Wednesday, May 28, 2014

If I had a hammer....

Do ya feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya? 

The rampage of Elliot Rodger has turned everyone into an armchair sociologist or psychologist or just prompted lots of ponderous pontifications on the nature of misogyny in America today.

Meanwhile, 19 people were shot in New Orleans over the weekend, 4 of which were fatalities.  80 people died in gun violence across America the week before Elliot Rodger climbed into his BMW.  From 2006-2012, 900 people died in mass shootings.  In 2010 alone, 11, 078 people died in shooting incidents across America.

But none of those 11,000 shooters left 141 page suicide notes or posts on YouTube which could be analyzed by everyone from sociologists to teachers of gender studies and Africana studies to just plain old bloggers, nor does it allow us to wonder about yet another "subculture" on the Internet or speculate again why men just don't understand the problems they cause for women.  We do get to wonder why therapists can't stop mass shooters, but nobody speculates about why we can't stop 11,0000 shootings in one year.  We speculate about our "masculinity crisis", but still it's only a crisis when it involves mass shootings.  Drive by shootings, drug-related shootings, gang violence shootings, random violence shootings, accidental and stupid shootings; these don't cause us to even pay attention.

To the person with the hammer, absolutely everything looks like a nail.

So Elliot Rodger represents: what?  Adolescence?  Spoiled affluent children?  The mentally ill?  American manhood?  The failure of American masculinity?  The failure of our governments, from local to federal? The problem with not understanding the relationship of violence to mental illness?

How about he represents what we fear the most:  the violence that can reach the "safe" middle class.  Not the violence on the streets of New Orleans, but not on Bourbon Street; or the violence on the streets of Chicago, but not too near the better neighborhoods of Chicago.  No, the violence of 11,000 gun deaths in one year is invisible; the violence of 900 gun deaths in 6 years is what terrifies us.  I wonder how many die in weather related incidents each year:  not just tornadoes and hurricanes, but thunderstorms, blizzards, flash floods, fires sparked by lightning.  Probably more than 900 in six years, but we live with it; nature is dangerous, sometimes.

Violence against our kind, or class, people like us: that terrifies us; that brings out the speculation and the analysis and the hand-wringing and the finger-pointing  It's the problem of impossible standards of masculinity; it's the problem of men not recognizing the harassment women suffer; it's the problem of conservative Christians; it's the problem of "white male privilege."

And it's only a problem because we have a face and a name and 6 identifiable people dead in a place where people aren't supposed to be dead, not from violence.  If as many people die in a "gang-related shooting," it barely makes a ripple beyond the local news.

And then we are shocked when it reaches out and touches us; or people like us.  And when the shooter has the decency to post his thoughts on-line for us to read, we are almost comforted.

Reading is something we can do about it.

(and, yeah, there really is nothing we can do.)


  1. sometimes I wonder about our apparent need to look at life as though it were a mathematic equation or a laboratory experiment. a discussion about Eliot Rodger turns into a cavalcade of jargon acronyms and a sense there is Only One True Answer and if only more people would accept that True Answer all would be well. And one side is, even if you agree with it, pretty much interchangeable with the other aside from the acronyms and jargon. I imagine the whole thing is just the newest version of our need for- is it authority? A sense of certainty? I dunno. I just don't think people are ever going to be able to make living our lives into anything more than a fly-by-night-seat-of-your-pants proposition that deserves more mercy than it's ever going to get