21 September 2014

America's gun culture costs lives and feeds our fears. Consider the
most recent injustice in Florida, the verdict in the Michael Dunn case,
and the most recent news about America's "guard labor."



In Jacksonville, Fla., Michael Dunn, a 47-year-old white man, was
aggravated by the loud rap music coming from an SUV filled with four
black teenagers in a convenience store parking lot. An exchange of
insults ensued. Dunn, who was armed and clearly dangerous, claimed that
he was threatened by Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old high school senior, and
later claimed he saw the barrel of a shotgun coming from the SUV. There
was no shotgun; no other witness saw anything that might resemble a
shotgun. Dunn opened his door and fired 10 shots into the SUV as it
drove away, killing Jordan Davis. Dunn then drove away without calling
the cops, and without ever mentioning that the boys had a shotgun.



Under Florida's inane "Stand Your Ground" law, however, Dunn had the
right to use lethal force to defend himself if he "reasonably" thought
his life was threatened. Dunn's lawyer said, "I don't have to prove the
threat, just that Mike Dunn believed it." The Jacksonville jury found
Dunn guilty of three counts of "attempted murder" in his strafing of the
car, but they couldn't come to a decision on his murder of Jordan Davis.
In Florida, it is increasingly dangerous to be young, black and male.



In the New York Times on Monday, Samuel Bowles and Arjun Jayadev report
in "One Nation Under Guard" that the U.S. now employs more private
security guards than high school teachers. Tallying up all of what they
call "guard labor," including police officers, prison guards, soldiers,
etc., they come to a figure of 5.2 million, more than all teachers at
all levels. The "guard labor" share of the labor force in America has
risen dramatically since the 1970s, as inequality has reached new
extremes.



Bowles and Jayadev find that guard labor and inequality are connected.
We have four times as much guard labor as Sweden, a country of equal
living standards but far less inequality. States with extreme inequality
like New York and Louisiana have far more of their work force employed
in guard labor than states with less inequality like Idaho and New
Hampshire. Bowles and Jayadev discount race as a factor, but obviously
Sweden, New Hampshire and Idaho are also far less diverse than the U.S.,
New York and Lousiana, respectively.



Bowles and Jayadev note that social spending seems to decline as guard
labor grows. The U.S. is spending more of its money on guards and less
on opportunity.



One haunting feature of South Africa under apartheid was the extent to
which the homes of the affluent whites were protected by walls, barbed
wire and private guards. Fear of crime and of majority revolt pervaded
the country.



Our gun and guard culture is, at root, also about fear. We pride
ourselves on being the home of the brave and land of the free. But
increasingly we are the home of the fearful, and land of the armed.
Michael Dunn's murderous rage was grounded in fear. Our soaring guard
labor reflects rising fear. As Jacksonville demonstrated once more, guns
can make those fears deadly.



We would be far better off investing in opportunity rather than fear,
making the country less unequal and more confident in its diversity.
Contrary to the NRA, spreading concealed weapons around makes our
streets more, not less, dangerous. Contrary to real estate agents, gated
communities and armed guards offer more provocation than protection. In
the end, real security comes not from guards or guns, but from justice.



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