Guns & Butter at School

Expanded from the 3-27-2005 Daily Sparks Tribune
and the 4-1-2005 Comstock Chronicle

"A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic."
Josef Stalin

Stalin's hoary statement very accurately explains the past week in America.

We were running out of celebrity trials so our fearless leaders in Washington manufactured the P.R. execution of an unfortunate Florida woman. Thanks to their exploitation, she has no chance of dying with dignity now that she has been transmogrified into a media and political rape victim.

She got attention because hers is a single potential death. Her story dwarfed the news coverage of the ten gun fatalities at a Red Lake, Minn., school. On the road to indifferent statistical insignificance, ten is apparently far closer to Stalin's million. The greater the carnage, the more incomprehensible the tragedy, the more we turn away. Dead bodies are apparently only digestible in small numbers.

Exploitive and explosive images of a comatose woman wallpaper all media all the time. Bloody bodies born of war are not shown to us at all. I can't blame the accursed liberal media. If Dubya's FCC will fine Howard Stern for dirty words, imagine the indecency penalty awaiting Dan Rather for showing the butchered body parts of a blown-up Marine on 60 Minutes.

Did anybody die in Iraq, Afghanistan or the West Bank last week? That news was smothered by the clear and present danger of steroid-crazed baseball players running amok among us.

Lordy, we have been lying to ourselves for so many decades that, like a half-mad has-been movie star hitch-hiking on Sunset Blvd., we now believe our own press releases. America is the land of the good guys in the white hats who will save the world from whomever is the blackguard of the moment. (If tomorrow that particular blackguard gets rehabilitated as a friend of freedom, don't dare question the re-spin or you'll be accused of treason.)

The addlepated Minnesota teenager who pulled a Columbine last week had presidential potential, a faithful child of the most warlike nation the world has ever seen. Had he waited a year or two, our military would have happily provided him all the opportunity to commit legal mass murder that he could wish for.

There are many ways to demonstrate our national bloodlust, but the best is budgetary. We have been kept on a perpetual war footing since 1945. Imagine what kind of a nation we could have been if that ravenous monster had been fed just a little less.

In researching actual war department spending for the past half century, I found recurring analyses showing that we're not really spending much if our "defense" budget is viewed as percentage of all the goods and services the nation produces. That's military-industrial complex propaganda at its worst. For years, Congress and the White House have been passing the Pentagon's in-your-wildest-dreams wish list plus an extra 10 or 20 percent, all thanks to congresscritters anxious to buy votes back home.

The growth of the economy is not a fair comparison. There's only so much you can spend, even if you sell the surplus to the Saddams of the world. Weapons makers get far richer subsidies than farmers but make nothing productive. Tanks and guns are not reinvested in the economy to produce more goods and services, notwithstanding the occasional increased expenditures for police investigations and funeral and medical services in places like Red Lake and Littleton, Colo.

When the American Civil Liberties Union confronts hateful speech, some spokesman always suggests more speech as the answer. Taking a cue from the flaming liberals, the National Rifle Association last week said that the answer to guns in school is more guns. Teachers should start packing heat. Nothing like using freshly bloody statistics to open new markets for your products.

Such conduct by educators would be the retail equivalent of states going into the lottery business. Once the government becomes a partner in the vice, it becomes a protected industry.

If the NRA wants to put guns in schools, I suggest the Travus T. Hipp rawhide reality review: Each student should be allowed to take a high-velocity shot at a side of beef to view firsthand the damage a bullet can cause.

Weaponmongers don't need any more protection. We do.

THIS WEEK: You can celebrate the life of César Chávez at 6:00 p.m. this Thursday, March 31, at the Reno Hilton. For more info, call 333-2727 or check out the new Chávez page at On Saturday, April 2, you can do something Chavez would be proud of. A community forum entitled "Immigrant Rights in Post-9/11 America" will take place at the Neil Road Recreational Center, 3925 Neil Road in Reno from 6:30-8:00 p.m. It is sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, Latinos for Political Empowerment and the UNR Latino Research Center. For more info, call Laura Mijanovich at 884-9089. Finally, if you've got friends or relatives who are part of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 401, they will hold their Centennial Dinner on Friday, April 1, at the Peppermill. For more info, call the union at 329-2566.

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Copyright © 1982, 2005 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of He sits on the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee.

Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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