November 11, 2012

Two Shootings In Salem---Now What?

Two shootings in Salem took the life of one man and left several others wounded in Salem this weekend. Shooters Cafe (Silverton Road) and Cantina 501 (Portland Road NE) were the sites of two shootings.

Let's look at this from a socialist point of view.

When I was a kid many bars were built in ways which encouraged social contact. Drinkers sat at a square bar or at tables and could make eye contact and talk to one another over drinks and food. Bars were social places, often family-owned and presided over by a bartender who cut patrons off before they had too many. People could walk to a neighborhood bar and drink regional brews. At Halloween kids could come in and get candy and a shot of root beer or sarsaparilla.

Later the bars changed so that patrons were looking into a mirror and at the stock. There was usually a mirror behind the stock, however, so that eye contact and social contact was limited but did not disappear entirely. Bar kitchens and steam tables closed down. The bars got darker. The emphasis was on selling patrons a few drinks quickly. A hired bartender moved patrons in and out as quickly as possible. Neighborhood bars shut down and trick-or-treaters weren't allowed in.

Still later the rows of stock grew, with "top-of-the-shelf" brands getting the most play and well drinks and national brand beers selling most quickly. The mirrors came down. Eye contact and social contact was almost impossible, and was discouraged in any case. Weird mixed drinks full of sugar and syrups took over and theme nights started, usually with sports themes. The early sports bars often featured female waitstaff wearing cheerleader uniforms and there was often a fan at the register set to make their skirts blow up. Adding lottery games only made things worse. Have you ever met anyone who got rich at a bar?

From that we got to the so-called "gentlemen's clubs." And from that we got lots of mean drunks, more fights in the parking lot and more drunk drivers. We have arrived at a point that any bar that spends more than 10 per cent of its take on labor will soon go out of business.

You can see how capitalism pushed these changes, how sexism was used deliberately by the capitalists and how these capitalists benefit directly from irresponsible and anti-social behavior. It's no accident, then, that we end up with people being shot at the bars.

It's probable that the shooters will eventually be caught and go to prison, but that won't really solve the problem. If the shootings were gang-related, gang life will continue. If personal grudges were at stake, these dramas will continue to play out and more people will be hurt. Both of the bars at which the shootings took place have been known as rough joints. They may close down now, but other bars will open and will be the scenes of other violence.

Socialists ask with reason why we have so many bars and "gentlemen's clubs" in the first place and why they function as they do. We think that they mark a particular low-point in working class life and a high level or point of exploitation.

We're not right-wing moralists. We don't think that putting more cops in police cars and on patrol will solve what has become a mass social problem. We don't think that the occasional protests by church groups at the sites of "adult products" stores and bars gets to the point. Limiting liquor and cigarette ads doesn't affect the quality of working class life.

The solution is deeper and requires more complex thinking and action. A population engaged in fundamentally changing society for the better won't patronize exploitative and dangerous bars. An aware and self-policing working class community won't allow such places to open up or stay open. A mass feminist movement will provide a deeper vision for women and men and will protect women who want to go out for some r-and-r. A popular democratic movement will naturally be at odds with the liquor businesses and the gun manufacturers. Working class cultural organizations can provide their own means of entertainment. A politicized drug, alcohol and gambling recovery movement could work to help people make responsible and self-enhancing choices.

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