Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Selective Outrage: Murder in America

I found Bob Herbert's editorial in today's NYT striking and disturbing. In the wake of the murders in Newark, NJ, he notes that since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 100,000 Americans have been murdered. He notes the irony of selective outrage:
At the same time that we’re diligently confiscating water and toothpaste from air travelers, we’re handing over guns and bullets by the trainload to yahoos bent on blowing others into eternity in armed robberies, drug-dealing, gang violence, domestic assaults and other criminal acts.
The war-machine is tethered to the society of the spectacle: the images of 9/11 engender an entire culture of revenge (marketed on T-shirts and bumper stickers) that then underwrite a widespread commitment to further violence in the form of war. But the banality of these murders--3 here, 2 there, and many out of sight--fails to generate the same impassioned opposition. But as these numbers show, since 9/11 many more Americans have been killed by other American than by Al Quaeda or radical Muslims. What would it take for that reality to actually result in change in policy?

[For just a glimpse of how the United States compares to other industrialized nations, compare this BBC report or this CDC report focused on violence suffered by children.)