Bob Franken




It doesn’t rank as the most dangerous country in the world — that would be Afghanistan, with Syria a close second — but the United States is in pretty dismal company when it comes to the so-called Global Peace Index.
The U.S. ranks 121st out of 163 countries, just ahead of Burkina Faso. That’s according to the Institute for Economics and Peace, by the way. And also by the way, Iceland comes in at No. 1 safest.
But the U.S., with its 121st place in the Armpit Parade, is far separated from the sovereign states that normally call themselves “developed nations,” right there among those that President Trump called “sh**hole countries.”
Political instability is one reason. It didn’t used to be that way, but then Donald Trump came along. But even preceding Trump was the insane prevalence of guns within our boundaries: 300 million privately owned pistols, rifles and assault weapons. Yeah, I know, the legal ones are technically not assault rifles, but they are mini machine guns. These human killing mechanisms are readily available to the deranged, the deadly unstable people, terrorists, others with violent political agendas and those with extreme anger issues who are set off by one straw too many.
The difficulty is where we used to settle disputes with our fists or even knives, now the societal saturation of guns means that an individual or group predisposed to a massacre can, either by a suicidal attack or from a safe distance, take the lives of scores of innocents unaware they are entering a deadly battlefield.
The carnage left behind has spawned a bunch of cliches, perverse because of the regularity that we are called on to use them.
One of the worst is “thoughts and prayers,” mumbled by someone who can’t think of anything more meaningful to say.
“Commonsense gun law reform” is another equally empty one. It is usually uttered by someone who favors compromise, placing some restrictions on weaponry, which he or she knows is impossible because of our paralyzed and corrupt government and the politicians who by rote state their own platitudes, like “law-abiding citizens.” Leaders like Ted Cruz know they can whip up a fervor by equating these death machines to freedom.

As a result, we have a nation that is way more dangerous than it should be. Granted, the danger index is skewed by the Covid pandemic. But then again, that was distorted by the reality that it was the Trump administration’s gross incompetence and fanciful lies by the leader that made the United States a tragic world mediocrity or worse in just about every per-capita category.
And before someone screams “fake news” and accuses everyone of overlooking Warp Speed — the Trump initiative that developed a vaccine in a remarkably quick period of time — the logistical problems left behind by the Trumpsters and the rest of the haphazard obstacles made it extremely difficult to untwist unnecessary complications. How many lives were lost by all the sloppy work of people who were in over their heads or too scared to take on Trump?
The truth is that we face too many snags in our political system to solve issues that nearly everyone agrees should be solved: repairing a disintegrating infrastructure, health care, education, economic inequities, walking down the street without taking our lives into our hands. But in most of these rankings we’re not only unexceptional, we are lackluster at best.
As we face mass murders of our fellow citizens time after time after time, our standing in these listings that define quality of life can be improved upon only if we each get to work on just one reform that is another cliche, impossible itself unless we citizens selflessly embrace the surrounding community: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

© 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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