Contributed by Joe Montero
Polls have been showing for a long time being that most Americans want tighter gun control. Most of the politicians have not been listening, and shown a marked preference towards the National Rifle Association (NRL), its extensive high level connections and wads of money to buy votes.
The killings at Parkland in Florida have proved to be a turning point, unleashing a mass of angry young Americans, acting on what they see as betrayal from their political leaders, who keep on doing nothing. These young Americans are standing up to be counted. They are telling their political leaders to shape up or ship out. By doing this, they young Americans are providing the national political leadership that is needed.
On the March for Our Lives day on 24 March, Millions of Americans hit the streets. In Washington itself, more than a million were there, demanding the national government act on gun control.
Many of the new young activists come from white America.
There have been movements in the black and Hispanic communities for as long time. This is where gun violence is much more pronounced. But these have been largely isolated from White American mainstream. The rise of young white America has done a great deal to begin to change this, making gun control a national issue, by uniting the white, black and brown in a common cause.
Gun related violence is a much more serious issue in Black and Hispanic neighbourhoods. There have been movements campaigning on this matter in both communities for a very long time. But hey have been cut off from mainstream white America. Now white. Black and brown have found common cause.
That this has come about, is an indicator that something even more profound is going on in American society. Anger towards politicians and growing mistrust of traditional institutions are on the rise and manifesting themselves in a number of issues. Gun control is the latest.
The rise of Donald Trump was itself a symptom of this development. One side of his rise was the anti-politician image, and the claim to be standing against Wall Street and corrupt politics. This appealed to sections of the disillusioned. Those who pass it off Trump’s ascendancy as a Russian plot are missing the point.
The largest part of America has been suffering, a significant decline in their living standards, rising insecurity and the loss of job opportunities, at the same time as the political leaders are seen to be wallowing in the trough of cronyism and corruption.
Trump also set up scapegoats to blame for every ill. This has also had an effect and won him standing in white supremacist and pro-Nazi camp.
Rising disillusionment and the Trump phenomenon generated counter forces as well. There is a force for change, based on grass roots activity, which is beginning to transform the political landscape from below. Although it has competing tendencies and perhaps no clear overall direction, it does rely on participation by many and fighting for a politics that serves the interests of the great majority, and not a small and very wealthy few.
While in some respects, Trump might be a product of this wind, his negative actions have inadvertently helped it to blow stronger. A good example is his behaviour towards women, which has contributed to unleashing a women’s rights movement on a scale that hasn’t been seen for decades. The anti-Mexican hysteria has generated a counter reaction within the Hispanic community.
Another counter wind is that the Trump political base is beginning to fragment, under the weight of the failure of the administration to deliver on promises, and Trump’s personal crassness. Former friends are turning into enemies. Political backers are getting nervous, as he increasingly comes to look like an embarrassing liability. the most important past off the unraveling is that ordinary Americans who had believed Trump would be there for them are showing noticeable signs of shifting away.
In addition to the carnage of mass shootings, these are the conditions that have made it possible for such an enormous movement for gun control to rise at this time.
Why should we be concerned with this in Australia? We may not have the gun problem of the United states. But our political environment does share some similarities. More people are becoming involved in a range of causes here too. This provides opportunities for the rise of a pro-people political alternative.
The young Americans now standing up to be heard, are reminding us of this. And they are reminding us of the necessity to come together to make change from the ground up.