Thursday, July 26, 2012

Aurora: Who Can Make Sense of the Senseless?

I’ve been obsessed with the Aurora theater shootings.  Possibly even more than the fact that the shooting occurred was that in the reporting on it, I learned about at least two other mass shootings that I never even heard about.  One of those was at Eaton Center in Toronto.  Eaton Center is next door to the hotel I stayed at a couple years ago when I went to my cousin’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.  I gave her and her sister gift cards to that mall as presents.

I’m not even paying attention to the debates and lack thereof over gun control.  It’s obvious that the fact that it’s so easy to get guns and ammunition increases the likelihood of incidents like this.  It’s also obvious that we are not going to get meaningful gun control any time soon.  So let’s just move on to the deeper question:  Why are these incidents so prevalent in our society?  What enables so many men to throw away all possibility for happiness in exchange for a few moments’ unbridled rage?  When I say “so many,” I realize that in fact it’s very very few, a microscopic percentage of the men in our society.  But given their impact on our collective well-being, one would be far too many, and 20 so far this year is a shocking number.

I went looking for something to explain it to my satisfaction.  I didn’t find anything – I guess it would be surprising if I had.  But I did find some pieces with useful information.  Here are the best: 

Colorado shooting: how James Holmes fits into the history of rampage killers
(Harry J. Enten)

It remains unclear why mass shootings remain at high levels while the overall murder rate is at its lowest level in decades

Interesting statistics about murders and rampage killings, challenges some of our beliefs, such as:
“If your memory is like mine, you might have thought that most mass killings were carried out by young people, such as James Holmes. That's actually a misconception. The plurality of all murders, 36.6%, are committed by men between the ages of 18-24, like the 24 year-old Holmes, but most rampage killings are not.”

The Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide
(Erika Christakis)

Why aren't we talking about the one thing mass murderers have in common?
“Imagine for a moment if a deadly disease disproportionately affected men. Not a disease like prostate cancer that can only affect men, but a condition prevalent in the general population that was vastly more likely to strike men. Violence is such a condition: men are nine to 10 times more likely to commit homicide and more likely to be its victims.”

What James Holmes and the Colorado Movie Massacre Tell UsAbout White (Male) Privilege
(Chauncey DeVega)

“It is unlikely that the aftermath of the Colorado shooting rampage will be a moment when we as a country reflect upon the relationship between masculinity and violence. There most certainly will not be a "beer summit" about how accused shooter James Holmes is one more entry in a long list of mass killers who are white, male, and young….As folks have worked through many times before in the common "what if?" game of race in America, if James Holmes were black or brown this would be one more signal to the existence of a "pathological culture" among said group.”

No Anodyne

“Today, go read or listen to or watch the hundreds of stories in mainstream, liberal, conservative (or any other politically-oriented) media. Look for the hand-wringing about male violence. You won’t find it.
You will find articles about the “gunman” or “shooter” or those using any of a number of other catchwords that set this man apart from all other men with guns who kill and mutilate other humans.
We live in a time where it is considered normal for men to kill people and destroy bodies and lives out of wounded pride, a damaged ego, and other entitled emotions.”

Don’t Jump to Conclusions About the Killer
(Dave Cullen)

“I spent 10 years studying Columbine, and we all know what happened there, right? Two outcast loners exacted revenge against the jocks for relentlessly bullying them
Not one bit of that turned out to be true. …
Psychologists describe depression as anger turned inward. When that anger is somehow turned around, and projected outward, watch out.
…A vast majority of depressives are a danger only to themselves. But it is equally true that of the tiny fraction of people who commit mass murder, most are not psychopaths like Eric Harris or deeply mentally ill like Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech. Far more often, they are suicidal and deeply depressed….


Okay, it’s by the Secret Service.  It’s still worth looking at.

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