The last 24 hours has had an over-sized impact on me. No, I’m not talking about just the latest shootings.
My 17 year old miniature pinscher has been fading for over a year now and on Friday her kidneys had shut down. As always, making the decision to thwart nature and let the vet handle it was traumatic. This time was worse because it is obvious that we can no longer physically or financially manage pets. It is the end of a lifetime of pet ownership.
Saturday morning was rocky with both of us trying to keep it together and, for some reason, something in the news started me thinking about violence in general. A memory surfaced from earlier in the week where a man of some age, a white man, stated that the world used to be great. One of the last things he mentioned in his pontification was about school yard fights. He was very circumspect in his word choice but what he said was that problems were taken care of outside after school. In other words, fighting was okay and it solved problems.
Now I was raised in a family with socieatal aspirations – we were kinda told we were like southern aristocracy which is silly cause we’re just talking farmers for heavens sake. But my mother and grandmother were all about acting like a lady and denying anger. Mother would tell me to not be angry – especially at others – to feel sorry for those who angered me. I never saw a physical fight between females and did not witness any of the guy fights except those brief scuffles that broke at school. Those fights ended quickly when teachers intervened and students were sometimes suspended for those actions.
My childhood did include playing war – influenced by glorious WWII movies. We set up skirmish lines and threw dirt clods. My brother was my best friend and I was a gasp! tomboy. I played alongside the neighborhood boys on the football and baseball teams. I never saw any fighting or even arguing until we had a new family to move into the neighborhood later on.
That family of bullies, mother and children, were a sudden look at meanness and violence that my mom and the school authorities really didn’t cope with very well. The bullying was pretty much considered to be a non-school issue even when it occurred at school. My brother’s new watch was never retrieved from that neighbor.
Fast forward to high school when I visited my first cousins in Ohio. The girls talked about school fights – with other girls. I was aghast.
At under 5′ 3″ and 110 pounds, I was never going to be a physcial person without a lot of martial arts training so of course I learned to manage life without resorting to hurting someone else. I hurt myself often enough while trying to manage my natural anger; I even cracked my hand by beating on the steering wheel once while angry with my son. It never occurred to me that harming anyone else was okay under any circumstances.
But men are raised differently. Rough physical sports, one on one or team, are considered to be part of being a man. My husband wasn’t raised that way but he was captured by martial arts early and has spent a lifetime in physical activity and training. He has never deliberately hurt someone in anger. He could kill a person easily but has always chose to avoid conflict. An oppositional reaction to the violent society of men.
In the mail on Saturday, the Discover magazine arrived with blaring headlines of Gun Violence! Sighing, I chose to go to a movie to get away from the doggie sorrow and those headlines. We ended up at the last Fast & Furious sequel or I really hope it’s the last. I liked the early ones but this one wasn’t just different, but more along in the line of another violent comic book story with super heroes. Again, written to appeal to the 15 year old brain that every man seems to keep inside, including my non-violent husband.
In my extreme boredom during the movie, I actually pulled out my phone (a first) to light upon the news of the shooting in El Paso. We were watching the same violence on the screen of an air-conditioned movie theater in Augusta, Maine.
My husband is a former cop, a shootist, hunter and holder of at least 13 black belts. My biggest challenge during our move last year was to get him to reduce the amount of ammo and guns to help pay for the move and reduce the weight. He’s been a gun lover since his early teens and grew up in a gun society of Georgia as we all did back then.
But all this emphasis on “gun violence” is driving us to distraction. One of the worst things about America today is how we just want to blame someone else for what goes wrong. Children are too often not raised to accept responsibility for their actions and blaming guns for acts committed by humans is a sign of modern insanity to us.
That gun did not shoot itself. That gun is a tool of law enforcement and the military. That gun is a source of joy and contentment for shootists and hobbyists. That gun represents self-protection for me even though I really don’t like it. That gun did not commit that crime nor did it cajole that shooter into killing masses of people.
The guilty party is nearly always white and male (and relatively young). Why in the world are we not talking about male violence? Men kill women in this country at extremely high rates. We even had a local husband murder his wife only blocks away from us some months ago. The red flag laws are designed to get guns, those tools, out of the hands of others who may be contemplating violence. We approve of those laws.
If they aren’t killing their wives or girlfriends, they are killing other men in acts of rage in Walmart parking lots like last weekend in Auburn, Maine. Or they are running with gangs and terrorizing neighborhoods. Male violence.
The commonality is not just guns but it is men. Those men who were taught to resolve problems behind the school house, mano o mano. Those men who are driving the millions of sales of comic book derived, horribly violent movies. Those men who are standing in the crowds at their son’s games, screaming obscenities and threatening violence in public. That’s not just a lack of civility but speaks to me of a break down of society.
Why are we blaming the guns? What is it that makes people think the guns are the root of the problem?
Incidences in Japan come to my attention this year. Japan has strict gun laws. I lived there for nearly 3 years and I can attest to the differences in their society and ours. For one it is almost completely homogeneous. It is also very patriarchal. It is not a society I would choose to live in. They have greatly reduced gun deaths through gun control. (This article describes this in detail.)
But they have problems, too. Just last month a man set fire to a anime studio staffed by mostly women, killing 33 people. Knife attacks have also resulted in multiple deaths. So yes, reduced deaths from guns. Yay! But the killing still goes on.
The commonality is men with a grievance (usually imagined). Today’s immigration and racism accusations and debates is no question triggering these men to commit violence. Their tools of choice are guns. Even in the United States, women are still more likely to poison their victims. They aren’t shooting up malls.
So why? What is wrong with our society? It’s not guns. Guns were a major part of life for southern and rural men for many decades. You may not remember the gun racks on the pickup trucks but I certainly do. The guys weren’t any nicer then, they were just more confident in their place in society: at the top.
In my household, instead of demanding new gun laws (well, actually I have a different idea of what gun laws need to be enacted but that’s another discussion), we are asking why? Why did that young man feel he had the right to take lives indiscriminately? The answer is either grudges at work, towards a particular woman, towards women in general, towards people of color, other religions or countries of origin.
They are feeling emboldened. Part of it is the vicious news cycle from all media outlets and social media. Part of it is the breakdown of marriage and intact families (but not for the reasons you may ascribe to). Part of it is simply just the fact that all of the above blames everything but the individual for what’s wrong.
Stop blaming guns for the actions of these men. Stop screaming about gun control. Instead let’s negotiate on gun control; let’s enact some federal laws to streamline and pull states into some sort of conformity. Let’s do some reasonable things about guns.
But please, let’s talk about our men, the failure of our society to prepare these men for full adulthood, the failure of the ruling men to acknowledge we have a problem. The ERA still languishes, women are still fighting for equality, the disabled are still shunned and even mocked on a national stage, people of color are still fighting racism which is entrenched in our society if not in our minds.
In the end one of the most horrific deaths I’ve come close to was in Charlottesville where I lived til last year. I didn’t know her personally but folks I know did. Heather Heyer died because a man lost his temper and drove into a crowd. He didn’t need a gun. He wasn’t carrying a gun. He was attending a right wing rally to promote white male supremacy.
So let’s talk. Let’s stop screaming. Let’s look at the source of the problems. That begins on the playground and back behind the school house.