Why we don’t have the right to care about Newtown

BY TED RALL  | We don’t have the right to be sad.

We don’t have the right to be angry.

We don’t have the right to care about the 20 dead kids, much less the six dead adults or the one deranged shooter.

American newspapers don’t have the right to pretend that we are a nation stricken by grief. Our television networks don’t have the right to put the Newtown shootings at the top of the news.

Americans don’t have the right to gather around the water cooler and talk about how terrible it all is.

The U.S. president doesn’t have the right to express grief or remorse or pretend to be a human being or reference the fact that he is a parent or wipe his eye (assuming he was crying).

Pundits don’t have the right to use this massacre as a reason to call for gun control. Our Congress doesn’t have the right to use it as a reason to propose a single piece of legislation.

Until Americans start caring about other people’s dead kids — and their adults — kids and adults made dead by American weapons — we don’t have the right to mourn our own.

Every couple of days, President Obama orders drone attacks against innocent people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and, no doubt, other places we are unaware of. But Americans don’t care.

There is no moral or legal justification for a single one of the more than 3,100 murders committed by the U.S. via drones. The guilt or innocence of the drones’ targets is never reviewed by any legal body. (The White House won’t even say how they compile their “kill lists”.) The dead never have a chance to confront their accusers. And in any case the offed “militants” are   not threats to the American people. They are merely political opponents of repressive regimes allied with the United States.

Moreover, the vast majority of the victims are innocent bystanders (by one count 36 civilians per militant), members of the families of the target, or people who simply happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Newtown massacre, so tragic and pointless, would be just another run-of-the-mill, made-in-U.S.A. afternoon in the places targeted by America’s campaign of aerial terror. On March 18, 2011, for example, a U.S. drone blew up between 17 and 40 civilians and policemen in the village of Datta Khel in the North Waziristan region of northwest Pakistan. This was part of America’s nasty “double-tap” strategy.

“As the drone circled it let off the first of its Hellfire missiles, slamming into a small house and reducing it to rubble. When residents rushed to the scene of the attack to see if they could help they were struck again,” reported the U.K. Independent.

Not an accident. Double-taps are policy.

And we’re O.K. with them.

Drone strikes approved by Presidents Bush and Obama have killed at least 168 children in Pakistan alone.

And in recent months, more than 100 people have been killed by unmanned aerial vehicles (U.A.V.’s) in the same area.

And Americans don’t care.

Actually, that’s not fair. The truth is, Americans are pro-mass murder. Barack Obama makes Adam Lanza look like a peacenik, but we love him. A whopping 62 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s extrajudicial drone war.

Let’s give you, dear reader, the benefit of the doubt: Let’s assume you’re one of the 38 percent of Americans who disapprove of one man acting as judge, jury and executioner of people half a world away, seen through a video feed taken thousands of feet up. The fact remains, you probably don’t lose a hell of a lot of sleep over the drone victims. Which is understandable. You don’t know them. They wear funny clothes. They do live, after all, half a world away.

Which is why reporters don’t cover their funerals. Why “The Today Show” doesn’t interview their grieving relatives. Why our politicians don’t shed tears (real or imagined) for them. Which is why we don’t ask each other:


Even the Left doesn’t care. Not much. America’s most recent major progressive movement, Occupy Wall Street, focused on economic injustice and corporate corruption. O.W.S. hardly had a word to say about the drone strikes that killed so many children. America’s “liberal” media — NPR, The Nation, Mother Jones, etc. — barely mention them.

Which is fine. Americans have the right not to care about anything we want. Including dead kids. Even dead kids killed by U.S. missiles. Even dead kids killed by a president re-elected by a comfortable majority.

Since Americans have made a collective national decision to be a bunch of coldhearted bastards, however, we have to be morally consistent. And that means not caring about American kids either. Even when they are little, cute, white, and live in Fairfield County, an upscale suburb of New York City where many reporters, editors and other members of the national media reside.

We owe it to the little, cute, brown kids we’re killing in Pakistan. Stop caring about all kids.

“They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own,” Obama said of the Connecticut victims. That was equally true of the children Obama murdered — some whose snuff videos he watched. It is also true of the children Obama is planning to murder. “We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years,” the president continued.

Not that he cares.

Rall’s most recent book is “Wake Up, You’re Liberal! How We Can Take America Back from the Right” (Soft Skull Press).

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3 Responses to Why we don’t have the right to care about Newtown

  1. This article is absurd. And Rall is guilty of using controversial materials for the sake of their own publicity.

    While it is horribly tragic that our nation is guilty of the atrocities you speak of, that does not in turn mean that we as Americans "have no right" to mourn the losses of our own. It's a complete non-sequitor.

    Your criticism should be aimed at why Americans aren't more outraged about the atrocities committed by our government, not at why they're outraged when it takes place on our own soil. This is because feeling outraged is the proper response to every atrocity (regardless of location), and to say that such feelings are unwarranted in some cases because they do not extend to all cases, simply doesn't logically follow.

  2. Patrick Shields

    Hardly absurd Samuel, and re-reading your response yet again (for clarity) makes me feel like you are actually making the same point Rall makes while attacking him. This piece is a legitimate challenge to the wave of false, insincere, self promoting, public "grief" which stands in for real pain in this country and over its airwaves. A good deal of America (the NRA and their sheep, the frenzied, frothing, knowledge lacking second amendment "defenders") already doesn't care about the Newtown massacre. They felt, and feel, nothing. How could they? Rall is correct in asserting that they have become not only incapable of, but actually politically resistant to feeling during these massacres. Because they learn from our leaders that feeling and accountability are unnecessary. Their self absorbed, self indulgent marketing (they call it defense) of some perceived threat to their "way of life", (for me this century's gun debate is just standing in for another century's slavery debate) seemingly needs to be addressed first, while either remaining silent, or faking some tearful response to the brutal gutting of children right here in our region. What Rall is asserting is only the tip of the iceberg.

  3. Matthew Borenstein

    Refusing to see the connection between Newton and the overwhelming militarism of the American empire is a glaring symptom of social schizophrenia. The endless wars promoted & pursued by the right-wing Democratic/Republican party – ballyhooed & always justified by the propaganda media – have inflicted severe wounds on the national psyche. Great numbers of Americans have been drained of empathy or sympathy of any kind when it comes to "gooks" "extremists" or "terrorists" = this is the toxic ground for some to then turn on their own, and themselves. Which is always a basic result of the domination/subordination nexus : 1% versus 99%. This just in : France has invaded Mali & wants the Pentagon to supply ………….. drones !! Dollars to donuts Obama can hardly wait to join the slaughter – with the "free press" praising & egging him on.

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