Take a deep breath before you read this deep dive analysis based on my years of doing school violence prevention plus public education and health care policy:
Oxford High School school authorities are now contending with sorting through students’ possessions — backpacks, cell phones, etc. and cleaning up the mess and repairing the damage caused by the shootings. At the same time, they’re also contending with a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking by “J. Doe Public” and school violence prevention “experts,” of which I am but one.
Here’s the reality —
1) Federal funding and focus on violence prevention in schools that came from Congress and the Clinton Administration after the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999 significantly evaporated during the George W. Bush Administration to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the Obama Administration, that trend continued as well as increased funding for the V.A.
2) We have a broken public education market — it is a market more than a system — based on our nation’s profit-driven public education policy. Our current public education policy began from “A Nation at Risk,” a report issued during the Reagan Administration that erroneously concluded that our public schools were failing. It continued to advance with the George W. Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind policies, which continued to advance even further with the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top.
3) The reality of our nation’s public education policy is this: When kids’ test scores go down, corporate profits go up. Public education policy has been used to privatize public education. It’s seriously encroached on funding for public schools — i.e., gradually, it’s been increasing its capacity to seize and capture Federal, state and local tax dollars designated to fund public schools in our local communities, diverting those funds into for-profit charter and private schools and into the pockets of for-profit corporations that sell both policy-driven, curriculum content as well as high stakes standardized testing.
3) School board meetings have become so contentious over covid-19 vaccine and/or testing and mask mandates as well as identity politics (e.g., critical race theory, trans rights) that the National School Boards Association requested assistance from the Federal government. US Attorney General Merrick Garland responded by appointing an FBI task force. The far right then reacted to what it interpreted as the creation of a police state that would infringe on their rights to participate in their local school board meetings. A request based on fear stemming from a lack of civility and, at times, threats of violence at/during school board meetings resulted in a fear-based response. To hell with what’s true. Fake news! This is how we feel! Therefore, it must be true!
3) We have a health insurance market that, very similar to our data/metrics-driven public education market, is also for-profit. I wish I could say “system” instead of “market;” but, the truth is we don’t have a health care system. We’ve got a health care laws and policies that, as also happened in public education, have gradually — like a frog in a pot of water with heat under it gradually increasing to boiling so that the frog doesn’t jump out but instead passively remains in the pot to die — resulted in the creation of a privatized, profit-driven health care market that’s presently headed even further towards privatization via privatizing Medicare. Medicare has been the most efficient and cost-effective program the Federal government runs. It is popular with all Americans regardless of “identity politics” or political affiliation. Per an Executive Order during the Trump Administration, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is implementing the privatization of Medicare via Direct Contracting Entities. If you’re a Medicare beneficiary who wants to choose your own health care and your own doctors, get ready to let lose those options. So far, the Biden Administration and Congress have done nothing to reverse this Executive Order that they inherited from the Trump Administration. Medicare Advantage Plans, which are an already existing version of Direct Contracting Entitites, are only an advantage to the private insurance companies who get the participaing beneficiaries’ Medicare benefits and, then, control access to specialists by making the primary care provider the gatekeeper and charging co-pays for each visit and each prescription in addition to monthly premiums. Bottom line: Profit-driven, private insurance companies benefit more than Medicare beneficiaries from Medicare Advantage Plans. That Silver Sneakers free annual gym membership isn’t worth Medicare beneficiaries losing control over their health care choices.
4) Thus, both our public education and health care markets have created dysfunctional “systems” that make it impossible for teachers and other public education personnel and doctors and other health care professionals to have the professional autonomy that they need to be the truly attentive and responsive professionals that they want to be for children, adolescents adults, people with disabilities and seniors.
5) We have probably the most highly fragmented public health system of any nation on Earth. During one of the biggest and deadliest pandemics of our lifetime, the public health system in the US hasn’t served us as well as a unified public health system could have. Instead, we’ve relied on corporate welfare to corporations — e.g., the manufacturers of the covid vaccines — to respond to the need to protect the public from the covid-19 pandemic.
6) Thanks in large part to the lack of Federal legislation and regulations to hold our media accountable to, first, serve the public good by reporting the truth and, then, make a profit, many people in the US are making decisions about whether or not to get vaccinated or wear masks and what treatments they get if/when they get infected with covid-19 based on misinformation. Serving the public by requiring reporting the truth cannot happen unless and until the Biden Administration’s two nominees to oversee the FCC are approved by Congress, which still hasn’t happened.
7) If Congress doesn’t pass one of the two voting rights act bills, Democrats definitely will lose the small majority in Congress they presently have and Biden won’t get re-elected President nor will many other Democrats get re-elected due to a) gerrymandering, b) the erosion of voting rights at the state level and c) the elections/appointments of Republicans into leadership positions at the local and state level electoral systems in key states and local municipalities. The game is now solidly rigged for Democrats to lose. So, already, we’re living with just an illusion of democracy. We’re also living with the illusion of a divided two-party system. Democrats and Republicans continue to succeed in distracting us with “identity politics” and social issues like trans rights, abortion rights and gun rights — interesting stories that are great for ratings — while quietly advancing end-stage capitalism and the corresponding undermining of what’s left of our democracy.
8) Meanwhile, Republican leaders — former President Donald Trump and Rep. (R-AZ) Paul Gosar, to name just two — continue to set a bad example for impressionable children, adolescents and adults, some of whom then engage in community- and school -based violence, including the Oxford High School shootings, raiding Michigan’s and other (e.g., Oregon’s) state capitals while armed with guns and, of course, the January 6th insurrection at the US Capitol.
My only questions are: Has the civil war already begun? and Is it possible to reverse course? To do so, we need the political will and enough traction in what’s left of our crumbling democracy as it exists today. Time is running out. Mid-term elections will happen on schedule next November. Ever since Joe Biden got elected President, Democrats have remained passive — are they in denial? — as they’ve lost ground politically for the next election cycle. The media continues to demonstrate that it cares far more about ratings — making a profit — over serving the public. That’s is why the media will continue to focus on the Oxford High School shootings — like it did the Gabby Petito/Mark Laundrie story — rather than the “bread and butter” issues that matter to everyone regardless of political party affiliation and/or identity politics.
It’s so overwhelming and distracting that the question comes to mind: Where do we even begin to dig ourselves out? Maybe Congress can pass one of the two voting rights act bills to prevent a right-wing Republican takeover, just to buy some more time to potentially reverse end-stage capitalism and, hopefully, prevent another civil war which, in fact, may already have begun.
Just keep this in mind when you hear the media talk about the Green New Deal: When FDR passed the New Deal, when he defended the new taxes and regulations to his wealthy peers, he told them they should thank him because he had saved capitalism. In doing so, he also set the stage for our nation’s most politically stable and economically prosperous years. During those years, Americans invented and manufactured lots of products that we exported worldwide. Since NAFTA, which every Presidential candidate whose ever run for office since has promised to overturn but hasn’t, what we manufacture and export most are guns, ammunition and “defense” (i.e., war) equipment.
We’ve allowed our economic, health care, public education and law/justice policies to commodify us.
Gun sales have dramatically increased during the pandemic in part due to civil rights protests being reported in the media as if they were violent riots. Fake news. Gun violence has correspondingly increased.
In the land of the “free” you’ve got to be brave.