By MARC McDONALD
Fact: America has by far the fewest restrictions on guns of any First World nation (as well as most of the rest of the world).
Fact: With over 2.3 million people locked up in prison, America has the biggest prison population and the highest incarceration rate of any nation on earth.
What's wrong with this picture?
Gun advocates often claim that guns play a crucial role in giving Americans freedom.
But the fact is, guns only give Americans the illusion of freedom.
America today is a nation is that is awash in guns. There are an astonishing 300 million guns now in circulation in America. But that didn't prevent our nation from turning increasingly into an oligarchy over the past three decades.
Does an abundance of readily available guns really give Americans "freedom"? I'm sure the very thought amuses America's oligarchy. After all, we saw who really controls our government in 2008, when George W. Bush bailed out the crooks on Wall Street with hundreds of billions of our tax dollars.
The true owners of America (the top .1 percent) hijacked democracy in America a long time ago. Today's U.S. government is nothing more than a concierge service to the Rich & Powerful. "Our" government no longer really serves the interests of ordinary Americans. It only serves the interests of the top ultra-wealthy elites.
The fact is, real democracy died long ago in America--and guns did nothing to prevent it from happening.
In reality, the oligarchy that controls the real levers of power in America isn't afraid of guns.
What the oligarchs are afraid of is an informed populace. They're afraid of high-quality public schools. They're afraid of organized labor. They're afraid of publicly financed elections. They're afraid of the repeal of Citizens United and the return of the Fairness Doctrine. In short, they're afraid of real democracy.
The true owners of America are afraid of any change in the law that is going to end the whole gravy train that has enriched them at the expense of the rest of us over the past three decades.
And they're sure as hell aren't afraid of a bunch of NRA types running around with pistols and shotguns.
Could the latter ever really protect America against a tyrannical government? It's absurd to think so.
Let's face it: pistols and shotguns aren't going to get the job done. Small arms will be no match against a professional military that has Predator Drones, aircraft carriers, Navy SEALs, nuclear submarines, stealth bombers, spy satellites, Abrams tanks and nuclear missiles.
However, as I mentioned, gun rights do serve a purpose in America: to fool the masses into thinking that we enjoy a lot more freedom than we really do.
You want real freedom? Try a place like Europe, where you'll find loads of freedoms that most Americans don't enjoy. In Europe, you'll find legal dope, legal gay marriage, legal euthanasia, strong workers' rights, 6 weeks annual vacations, the right to join a union without being fired, good public schools, unlimited speed limits on the autobahn, etc. etc.
Frankly, I think today's Europeans are more free in many ways than Americans are. This is reflected by the fact that Europe's prison population is tiny, compared to the astonishing 2.3 million Americans behind bars.
What's more is that in Europe, the continent's national governments by and large still serve the interests of ordinary people. They have to. Ordinary workers are informed on the issues in Europe. Either the politicians do right by them, or the people will take to the streets to demand their rights.
True, present day Europe has its share of problems (although I think many of these problems are exaggerated by the U.S. corporate media). Having traveled there recently, I've come to realize that Europe is more prosperous than many Americans realize.
The national governments of Europe may not be perfect. But overall, they at least make an attempt to serve the interests of ordinary working people. By contrast, in today's America, "our" government has nothing but contempt for working people.
Oh, and in much of Europe, you can buy a gun. Sure, you might have to fill out some forms first. You might have to deal with some red tape. And you'll have to demonstrate that you're not mentally ill. But yes: gun ownership is possible in many European nations. Which once again raises the issue of how "free" Americans really are, compared to their European counterparts.
For America's ruling oligarchy, easily available guns play a valuable role in maintaining the illusion of freedom. As the ruling oligarchy continues to hijack our democracy and loot our treasury, it really has little to fear from a population that is armed (but largely ignorant of the issues).
After all, the Rush Limbaugh crowd is never going to grasp the fact that the oligarchy is to blame for their declining standard of living. No, thanks to Rush, the dittoheads will just blame their woes on African-Americans, gays, poor people, illegal immigrants, and all the other usual scapegoats.
For America's oligarchy, easily available guns also have another useful function. They help keep the population fearful. Fear and ignorance are powerful tools in repressing America's working class.
America's easily available guns make for one other nice bonus for the Rich & Powerful.
Let's say that in the future a truly independent politician who is hostile to the oligarchy somehow manages, against all odds, to get into the White House.
Thanks to America's easily available guns, it wouldn't be hard for the oligarchy to get rid of such a troublesome politician. They could always turn around and blame a "lone nut" assassin. (They've done it before, after all). And they could always claim, "Well, it's so easy to buy a gun in America, the assassin had no problems buying his gun. It's just the price we Americans pay for living in a free nation."
Do guns really bring Americans freedom? I would argue that the opposite is true.
True freedom doesn't really come from guns. It comes from an informed, educated, politically active working class that isn't afraid to stand up for its rights. That is what the oligarchy that rules America is really scared of.