Saturday, December 15, 2012

Violence in America as seen yesterday

Troubled white male guns down 20 schoolchildren is a headline that shouldn't happen. But it does. I am truly sickened and exhausted by what happened yesterday in Connecticut. I plan on retiring to Ecuador and the commonality of gun violence in America is just one reason. Our foreign policy (which is also terribly violent) is another reason. The natural beauty and lower cost of living in the Andes are two more reasons. There are some more reasons for my Ecuador plans, but I digress. I want to deeply discuss and try and make some sort of sense out of this mass shooting of innocents by -- the first three words I wrote.

Troubled. White. Male. Adam Lanza a resident of Newtown, Connecticut, was quite young himself, 20, and lived with his mother who was a teacher. Not much else is known about him.

What is known though from the reports coming out now was that he was severely socially awkward, avoided eye contact, had been on medication for some time; many neighbors said he was a "weird" kid. He had few to no friends. He and his older brother Ryan did not take their parents' breakup and divorce well. However Ryan moved on and became an accountant like his father. Adam did not. He stayed with his mother who apparently collected guns. Apparently he was in honors classes, but was difficult to interact with. These reports are all coming from neighbors and former classmates who knew the Lanzas.

I think the troubled nature of Adam Lanza contributed to the horror that erupted in the Sandy Hook Elementary School. He was troubled and those who interacted with him knew it. They didn't think he was violent, but I also seriously doubt they tried very hard to reach this young man. Many of us in our daily lives bypass, or totally ignore those who are mentally ill. We refuse to directly interact with those who (due to being "troubled") have been ignored for a long time. They are ostracized, their ailments are stigmatized, and they are pushed further away from any human interaction which could lead to assistance and care. I think in our culture if you are not fiercely independent and fully functional and motivated you are pushed to the outer limits of society. You are seen as an outsider. The sense of not belonging is simply reinforced and codified. I fear that Adam Lanza needed continual medication, therapy, as well as a community of loving and supporting friends and family. He didn't have any of that. 

I don't care much for the reports that describe the shooter as evil. This is outrageously simplistic, distances us from this kind of violence, and yet again reinforces the different outsider who people avoid and refuse to engage with.

Adam Lanza was white. White western culture is the most violent the world has seen in modern (last 1,000 years) times. We have enslaved others, we have waged genocide against indigenous populations, we exploit the earth and each other. Violence is a common tool in the white population. Wars are seen as noble and justified when most often they are neither. Whiteness carries a lot of privilege and arrogance with it. You don't see mass murderers of other races usually (the black Washington Beltway sniper was a rare exception, and the Asian guy at Virginia tech was also a rarity). Whiteness seems to reward individualism, minimizes community, rewards greed, minimizes cooperation. You take what you want. You look out for number one. Violence can often be justified, even more so if it is done against an "other."

The White world continues its legacy of violence and exploitation. We subjugate others for their labor and their lands' natural resources. Middle East, Africa, the list goes on. However, I think I have made my point about White acceptance and rewards of violence.

Adam was a young man, barely outside of boyhood. He was a male. Now that trait is even more common to mass murderers than their race or ethnicity. Once again, similar to whiteness, Maleness rewards violence and dominance over others. Hunting, competitive sports, going to war -- all have long been and in many ways continue to be the realm of manhood. An attractive, virile male is one who can fight violently for himself, his family, his "own." He can defend himself and his "own" against "outsiders."  If one's sense of masculinity, their manliness is insulted or questioned -- violence, traditionally often a duel, is fully acceptable and implicitly praised. 

Perhaps in Newtown, this "troubled" kid viewed as an "outsider" living with his mom needed to prove something. He needed to prove to everyone that he would no longer be insulted, ignored, called "weird." He was now a man. Probably an angry and disturbed man who had access to weapons. 

I am sure there are other elements in this case I have not touched on, but I thought I would just give a thoughtful overview as many are desperately looking to make some sense out of the seemingly senseless. I do think there are some answers to be found coming out of this. We will probably never fully know what was in Adam Lanza's mind when he went to the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14th. But we can get a better sense of what most likely led him to that point.

I do think greater gun control, if not an outright repeal of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S.Constitution are part of the answer, but only part. I do think greater access to mental health services and associated medication is part of the answer, but only part. I think instilling a greater sense of community (and in the end these community instincts did in some ways kick in in Newtown) where we look out for one another, directly engage one another, listen and share with one another -- not ostracize and ignore each other is part of the answer, but not the only part. I think ending the acceptance and use of violence in our country and abroad -- condemning violence rather than justifying and rewarding it -- is part of the answer, but only part.

I guess in the end something must be done. As I have often said aloud and in my writings, the status quo is no longer tolerable. If the government does not act -- the people must. Conditions will not improve on their own... On this issue, eight of the 10 deadliest shootings in the U.S. have happened during my lifetime. All 10 happened within the last 100 years. Yesterday was the second deadliest ever.

I wish everyone the best of luck as they struggle for an improvement in all of our lives here in the U.S., but I'm still going to Ecuador.