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Indications Of Serious Decay Of US’ Societal Texture – OpEd


During about the last year or so at times news has been published about the spreading mental diseases/disorders in the US, especially among US’ military personnel returning from Afghanistan’s battle zones. And now this problem appears to be increasing in the US.

That aspect has been brought to the fore in a report dated December 14, 2018 published in the USA Today, which is an internationally distributed American daily. That report highlights the aspect of increasing rates of depression and consequential suicides.

The article mentions: “Leaders are working to combat the stigma of mental illness in a region that values independence and self-reliance”; “Rates of depression are rising nationwide. An estimated 6.7 percent of US adults experienced at least one episode of major depression in 2016, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. By age group, young adults had the highest rate. About one in six Americans suffer depression in their lifetime”; and “Depression is also costly. In 2015, the economic burden of depression in the United States surpassed $210 billion in direct medical, workplace and other costs” (1).

And now for about some months there are regularly appearing news reports of violent mass shootings, killing/wounding of men, women and children in schools, synagogue, clubs, and other places in US.

In the context of mass shootings, it is worth clarifying that there are varying definitions relating to the number of persons killed in the shooting.

However, considering the acts of severe violence in the mass shootings, probably the best definition is provided by the Library System of the famous Stanford University of Stanford, California (US). It mentions, “The definition of mass shooting used for the Stanford database is 3 or more shooting victims (not necessarily fatalities), not including the shooter. The shooting must not be identifiably gang, drug, or organized crime related” (2).

And a significant aspect of these, now appearing, are the news items is that the very high percentage of the mass shooters are White Americans – it would appear that the ‘Islamic Terrorists’ are now losing out. In one of the cases, the deadly mass shooting in a California bar killing 12 or 13 persons, was reportedly done by Ian David Long a former US’ marine (3).

The seriousness of the problem can be gauged from the news recently published in many US publication outlets. One such media outlet is Business Insider, an American news website, which operates international editions in the UK, Australia, China, Germany, France, South Africa, India, Italy, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Nordics, Poland, Spain and Singapore. Some extracts of the news published in this context by Business Insider dated November 8, 2018 show the extreme gravity of this problem:

a. “The number of mass shooting in the US this year has already reached 307. There have been nearly as many US mass shootings as days in 2018”.

b. “It is the 307th mass shooting in 2018, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks shootings in the US”.

c. “Americans are more likely to die from gun violence than many leading causes of death combined, with some 11,000 people in the US killed in firearm assaults each year”.

d. “According to data from the Gun Violence Archive, more than 12,000 people have died from gun-related violence in the US so far this year, and more than 24,000 others have been injured” (4).

In this context it is also noteworthy that, in the once comparatively calmer societal texture of US, the extreme violence in the form of mass shootings has spread and risen to alarming proportion. Though there is a debate about the reason for this grave problem, yet more of the credible writers believe that the reason is not the somewhat lax rules for gun ownership in US, rather it is the deteriorating societal texture of US due to which this apparently uncontrollable violence has commenced erupting in the country.

A British Criminologist, who has studied gun violence in different nations, has said that the US leads the world in gun ownership, but it’s our individualistic culture that puts us at greater risk of mass shootings compared with other countries where guns are prevalent.

Similarly Peter Squires of the University of Brighton in the United Kingdom, who has studied mass shootings in his own country, the United States and Europe, has asserted that Mass shooters in any nation tend to be loners with not much social support who strike out at their communities, schools and families. He has also clarified that in many other countries, where gun ownership is high, the mass killings are fewer due to the societal texture in those countries (5).

And then a new type of fear-spreading problem in the form of widespread bomb threats to public has also emerged in US. In that context, CNN reported on December 14, 2018, ‘Bomb threats emailed to multiple locations across the country’. It highlighted “Dozens of businesses and institutions across the United States and Canada received email threats Thursday afternoon, prompting evacuations and sweeps of buildings. At this time it’s unclear if the threats — which have been received in San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Miami, Washington, DC and other locations nationwide — are connected. The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said they are aware of the threats and are working with law enforcement to provide assistance” (6).

Though luckily none of those bomb threats actually materialized, yet such widespread threatening activities do indicate addition to the already seriously problematic “under currents” in US’ society. And, further adding fuel to that simmering fire of intolerance and violence in US’ society is the very apparent and much reported racist behavior of US President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile the violent mass shootings in various US States continues unabated. The Gun Violence Archive in its report titled Mass Shootings in 2019 has published a comprehensive chart giving the State-wise details of mass shootingss. During that period there were a total of 31 acts of violent mass shootings in various States of US; resulting in 148 casualties (47 killed and 101 injured) (7). Undoubtedly all those acts were saddening. However, the most disturbing was the act in which Dakota Theriot a young man of 21 years shot dead five persons including his own parents (8).

All these reports are worthy of being kept a track of, because while the current US government’s external policies are already time and again bringing US to the brink of a possible confrontation/clash in different parts of the world (North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Venezuela, etc.), any internal implosion in US society will have not only the complex and severely adverse consequences for US, but also serious geopolitical repercussions directly or indirectly for most parts of the world.


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Brigadier (Retd.) Dr. Ahsan ur Rahman Khan

Brigadier (Retd.) Dr. Ahsan ur Rahman Khan is a retired officer of Pakistan Army, a war veteran, a post-retirement PhD relating to Afghanistan from University of Peshawar, lectured in social sciences in the universities of the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi for about 11 years, and a published freelance research analyst.

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