Kim started a nuclear war, which is hopefully very remote but possible, war will come, as Trump said plainly on August 8, 2017, with “fire and fury.” In October 1962 Kennedy’s speech to the nation on the Cuban Missile Crisis included this “fiery” rhetoric: “Third: It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” JFK concluded with the overall purpose of his actions: “Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right – not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.” In 2017 we may look for a resolution to the North Korea crisis where history repeats itself.

All through the Cold War Kennedy looked into the face of strategic MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) without blinking and then chose to evoke the better angels of our nature. At the United Nations in his first year as president (September 25, 1961) Kennedy exhorted the world’s representatives: “Together we shall save our planet – or together we shall perish in its flames. Save it we can.  Save it we must. Then shall we earn the eternal thanks of mankind and, as peacemakers, the eternal blessing of God.” President Trump would do well to aspire to the same.

NOTES:

Nine nuclear nations – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/nine-nations-have-nuclear-weapons-here-is-how-many-each-country-has-a6827916.html

about 20 warheads – http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/791436/north-korea-nuclear-weapons-kim-jong-un-how-many

Last Cuba warheads removed – http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB449/

Iran and North Korea – http://thediplomat.com/2016/04/the-iran-north-korea-connection/

fire and fury – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/09/world/asia/north-korea-trump-threat-fire-and-fury.html?_r=0

United Nations speech – https://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/JFK-Speeches/United-Nations_19610925.aspx

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Corporatism and Superdelegates favor the Democratic Party establishment in 2016. Do they win the battle and lose the war?

sanderssuper dclinton

By John Walsh – 4:00 pm Chicago time, April 27, 2016.

Despite the corporate media’s unabashed favoritism for Hillary Clinton when reporting the news – it reminds me of the Cold War days when Americans were told about the partisan propaganda at Pravda (a frightening journalistic prospect should it ever arrive in some form to America I always believed) – the delegate count from last night’s five primaries (4 closed and 1 hybrid) comes down to this: a net gain of 52 PLEDGED delegates for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders– or around 2% of the total needed to reach the magic number of 2383 to become the Democratic presidential nominee.

Today Bernie Sanders has 1299 PLEDGED delegates and  Hillary Clinton  has 1632 PLEDGED delegates. Neither candidate can likely reach 2383 – that is, not without the party hacks called SUPERdelegates of which Clinton today has 519 and Sanders has 39. It should be well known that the Democratic Party’s nominating process as it is presently constituted is a corrupt system, rigged, drunk with big money and worship of the status quo, and that its special category SUPERdelegates have flocked and will likely stay flocked to Clinton because they are birds of a feather. The SUPERdelegates’ reasons to support Clinton transcend her qualifications and whether or not she can win these primaries outright under present rules deemed fair. In Connecticut’s closed primary last night, for instance, Clinton won a net gain of 2 PLEDGED delegates over Sanders based on the people’s vote in that contest but she also received an additional 15 SUPERdelegates there (Bernie picked up zero in the state). In Connecticut Hillary won over 170,000 votes to gain 27 PLEDGED delegates and Sanders won over 153,000 votes to gain 25 PLEDGED delegates – or about 6,300 voters per delegate. Yet Clinton picked up those additional 15 SUPERdelegates cast by 15 fellow Americans whose vote, in this case, has a power equivalent to a bloc of 95,000 ordinary Connecticut voters and, further, basically ginned up the Clinton vote by almost 50%. This sort of election process doesn’t take seriously the enshrined  “one man, one vote” rule but is a hybrid of the ordinary voter and a handful of royalty voters who can beknight a candidate and the happy few in the voter pool who agree with them. This Clinton delegate lead and the thought police at the corporate media reporting that she is the “presumptive nominee” is part chimera as it is based very much on the SUPERdelegate regime for which no other quality is required except to be somehow part of an establishment clique. Democratic Party – my foot.

sanders in West Virginia
Bernie Sanders in West Virginia where he has a 30-point lead in ordinary voter polls over Hillary Clinton for the May 10, 2016 primary. Yet they have so far split the number of pledged SUPERdelegates though no votes have been counted.
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Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia where on April 26, 2016 she won in that state’s primary by 20% in the popular vote over Sanders but won by 1,800% in the SUPERdelegates vote.

It may be expected that in states where Hillary won the popular vote and most of the PLEDGED delegates that she might pick up more of these brazen SUPERdelegates. Yet this was not the case in 2016 in New Hampshire, Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Maine, “Dems Abroad,” Michigan, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island. In these 12 states (and one constituency) it was Bernie Sanders who won the popular vote and the most PLEDGED delegates but Clinton who picked up all or most of the SUPERdelegates – an additional 77 of them in fact. In a nomination process for president based on delegate count – which delegates? – this kind of system appears (is) “rigged.” Voting results in other states exacerbates this perception of politburo-like favoritism inherent in the DNC and its SUPERdelegate regime – namely, that when Clinton won the popular vote and most PLEDGED delegates she also still gained all or most of the SUPERdelegates. What gives, America?

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In all of last night’s five primary states, Clinton picked up 63 SUPERdelegates and Bernie picked up one (in Maryland, a state he lost). Bernie won over 1.1 million votes for his one SUPERdelegate and Clinton won about 27,000 votes for each of hers. SUPERdelegates are where the action is! If this is the manner in which the Dems nominate their party’s presidential candidate I may have to think twice about voting for that person in the general election. Unfortunately, it is likely some or all of these wildly unfair SUPERdelegates will facilitate the nomination of either Sanders or Clinton unless one of those candidates achieves the magic number of 2383 in PLEDGED delegates. This is a worthy goal which still remains possible – especially for Clinton.

super-delegates-new-hampshire-sanders-clinton-DNC

There are 1209 PLEDGED delegates on the table in the final 14 contests and a much smaller indeterminate number of UNPLEDGED delegates (about 195). Based on PLEDGED delegates, Hillary would need to win from this point onward 751 of them (62%) and Sanders 1084 of them (89%) – high, and, impossibly high electoral numbers for each – in order to secure 2383 in PLEDGED delegates. Hillary’s challenge to go into the convention with enough PLEDGED delegates has an outside hope of being realistically achievable but it remains likely she will need SUPERdelegates to put her over the top as the party’s standard bearer. So, if an incomplete slate of PLEDGED delegates is all that one needs, why not nominate Bernie? Under this arcane and untrustworthy convention system, Hillary appears to hold most of the political insider cards. Sanders can fight on and hope to bargain for platform items but the Clinton people will be looking over his shoulder to his voters. How many of Bernie’s voters do they need to win the general election in November? From that point, deals will be crafted. If Clintonites can peel off enough Bernie voters outright with corporate media-driven stories about party unity and fear mongering over Donald Trump, then the Clinton-Sanders deal may be weaker. But if enough Bernie supporters getting on board is problematic –if they clamor for Sanders to be the nominee or on the ticket, or that their political beliefs be incorporated into the 2016 Democratic Party platform on campaign finance reform, breaking up the big banks, free public university education, universal medical insurance, a fracking ban, a $15 minimum wage, etc.– all positions spurned by Clinton and her voters – then things could get hugely interesting in Philadelphia in July.

By the way, for each of the 14 upcoming primary contests – from Indiana on May 3 to Washington, D.C. on June 14 – Clinton already has 106 SUPERdelegates committed to her candidacy (Bernie has 8). Not a single vote by the people has been counted in any of those places. It’s rigged. Welcome to the party.

hillarynetworks FIXED
Corporate media propping up the big money candidate.

NOTES

30 point lead in WV – http://mic.com/articles/136039/sanders-has-a-30-point-lead-over-clinton-in-west-virginia-here-s-why-that-matters#.MU5rBef2z

For primary election results – see: http://www.politico.com/2016-election/results/map/president

For state by state delegate distribution – see: http://www.electionprojection.com/democratic-nomination-delegates/

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic  or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Brief Reflections at Christmas: on Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams; the Christian Ashram Movement; a role for Christmas clothes; and child hunger in America.

Featured Image is Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Model for Altarpiece in St. Peter’s, Italy, Rome, 1625,  oil on canvas 16 x 24 1/4 in. (40.64 x 61.6 cm). The Ciechanowiecki Collection, Gift of The Ahmanson Foundation, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

By John P. Walsh

Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams –

I finished watching “Field of Dreams” last night, a film I had never seen before. Starring Kevin Costner, it is a good film about, one could say, the intersection of reality and fantasy on the American landscape—or simply the intersection of what are different realities. As Costner’s character Ray Kinsella hears voices to build a baseball field on his low-income Iowa farm, he is promised that “If you build it, he will come.” In this case, the “he” is Kinsella’s own deceased father John who had played baseball as a young man, got old too quickly, and then died right after he and a teenage Ray had a falling out over the 1919 Chicago “Black” Sox team. A late-1980’s Ray, now married with a family, still thinks about his relationship with his father that was cut short and the film asks whether it may be possible for John Kinsella to meet a grown-up Ray on his “field of dreams.” Ray never doubts his voices but is never sure what they mean except when he tries to connect the dots by traveling at times across long distances of place and season to meet strangers for whom the answers most matter. Ray’s efforts lead to surprising, mysterious and ultimately fulfilling encounters for those who come to play on his field of dreams—or are there simply to watch.

Jacopo_Pontormo_040

Pontormo (1494-1557), Visitation (detail), c. 1529, oil on panel, 20.2 x 15.6 cm,  Church of San Francesco e Michele, Carmignano, Italy.

The Christian Ashram Movement –

Bede Griffiths (1906-1993), a Catholic English monk known as Swami Dayananda (bliss of compassion) dedicated his life’s work to the Christian Ashram Movement and its role in the development of dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism. Swami Dayananda said in an interview: “I feel that in the Christian view, which I share, the body is of very great importance. There is a tendency in certain forms of Hinduism, certainly, to think that the purpose of spiritual exercises is to get beyond the body. But in my understanding, the human being is body, soul, spirit, and it is an integrated whole. Body and soul – the body is dependent upon and integrated with soul, and body and soul are dependent upon and integrated in spirit. The body is part of the wholeness of the human being. And that’s why incarnation is very important. God enters the psycho-physical realm and assumes it and doesn’t discard it. And at the resurrection the body is not discarded, it is assumed into the life with the soul and the spirit. I think the place of the body is a significant part of the Christian contribution. It is the total human being which is to enter into the life of the spirit.”

SOURCE: Marvin Barrett, “The Silent Guide,” Parabola, v.xi, no. 1.

Chartres, whitened Black Madonna

Our Lady of the Pillar, 1508, Chartres Cathedral. In her right hand she holds a pear.

mystical-conversation

Odilon Redon (1840-1916), Mystical Conversation, c. 1896. Oil on canvas, 65 x 46 cm, The Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu, Japan.

A role for Christmas clothes –

There is a drive in today’s society to be singular, intimate, and well known in a society that is, paradoxically, vast and impersonal, as well as incredibly common and conventional. Seeking to be “authentic” in the public domain, at the same time we are insecure about the people we meet there. We don’t know our next door neighbor but presume intimacy with the wider world. To be intimate and authentic in a vast and alien society―and one needs to peruse the internet for five minutes for its revelations ― is the modern age’s new growth industry. Yet there remain less flashy moments of behavior regarding the private self in the public space. Such is, for instance, the thriving language of love—the raised eyebrow; dropped glove; the rush to light her cigarette. Each small and well-timed gesture and inflection of voice raises the romantic ante without loss of boundaries between a private self and the public space. These silent cues are found in many venues, although absconded by the tactical importance of self-image (interchangeable, often) striving for immediate intimacy—a glimpse of the inner self, the cult of personality—in the public square. Fashion changes clothes with the seasons in a modern-age attempt to convey private personality (“taste”) in the public arena. For this increasingly popular social model, it is important to take the world by storm—and each and every time so that the costumed yet exposed private self does not disintegrate before public scrutiny or is destroyed by it.

Clothing  provides a rich metaphor for the dilemma of the private self in the public space. It serves those seeking to make hyperbole of their private personality and fluctuating nature thereof as well as those seeking to downplay and even hide it. In a world of omnipresent security cameras and airport pat downs, a traditional notion of clothing to exclude public encroachment on the private  and (trustingly) sacred self appears to be increasingly gone with the wind. At Christmas the use of clothes in a sacred context is important. In the Gospel of Luke the angel tells the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

In the Bible a major teaching tradition is that when one discovers the Divine Presence—for God makes every attempt to self-disclose—the moment of recognition is like putting on a new garment that is tailored to the individual’s exact measurements. The Divine garment endows a person with a specific sense of dignity and private self-awareness―a sacred and highly personal investiture that turns the modern notion of the private-as-public self upside down. The rule of clothes extends to John the Baptist—a figure who is important in both Christianity as saint and prophet and in Islam as a prophet. John is described as coming out of the wilderness wearing “a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3). When God “dresses” humanity in the divine image something is expected of them in ways other than the modern idea of a new image or appeal. It is an inner and private change which takes on a significantly different meaning than one more public role.

SOURCES: Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man, W.W. Norton, 1976; Joseph Wolf, “Divine Clothing,” Parabola, v.xix, no. 3.

redon nigt fixed 2

Odilon Redon (France, 1840-1916), Night, 1910-11, Distemper on canvas, 200 x 650 cm. Abbaye de Fontfroide.

#13 shepherd

Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664), Adoration of the Magi, 1636-1639Prado.

 

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Gentile da Fabriano (c. 1370-1427), Adoration of the Magi (detail), 1423, tempura on panel, 283 x 300 cm, Uffizi, Florence.

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(after) Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450-1516) Nativity (The Birth of Christ). c.1568-1600. oil on panel. 66 × 43 cm (26 × 16.9 in). Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, Germany.

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Parmigianino (1503-1540), Holy Family with the Infant Baptist, c. 1535-39, tempura on canvas, 65 5/8 x 52 in. (159 x 132 cm), Galleria Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples.

Child Hunger in America –

Hunger is defined as “the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food as well as an exhausted condition caused by want of food.” While being homeless as an adult is a harsh test, to be homeless as a child is worse. Society’s striving to make it scarce or nonexistent is painfully incomplete. In this year’s presidential campaigns we hear rhetoric from candidates of the major parties about the safety and security of the American people and mainly in regard to terrorists who threaten bodily harm. But each night, including tonight, over 15 million American children go to bed hungry according to Feeding America. Where is the public and media outcry for their bodily safety and security? Proper nutrition is vital to the growth and development of children who are the country’s future. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, today there are 74 million children in the United States which is an all-time high. Yet 20% of these children are food-insecure and go to bed hungry at night. In a land of plenty, where more than 2 in 3 adult Americans are considered to be overweight or obese, food injustice is not confined to Christmastime but each day of the year.

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Parmigianino (Italy, Parma, 1503-1540), Madonna and Child, c. 1524-25, oil on panel, 23 1/4/ x 13 3/8 in. (59 x 34 cm). Galleria Doria, Rome.

Merry Christmas!

SOURCES: http://www.feedingamerica.org/…/child-hunger-fact-sheet.htm…;
http://www.aecf.org/…/the-changing-child-population-of-the…/;
http://www.niddk.nih.gov/…/overweight-obesity-statistics.as…
http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/defining.html;
Definition of hunger – Oxford English Dictionary, 1971.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic  or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

 

Nation Divided: Violent Crime and the New “Renaissance of Gun Ownership” in the USA.

26LETTERS-popup

By John P. Walsh
updated February 14, 2018;
updated October 2, 2015. 

Feb. 14, 2018 – Parkland high school shooting: At least 17 killed, suspect in custody, Florida sheriff says.

On a typical day in the United States, not all firearms (a.k.a. guns) are used for “hunting,” “sport” or to “protect one’s family” as stated by President Obama in his press conference on October 1, 2015 at the White House in the wake of the mass shooting at Umpqua College in Roseburg, Oregon. At last report, 10 people were killed (including the gunman) and 7 others critically wounded in this  school shooting, the 44th mass killing incident in the USA just in 2015 so far. Since the tragic and disturbing Columbine massacre in 1999 (13 killed; 21 wounded) there have cropped up in intervals of about one per week mass shootings in the USA, not all of them school shootings, that have gained intense media attention: the Fort Hood shooting (November 5, 2009), the Gabby Giffords shooting (January 8, 2011), the Aurora movie theater shooting (July 20, 2012), the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting (Aug. 6, 2012), the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting (Dec. 14, 2012), the Navy Yard shooting (Sept. 16, 2013), the Kansas Jewish Community Center shooting (April 14, 2014), the Charleston Church shooting (June 18, 2015), the Chattanooga recruiting center shooting (July 16, 2015) and now the Roseburg community college shooting. In the wake of this carnage, the mainstream media coverage felt a bit different this time – almost as if this kind of thing could have been happening for the first time – or that they were somehow having to start over in their approach. Reporters seemed to embody a deeper scrutiny of, or despair at, this latest school massacre only four weeks since the murder by gunfire of TV reporter 24-year-old Alison Parker and TV cameraman 27-year-old Adam Ward In Virginia.

A shot from the shooting of Alison Parker and Adam Ward.

A shot from the shooting of Alison Parker and Adam Ward on August 26, 2015.

There will be gun control in this nation – either by default or design. A Pew Research Center study released on August 13, 2015, shows a large majority of Americans in support of several specific gun policy proposals including 79% who favor laws to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns; 70% who support the creation of a federal database to track all gun sales; 57% who support a ban on assault-style weapons and 85% of Americans – including large majorities of Democrats (88%) and Republicans (79%) – who favor expanded background checks. President Obama hinted in his press conference at another finding in the August Pew Research study when he said,  “I would particularly ask America’s gun owners — who are using those guns properly, safely, to hunt, for sport, for protecting their families — to think about whether your views are properly being represented by the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you.” His comment was a not-too-subtle reference to the NRA (The National Rifle Association) which the Pew Study finds the public has some changing opinions about.

FIXED GUNS

While mass shooting crimes are, statistically, a snippet of America’s real field of action for gun violence, they are an especially destructive form in itself and its repercussions for the wider community. In addition to a national discussion about the mind or “profile” of a mass murderer (usually devolving into mental health concerns and/or ignorance about a reliable profile), the impact on the local or national community is less explored. While President Obama predicted a routine counter-punch to his gun control comments, it came swiftly, reported by media outlets such as WGN Chicago as a top story featuring gun-rights advocate Mike Huckabee who stated the president was wrong for trying to “exploit” the Oregon shooting and that another mass killing should have no serious effect on the public debate about gun ownership in the USA. Yet the impacts of any mass shooting is never as simple as anybody’s politics. Deleterious effects from the gun violence understandably extend to the victims and their families, but also beyond them. Based on the level of shock associated with these shootings, the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are not only a consequence for more numerous victims and their families but the psychological consequences of directly experiencing or witnessing any part of a mass shooting, especially for children, is often serious and long-lasting. Even extremely realistic school-shooting simulations known as “active-shooter” drills staged by local law enforcement agencies using school grounds and staff and students as actors and thought to be the best way to help first responders prepare for gun-related violence on campus are censured as largely counterproductive by psychologists and other security specialists because the mere simulation of gun violence causes psychological distress among students and their families and may actually make death tolls worse. 

A student actor participating the extremely realistic

A student actor participating in the extremely realistic “active shooter drills” staged by law enforcement on campus grounds around the nation. Advocates say it helps first responders better prepare; Opponents say that it may actually make death tolls worse.

A 2013 report cited 547 innocent lives were taken between 1983 and 2012 in 78 public mass shootings. From 2013 into 2015 there were in schools an additional 142 mass shootings and 25 of them suicides or attempted suicides. Everyday in America guns are used to kill about 80 people and wound 300 more – that’s about 560 murders by guns from one Sunday Night Football game to the next week (over 2,000 more are wounded by guns each week). For accidental gun shootings,  3 people die and another 30 are wounded everyday in America.Callagy-Law-Trauma-Center

GunShow

In 2011, 68% of homicides in the USA were gun crimes, even though these and all other crimes have dropped by almost 40% since 1993. Americans, however, continue to view gun crime as a pervasive and even worsening problem. In 2011, 11,068 people died in gun homicides in the USA – but that number reflects a steep decline in gun homicides since the 1980’s and 1990’s. Despite the welcome decline the perceived relationship of guns and murder endures. Statistics support a conclusion that where there are more guns and access to them there is more gun violence, including murder. After covering mass shootings, media turns to cover gun homicides for the local newscast which logically are found in more densely-populated urban areas where there is a likely concentration of guns. Mass shootings frequently occur in rural or suburban settings outside this logical gun-murder mode.

Yet each year most gun deaths in the USA are not mass shootings or homicides but suicides. In 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19,990 people died by suicide with a firearm. It has been that way at least since the 1990’s. Does more access to more guns lead to more suicides? That gun suicides are less common in states where criminal and mental illness background checks are mandated points to, if not a direct link, then an approach that works like one. Guns kill in three ways: homicide, suicide, or by accident. It is obvious that by having a gun the risk of having an accident increases – but what of homicide and suicide? Suicide attempts by guns are almost always fatal while attempts by other methods cause death only about 6% of the time. This data confirms the firearm’s mortal effectiveness and as the nihilist of second thoughts.

The Suicide by Édouard Manet, c. 1880, Foundation E.G. Bührle, Zurich, Switzerland.

The Suicide by Édouard Manet, c. 1880, Foundation E.G. Bührle, Zurich, Switzerland.

To plumb arrest statistics it is clear that it is not as much a criminal’s race, age, or creed that a citizen may fear – but his gender. Males are arrested for 75% of all crimes. They appear to be adept in all categories: from violent crime to property crime to every manner of assault. Access to a gun aids his criminal facility. For example, in a survey of battered women nearly 72% reported that guns had been used against them and to threaten to kill them. For women who are abused (and not killed) 16% live in homes with a gun. Abused women that were killed, about half lived in a home with a gun. One might ask, perhaps facetiously, why gun control does not simply extend to the USA’s male population? Stats that suggest access to a gun is a risk factor for homicide in abusive relationships is beginning to be taken up by law enforcement in police interviews with battered women.

abuse

We know mass shootings are a small percentage of the gun homicide problem but it may be surprising that their frequency and impact have changed little in the last 35 years. To focus public safety on the mentally ill in reaction to these horrific gun crimes is likely to produce small effect on their recurrence. Several studies have shown that while the mentally ill require good health care (and locating funding is a struggle) they are responsible for only about 5% of crimes and not ones normally involving guns. One positive outcome to gun violence – if only based on a misconception – is to provide better health care for the mentally ill. During the Great Recession of 2008 budget cuts for mental health amounted to almost $2 billion. Drug and alcohol abusers engage in violent acts seven times more than the mentally ill and funded substance abuse programs should be important to gun safety advocates. A sad statistic is that the link between gun violence and domestic batterers is far greater than to those with mental illness. Another sad statistic is that of those 80 people killed by guns each week in the USA, 24 of them are children and that gun shootings, after accidents, are the leading cause of death of children in the USA.

In 2009 there existed an estimated 310 million civilian guns (handguns, rifles, shotguns) in the USA with 2012 sales adding $6 billion more. Buying fever has hiked up privately-owned firearms by about 40% since 1994 when there were 192 million guns. Actual concentrations of firearms in the USA is not known – about half of Americans report at least one gun in their home – but the prodigious amount of guns results in a one-to-one gun ownership rate for every citizen in the country. However gun ownership in the USA is heavily concentrated among older white men. Depending on which side of the gun debate one is on, 310 million guns is more than a sufficient stockpile or may not yet be enough. The fact is that the USA has more guns per capita than any land mass in the world. While some poor countries (in Central America, for example) have higher gun homicide rates than the USA, among “developed” nations no other country has more guns per person in private hands nor a higher gun homicide rate than in the United States. The gun industry is prospering and, to paraphrase Charles Erwin Wilson (Defense Secretary under Dwight Eisenhower): “What is good for Sturm, Ruger & Co. is good for the nation.” There is some truth to it. In 2012, the gun industry added $31.6 billion to the U.S. economy due to job creation and new sales taxes. The gun industry also employs about 98,750 workers and another 111,000 workers as suppliers and retailers including mega gun seller Walmart. While recreational use seems to be driving record sales, there is a darker side to one gun advocate’s recent proclamation that “the (gun) industry has entered a golden era, a renaissance of gun ownership that transcends a dedicated segment of Americans who consider firearms a natural part of their lives.”

Attendees at an NRA meeting.

Attendees at an NRA meeting.

Barring an unimaginable catastrophic gun crime event (or a series of them), the prospects for further gun control in the USA remain bleak. Fewer than half of Americans think that gun laws should be stricter, although another half believes they are too strict already or just right. In a culture where money increasingly defines free speech and second amendment rights are permitted liberal construction, an incredibly prosperous gun industry as well as at least half the population of the United States will not be laying down its arms any time soon. Gun safety measures may have a more receptive audience than attempts at gun control, including background checks but there is also a “mindset” associated with some elements of gun-rights advocates that may divide the gun owners’ attitudes about certain potential gun control measures. This is part of what President Obama was getting at when he asked law-abiding gun owners to reflect on “the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you.” An extreme and controversial example of this mindset is the so-called NRA embrace of “insurrectionist ideology” that asserts that the intent of the second amendment is to permit American citizens to shoot and kill federal agents and law enforcement officers in the event that they believe those agents are attempting to facilitate or impose some form of government tyranny. On the NRA specifically, the American people remain divided: 40% say the NRA is too influential over gun laws while 52% say it has too little or the right amount of influence. While positions on the NRA grow entrenched and polarized, there is slight but significant movement on another issue pertaining to guns. In 2015 Americans did an about face on the question as to whether it was more important to control gun ownership (50%) or protect the right of Americans to own guns (47%). Once more as 57% of whites favor gun rights over gun control, 75% of blacks and 72% of Hispanics favor gun control.  Changing demographics as well as marginally shifting overall American opinion on gun control may be the sliver of hope President Obama perceived when he said in his October 1 news conference: “It will require that the American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination as to whether this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision. If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.”

President Barack Obama speaks at his press conference, Oct. 1, 2015.

President Barack Obama speaks at his press conference, Oct. 1, 2015.

While several polls found that over 60% of the public thinks background checks are a good idea, neither the gun industry nor many gun owners want that extra burden. In an almost $32 billion a year industry ($6 billion in sales) background checks would be a major government intrusion. As long as the number of gun fatalities is status quo– that is, on par with the number of traffic fatalities – there likely will be no greater impetus for gun control than there is for automobile control. In some states – Arizona, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Michigan, Nevada and Oregon – the rate of gun deaths has exceeded traffic fatalities (they are equal in Ohio and Pennsylvania) but such comparisons fail to enlighten or be relevant to either problem. It is and will continue to be a subjective decision by individuals and the general populace – half of which are gun owners and 95% of which own cars –as to whether 30,000 fatalities in each category of these combustibles is an acceptable and fair price to pay in society for their continued unabridged access and use. Even if, as Russ Thurman writes, “Gun ownership has gone mainstream…It’s the fun factor of firearms that has been restored to the culture,” this cannot be a responsible gun owner’s first or only matter of importance. The tragedy of gun violence is that like other forms of violence it only requires some resistance to exist – but it is nearly always lethal.

Footnotes:

44th such incident in 2015 – everytown.org/article/schoolshootingsretrieved Oct 2, 2015. 

Pew Research Center study  – http://www.people-press.org/2015/08/13/continued-bipartisan-support-for-expanded-background-checks-on-gun-sales/ – retrieved October 2, 2015.

Ask America’s gun owners…to think about whether your views are properly being represented by the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you- http://time.com/4058961/oregon-shooting-president-obama-transcript-speech/?xid=tcoshare -retrieved October 2, 2015.

Effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)-  see http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/newsletters/research-quarterly/V18N3.pdf;

especially on children – comments by Dr. Alan Lipman director of the Center for the Study of Violence and professor at the George Washington University Medical Center – https://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2012-12-17/mass-shootings-and-their-effect-american-psyche- retrieved October 2, 2015.

“active-shooter” drills – http://americanfreepress.net/bloody-school-shooting-drills-in-vogue/ – retrieved October 2, 2015.

78 public mass shootingshttp://journalistsresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/MassShootings_CongResServ.pdf- retrieved October 2, 2015. 

142 mass shootings in schools; 25 suicides or attempted – http://everytown.org/article/schoolshootings-/- retrieved October 2, 2015.

are used to kill about 80 people and to wound 300 more – https://www.press.umich.edu/158723/private_guns_public_health#sthash.fmNmMTxZ.dpuf\- retrieved October 2, 2015.

accidental firearms shooting – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-helmke/private-guns-public-healt_b_38208.html

Gun crimes drop 40% – http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?iid=4616&ty=pbdetail;

Americans don’t sense decline in gun violence- http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/05/07/gun-homicide-rate-down-49-since-1993-peak-public-unaware/

19,990 died by suicide by firearm -http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr63/nvsr63_03.pdf;

Suicide by firearm less common in states with background checks – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743512003295;

Males 75% of crime – https://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0325.pdf; 72% battered women report guns used against them – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448464/; 16% live in homes…yet 50% of abused women… – David Hemenway, “Private Guns, Public Health,” University of Michigan Press, 2006 p 123; Beginning to be taken up by law enforcement in police interviews – http://www.dangerassessment.org/DA.aspx and http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/magazine/102779/domestic-violence-vawa-maryland-abuse-women.

310 million civilian guns (2009) & 192 million firearms (1994) –http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/citation/quotes/6676;

gun ownership in the USA is heavily concentrated among older white men – http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/06/18/11-essential-facts-about-guns-and-mass-shootings-in-the-united-states/

Mass shootings tiny percentage of homicide – https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/images/analysis-of-recent-mass-shootings.pdf; frequency and impact have changed little in the last 35 years- http://www.boston.com/community/blogs/crime_punishment/2012/08/no_increase_in_mass_shootings.html;

Mentally ill responsible for 5% of crime – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20591996; mental health budget cuts – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/17/seven-facts-about-americas-mental-health-care-system; drug and alcohol abusers engage in violent acts seven times more – http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/health/a-misguided-focus-on-mental-illness-in-gun-control-debate.html; link gun violence and domestic batterers – http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/26/opinion/gun-laws-and-the-mentally-ill.html;

Good for the gun industry good for the nation – http://www.nationalreview.com/article/352429/whats-good-america-robert-w-patterson;

At least one gun in home – http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/2012/1217/US-gun-industry-is-thriving.-Seven-key-figures/47-percent;

$6 billion sales (2012) – http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/2012/1217/US-gun-industry-is-thriving.-Seven-key-figures/6-billion;

USA more guns per capita for all & highest per capita rate for “developed” nations – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/12/15/what-makes-americas-gun-culture-totally-unique-in-the-world-as-demonstrated-in-four-charts/;

No higher gun homicide rate than USA – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/12/14/chart-the-u-s-has-far-more-gun-related-killings-than-any-other-developed-country;

Add $31.6 billion to economy & employment numbers – http://www.thegunmag.com/firearms-industry-bright-spot-in-struggling-world-economy/;

“A renaissance of gun ownership” – http://www.shootingindustry.com/u-s-firearms-industry-today-2012/

Fewer than half of Americans think gun laws should be stricter – http://www.gallup.com/poll/162083/americans-wanted-gun-background-checks-pass-senate.aspxMoney defines free speech – see 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission; 60% think background checks good idea http://www.pollingreport.com/guns.htm; http://www.gallup.com/poll/162083/americans-wanted-gun-background-checks-pass-senate.aspx;

Insurrectionist ideology – http://www.examiner.com/article/flirting-with-treason-the-insurrectionist-ideology-of-the-nra-leadership

PEW research study results on NRA and question of gun rights versus gun control – http://www.people-press.org/2015/08/13/continued-bipartisan-support-for-expanded-background-checks-on-gun-sales/ – retrieved October 2, 2015.

Gun death rate exceeds traffic fatalities – http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/09/guns-traffic-deaths-rates/1784595/; 95% car owners – http://photos.state.gov/libraries/cambodia/30486/Publications/everyone_in_america_own_a_car.pdf

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

French Cartoonist fêted, then revealed as Nazi Collaborator: Chaval and the purpose of art history and exhibitions.

 

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Chaval’s cartoons, mainly wordless, are often derisive, ironic and filled with dark humor.

By John P. Walsh

The 53-year-old French cartoonist’s suicide in Paris in winter 1968 served as a tragic end to a witty career. Born Yvan Le Louarn near Bordeaux in 1915, Chaval left a suicide note on the apartment door that read “Mind the gas.” But today it is his actions as a young man in his late 20s that mark him for controversy.

Chaval’s professional name is a bastardization of Chevel, an early twentieth century architect for whose work the term “architecture naïve” was coined. While Chevel came to fantastical architecture after being a poor farmer, Chaval trained for years at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the nation’s foremost art school.

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It is a specific period in the cartoonist’s past that erupted into a controversy in late spring 2008 as a major French art museum mounted a retrospective exhibition of Chaval’s career. During the near incredible period of World War II, Chaval created drawings after 1940 with a racist and anti-Semitic slant for publication in Le Progrès, a Vichy newspaper. His drawings were characterized as “Pro-German Vichy and not just” by Pascal Ory, a leading French cultural historian of the Université de Paris-I-Panthéon-Sorbonne. When the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux hosted an exhibition of 120 of Chaval’s pen-and-ink cartoons in summer 2008 none of his wartime anti-Semitic drawings was displayed. In an article in La Croix, the daily Paris Roman Catholic newspaper, Professor Ory revealed the nature of some of these hidden racist works as the exhibition opened.

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By the mid 1950s Chaval was an international sensation, his cartoon work mentioned in the same breath in American publications with icons such as James Thurber (1894-1961), Charles Addams (1912-1988) and William Steig (1907-2003). Immediately after the war Chaval was cleared of wrongdoing and started to be published in top French publications—Punch, Le Figaro, Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris Match. He won the industry’s highest awards and remained at the top of his field until the time of his death.

In a June 5, 2008 article Professor Ory described Chaval’s wartime cartoons as “compelling” of racist anti-Semitism.  One published Chaval wartime cartoon Professor Ory described—and the Bordeaux fine arts museum director confirmed its existence—shows two figures with exaggerated noses and wearing yellow stars on their coats. One of them wears two yellow stars and says to the other: “He made me a good price!” Professor Ory criticized not only the drawing’s crude racist ontology but that the Bordeaux art museum would seek to ignore or even cover up the cartoon’s existence in Chaval’s oeuvre. “I’m surprised,” Ory said, speaking in 2008, “that after thirty years of historiography, we are always looking to conceal the period of collaboration under the Occupation in France.”

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That the art museum buried Chaval’s early racist work from view without explanation did not stop the museum director, M. Olivier Le Bihan, from defending an impugned Chaval after his controversial work was publicized: “We do not have the right to condemn a man because he made a tendentious drawing. Remember that after the war a trial cleared Chaval of some of the anti-Semitic cartoons ascribed to him. Chaval was called a humanist in Robert Merle’s 1954 Holocaust novel (“Death is my Trade”).”

Professor Ory, author of the classic Les Collaborateurs 1940-1945 (published in 1976), counters that it is “absurd” for the museum to justify the overriding purpose of an art exhibition as “first drawing” or that Chaval “does not deserve this trial of intent” because “he did it to eat.” Professor Ory states there is a “dialogue gap” between art historians and historians that leads to an “endemic lack of historical understanding” of the issues involved in an art exhibition resulting only in an ensuing public spectacle of controversy. Ory points to a similar mistake being made in another 2008 exhibition held in Paris of photographs by Collaborationist André Zucca (French, 1897-1973). This exhibition caused a public furor for not being specific about the conditions under which these images of the city during the Nazi Occupation had been made.

chaval

Ory contends that Chaval’s case is not simply a matter of a hungry young artist making due in wartime. There is further documentation of Chaval’s friendly relations with racist editors and writers on the Vichy newspaper. Beyond these facts is Professor Ory’s principled belief that “the problem of political engagement is not secondary” to any artist’s life or work. Chaval, professor Ory concludes, is a “draftsman collaborationist” – and though his political affiliations do not detract from his artistic talent it becomes important for the art historian and curator to explain the historical context including “the artist’s overall character” to the viewer. This practices intellectual honesty and makes the enterprise of art making and art exhibition “more human,” according to Ory.

SOURCES:The Best Cartoons From France, Edna Bennett, Philippe Halsman,Simon & Schuster, 1953; C’est la vie: The best cartoons of Chaval, Citadel press, 1957; http://www.la-croix.com/Culture-Loisirs/Culture/Actualite/A-Bordeaux-l-exposition-Chaval-souleve-la-polemique-_NG_-2008-06-05-672010.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic  or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.