So it seems lately my blog has turned into a place where I give a one-sided, poorly-researched critique of someone else’s one-sided, poorly-researched blog post, but hey, isn’t that what the Blogosphere is for? Nobody but a very small group of people give a crap about anything I say, anyway.
Today’s topic is mass killing. We’ve heard all the arguments before, right? So can we just stop beating this anti-misogynist/pro-gun control/pro-mental health dead horse of a topic? No, goddamn it. We’re going to fucking pulverize it.
Today, this article was making it’s rounds on the social networks: “How We All Miss the Point on School Shootings” from Mark Manson. I don’t know who Mark Manson is, but the article is actually very well written and thought out. It criticizes our tendency to point to specific causes when a tragedy happens, to use it as fodder for political platforming, arguments for gun control, arguments against gun control, mental health advocates, and pro-feminism, etc. Manson takes a long time to spell all that out, with a decent attempt to research his specific examples. Like I said, it’s actually well written and you should give it a read. Especially since I’m going to criticize it now.
Ultimately the article just comes up empty handed, though. He offers that none of these things are to blame and that the answer is (spoiler alert) empathy. All empathy, all the time. Take our eyes off the glorious sensationalistic headlines and listen and watch those around us for signs of people who might do something. OK, that’s not really empathy, that profiling, but it’s a nice idea. However, I think things are a little more complicated than that.
I DO think that we tend to blame victims of sexual violence rather than the assholes who commit it. We’d rather teach women to “defend themselves” than teach little boys that touching people inappropriately is bad. But karate won’t help an 9 year old being molested by a family member. What kind of self-defense do you teach there? We tell victims to let someone know if it happens, and then imply they do it just to get attention. Exactly! That’s the whole point! To get attention! That’s not the same as saying they were making it up. They’re asking for help.
I DO think we make it a little too easy to get guns and don’t emphasize the responsibility of owning one. I DON’T think mental health is easily and equally accessible to everyone unless someone has ALREADY committed a violent act. Treatment is still joked at and seen as a luxury. “A guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office…” When has anyone been able to just “walk into a psychiatrist’s office?” My experience is that you have to call about 5 doctors first, wait for them to get back to you to say they have any openings, then another month before you get actually get to SEE them. That’s a typical experience and it takes an incredible amount of time. In that sense, I guess it is kind of a luxury.
So we get back to the point of Manson’s article: Empathy. But how do you enforce that? Does that mean that anyone who makes a crack about “I’m gonna kill that person!” or “I swear one of these days I’m gonna snap” should preemptively be locked away? Geeze, I can’t count the number of times I jokingly said something like that on a bad day. I should be in a padded cell for life by now.
Empathy is great, but what is more likely to happen is that we jump at shadows and organize witch hunts in the name of trying to solve the problem before it happens, and for a small percentage, it does, but also implicates a lot of people who normally wouldn’t do anything. Um hey, we were the ones that insisted on “Innocent until proven guilty”. We’re the ones that insist on “Freedom of speech” no matter how dipshitted and misinformed it is. We’re the ones that insist on our Right to Bear Arms. By those definitions, every single one of a long list of mass killers was exercising those very rights. You can’t have it all, dammit.
Empathy as a solution, or as least how it is defined for the purposes of this post, also still requires us to be responsible for someone else’s actions instead of that person being responsible for themselves. Hey, that sounds a little like blaming the victim again.
It still doesn’t promote the messages that guns aren’t necessarily bad, but that they can be deadly. It doesn’t emphasize teaching boys that girls are not something they are just entitled to when, “HA HA isn’t it cute the way little Joey goes around hugging and kissing girls in his class” is not appropriate. That the “color of someone’s skin does not judge the content of their character” (Dr. MLK). That sexual preference is nothing to be ashamed of. We simply assume these things are obvious. Or we actively spotlight the small percentage of assholes who preach bigotry and give their attention more fuel for their fire to spread (Westboro Baptist Church anyone?).
Sadly, I don’t think there is a way, or even multiple ways, to prevent all sexual crimes, or all mass killings, or all violent acts. The problem is more complicated that this. Yes, it’s all those things. But there’s more. It’s empathy, it’s compassion, it’s tolerance, it’s gun safety, it’s mental health, it’s physical health, it’s respect, it’s carrying capacity, it’s environment, it’s altruism, it’s social responsibility, and one an on. (cue “Circle of Life”)
Here’s the deal: no matter what you preach or teach or listen or learn, ultimately we can only control our own actions, not those of others.
And that also includes the option of just turning off the noise once in a while and, instead of focusing on all the bad things that happen and trying to solve all the problems in the world, just focus on the things in your life–whatever you believe–that make it wonderful and give YOU peace.