Opinion: Yet Another Mass Shooting Reflects the Misanthropy of Imperialism in Crisis

Cover Photo: Transportation workers killed in the mass shooting in San Jose

By Jakob Stein

Early Wednesday morning, a worker at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) went on a shooting rampage at a San Jose rail yard, killing nine co-workers in the process. The shooter, later identified as Samuel Cassidy, was also found dead at the scene from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in yet another pointless slaughter of innocent workers that reflects both the depravity and the anti-people nature of the society we live in.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, this shooting marks the 232nd mass shooting (in which at least five people are wounded or injured) in 2021 alone—putting this year on track to be the worst in shooting deaths in two decades. Aside from the nine workers who were murdered and Cassidy’s suicide, monopoly media reports that bomb-making materials were found in both his locker at the VTA and his home, which he set on fire using a timing device to ignite it simultaneously with the shooting.

While no official motive has been released, Cassidy’s ex-wife reported that he had previously discussed killing people at work and the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Department described him as a “highly disgruntled employee.” Like many workplace and school shooters, Cassidy seemed to target specific coworkers and ignored others, reportedly telling one union official, “I’m not going to shoot you.” His behavior is consistent with the type of intense planning and list-making that shooters engage in to avenge years of perceived slights and unfairness.

These shooters are continuously bred by US society—the very same country that was built through genocide, slavery, and ruthless exploitation and oppression of its own people and the people of the world. US imperialism has raised reactionary violence and villainy to a virtue. While the leading proponents of American exceptionalism and patriotism would never admit this, it is clearly reflected in US history and popular culture.

The Democratic Party is predictably using the tragedy as a political prop to call for minor gun reforms and blame their failure to actually pass these measures on the Republican Party and the National Rifle Association. It is a game they play every year—moral grandstanding coupled with preemptive excuses. The problem is never solved and they always have an excuse, but that doesn’t keep them from pretending to be champions of the people.

The fad of blaming gun violence on violent video games, movies, and music has fallen out of style and has since been replaced by pointing to the system that treats preventative mental health care as a luxury and emergency services as the standard. The problem is that all of these—the mass proliferation of firearms, violent media, and worsening mental health problems and inadequate care—are inextricably linked to US imperialism and are only getting more severe as imperialism faces its deepening general crisis.

The latest surge in gun violence and mass shootings began in April 2020, when documented unemployment numbers reached heights not seen since the Great Depression and continues as the working class is being crushed by the economic crisis which has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is no coincidence that in this capitalist system that breaks down workers, makes them feel hopeless, pits them against each other, and fosters a hatred for others that they then go on to commit horrific acts like the shooting in San Jose against their brothers and sisters in the working class.

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