(This article first appeared in The New Worker – the weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain – Pages 6-7: No 1744 Week Commencing September 27 2013)
In a country that owns guns as a legal and cultural right, it is no surprise that those diagnosed as suffering from mental illness, will, on occasion, use these weapons to express outwardly the psychological confusion and anguish felt inwardly. Ironically the United States of America is built upon the efforts of the founding fathers, who initiated an armed rebellion against British rule in the colony. These former British citizens used terrorist tactics to usurp the legitimate bourgeois rule of the British Crown, and in so doing sort to justify their armed uprising by permanently entitling all citizens of the USA to ‘bear arms’, a law in direct contradiction to British law.
The recent murder of 12 US Naval personnel at the Washington Navy Yard is a direct result of the power of history to reproduce in the present, the consequences of actions past. It is a simple logic that if guns were not owned by US citizens, 12 people were not now being lying dead. The perpetrator of this act of murder was 34 year old Black American – Aaron Alexis. He was not a terrorist, or a foreigner residing in the US, but rather a man who had previously served in the US Navy, and assisted in the rescue operations following the Saudi Arabian-led terrorist attacks on New York in 2001.
He was known to have suffered from a diagnosed mental illness, and it is this that is believed to have been the cause of this senseless loss of life. The inherently rightwing US media are currently spinning this story as best they can, reproducing photographs to White America of a Blackman they are presenting as attacking ‘their’ country. The racism is palpable, hidden behind a veneer of assumed impartial reporting. The fact of the matter is that Aaron Alexis was as much a victim of an uncaring, capitalist system, as those he murdered, were the victims of his untreated mental illness. The truth is, regardless of the historical inequality and injustice Aaron Alexis suffered as a Blackman living in America, he was not a violent man, as the details of his ordinary life confirm.
Aaron Alexis was a practicing Buddhist, following the Theravada tradition found in Thailand. He had travelled to Thailand and learnt to speak the Thai language. In the US, he is known to have attended the local Thai Buddhist Temple (Wat Budsaya) in Fort Worth, and to have mastered the Pali sutra chanting sessions held during temple services. He recently stayed with Thais living in the USA and was described as a nice person. The inequalities within the capitalist system cause death and maiming everyday through warmongering, lack of medical care, lack of education, lack of employment, lack of housing, lack of welfare, and lack of basic humane social conditions. The ordinary people suffer these indignations everyday of their lives, and are informed by their bourgeois oppressors that everything heaped upon them is their own fault. Mental illness is not just a matter of dysfunctional psychological responses to external events, but is rather a product of unseen, but determining historical forces. In allotting blame to Aaron Alexis for the crime in undoubtedly committed, it is important not to view this event isolated from the historical forces that have led to it. We are all victims of an uncaring capitalist system that ignores its own extensive and ongoing crimes, and focuses instead on the illusion of individual responsibility.