The Political Forms of Death

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DDDeath and fear come in many forms. America has a narrow bandwidth of favorites; mass shootings, spree killings, terrorist attacks, the cruel slaughter of children, domestic disputes–killings that spring from cops’ imaginations. Domestic killings, not international–despite London, Nice, Nigeria, Kenya, Afghanistan; terror not hate crimes that, without 9/11, lead in incidents and injuries and are rising.

These are incidents of blood death, killings tied to outrage–and more and more to politics through ideology or failure.

The failures are harder to find. As definitive as death is, politics creates a gray zone and makes itself an invisible hand. At arm’s length, politics makes the deaths tied to governing hard to see by disguising its victims as scattered statistics. Certainly the invisible dead, the statistics that silently reflect public policy–deaths demeaned by the lies that support these deaths–and by the wealth recovered from these deaths the government passes on to the rich.

In healthcare, these deaths in the next decade may total 3 million. The tax cuts tied to those deaths for those whose incomes are over a million dollars total 144 billion dollars over the next decade, according to the New York Times. This is the “beautiful” healthcare Trump is promising.

I have a moral deficit, a Times commenter remarked: the people, uninsured, have a choice; the people killed by blind attacks do not.

I think both are blindsided: one by the system, the other by people the system produced. The common thread is excess turned extreme. By guns, bombs, trucks, fire, or policy, death is the result. Justified by extreme myths about life and dignity, guided by channels as different as faith, hate and balance sheets.

The point is not which is more horrific but that they are connected. Globally, a bottom billion are in poverty traps. Virtually inescapable, these conditions, and others similar, make terrorism or political violence unpredictable–and unstoppable. The media acts in arrogance when it asked what could have been done. It wanders from the truth. Honesty demands a hard truth: tragic acts are apart of freedom.

But not of government or policy. Policy and the conditions driven by policy, its statistical pain is concentrated and allotted by class and income, but also scattered and random within targeted communities. Except for blind mules and GOP locker rooms, the mirror of terror and selected murders strike greater fear: we see in the reflections our own carnage and blood. Policy, with deadly civility, scatters its statistics and hides its results.


Muslim women in London with faces of grief and pain express silent horror at the Grenfell fire as they gaze at the burnt shell and think of the dead.