August 03, 2012

Aurora shooting shows America's pathology

Manhood, Mental Illness and the Aurora Massacre

By Kevin PowellBeyond the above, I feel the problem is that we in America are not only unwilling to engage in real and raw conversations about the root causes of violence, but we also are ducking and dodging any dialogue about how we define manhood and what, exactly, mental illness is, and how dangerous it is for everyone when warped notions of manhood collide with someone who is very emotionally unstable.

Put another way, Albert Einstein once famously said insanity is saying or doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result. When you look at the massive media coverage of the Aurora theater shooting, you could easily be watching the same coverage of Fort Hood, or Virginia Tech, or Columbine, in Colorado, way back when Bill Clinton was president.

What we gloss over or completely ignore is that there is something profoundly wrong with how we define manhood in America. The definition is as old as this nation. And we know that definition begins with immigrant men from Europe ransacking the land of Native Americans and enslaving Africans. And that definition of manhood means the long American journey has been one riddled with men and boys who think it their birthright to use brute force to achieve their ends. Yup, there is a straight line from so-called explorers to cowboys to gangsters to rock stars to whichever rapper is hot this current moment to the hate-baiting mouthpieces on the Fox News Channel. It means our notion of manhood is actually based in myth-making, in mythology, and these myths of who and what the American man is or supposed to be has been spread, since we were boys, from school history lessons to our religious institutions, and practically in every kind of book, magazine, TV show, film, or video game we absorb.

That is why when you look at the ever-expanding list of the worst mass murderers in American history, you cannot find a woman. They simply do not get down the way we men do. Women do not sexually harass men the way we sexually harass them. Women do not rape men the way we rape them. Women do not commit acts of domestic violence at the level we do to them. Most women do not wind up in seedy extramarital affairs as often as we men do. And women do not cover up the rape and abuse of children at a major university the way the men of Penn State did, just to protect a storied football program.
Comment:  I've said similar things in America as Warrior Society and America's Culture Mindset. America was founded on the concept of "the individual as solitary gunslinger and society as a hostile frontier." In everything from old Westerns to cop shows to superhero comics to video games, we champion the man of action--the person who shoots first and asks questions later.

For more on senseless killings, see Tim Wise on Trayvon Martin, Leschi Play Mirrors Woodcarver's Killing, and Tim Wise on Loughner's Paranoia.


dmarks said...

But we've got nothing on Germany or Rwanda or Japan or Russia or or or...
This is more like a "human pathology".

Rob said...

Rwanda is the only one of those that happened recently. And a democracy shouldn't have the same problems as a dictatorship. Our shooting deaths should be comparable to those in today's European countries, the closest equivalent to the US.