Rage, Murder & Rebellion

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Have you noticed how going postal has become such a commonly accepted aspect of modern life that spree killings rarely register much more than a momentary blip on the cultural Geiger counter? For instance, only last week, a freshman shot and killed his assistant principal and wounded two others at a high school in Tennessee. But the story was not very widely reported in the mass media.

How has the United States degenerated to the point where we are blasé when somebody goes off like this? Offering an arresting theory is Mark Ames, author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine and beyond. Ames, a Californian in exile who moved to Moscow 11 years ago, is a social satirist whose biting political essays have appeared in The Nation, Playboy, and the New York Press.

What makes this book fascinating is not only Ames’ gripping accounts of dozens of latter-day cases where once normal folks have snapped into assassins, but his attempt to put these events in historical perspective. For instance, he sees plenty of parallels in America’s explosion of slave revolts, like that of Nat Turner in 1831. Thus, he examines how those rational reactions to oppression were covered by the mainstream press. The Richmond Inquirer, for instance, repeatedly referred to Africans who rebelled after enduring a lifetime of inhumane treatment as, “monsters� and “blood-thirsty wolves� condemning their behavior as “vindictive� and “without any cause or provocation.� Ames compelling comparison suggests that just as the slaves weren’t really simply the embodiment of pure evil, there are probably equally plausible reasons for most of the impulsive assassinations which occur nowadays.

This leads to the books alarming conclusion that today’s massacres can no longer be conveniently dismissed as merely the work of wackos gone wild, and that the nation ought to pause to reassess the distribution of wealth, and the inordinate pressures ostensibly being exerted on fragile human psyches by our school and employment systems. A damning indictment which blames greed and the academic and corporate establishments for this gory plague which continues to baffle the social pundits.

Going Postal
Rage, Murder and Rebellion
by Mark Ames
Soft Skull Press
Paperback, $15.95
284 pages, illus.
ISBN: 1-932360-82-4

"Rage as we know it today did not exist when Ronald Reagan took power in 1981. The word stress had a far less lethal meaning then. The vise hadn’t yet been applied so intensely and so broadly, from the middle-class employee’s 80-hour work week, down to the three year-old’s preschool exam prep course. That is gone now.

We went from the Seventies malaise to today’s post-industrial slavery, where we have accepted, with a cheerful attitude, the notion that our master’s interests- the constant transfer of wealth upward into the plutocratic class’ pockets- are identical with our own interests.

Before Reagan, there was no such thing as “going postal� or schoolyard rampage murders. It all started with his reign and his revolution. Thanks to Ronald Reagan, we are all miserable wage slaves, or schoolyard wretches being pressed and prepared for life in the office world. Americans have become perfect slaves, fools and suckers, while a small elite is cackling all the way to the offshore bank. Why is it that in those rare, exceptional cases when Americans take up arms against the malice that Ronald Reagan bequeathed to us, we only turn on each other in our workplaces, our post offices, and schools?�—Excerpted from Postscript.

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