You Won’t Like This

Las Vegas.

It usually takes me several days to process dramatic and truly damaging events that permeate our shared public consciousness. Las Vegas is such an event. It has made such a deep impact on America that I cannot even speak of it in the past tense, as it will linger and fester in our souls for a long time. I don’t even have to qualify it. Simply the name of the city is enough. And this will probably be the case for a long time. Unless the arms race of massive death creates another tortured soul with a plan.

Heroes is not necessarily the only word I would use to describe the many whose acts of courage and compassion are rightfully honored and revered. So many, in all disasters are called heroes. But in this, as in those, heroes is an incomplete concept. For me, it is not enough to simply say they are heroes. I need to hear why they are heroes, either big or small, either saving lives or soothing scared children.

Heroes do what they do, they run towards not away, because they love their neighbor, out of compassion and empathy. Because they intuitively revere and love life and people, who all deserve to be saved. Tragedy destroys the boundaries between people and carries suffering down the path to hope. The clarity of our shared pain shows us we are one, individual yet part of something greater, something that lives deep inside us and manifests when we need it. This is the divinity and beauty of heroism, not merely a selfless deed.

Now the authorities are looking for motive. Desperately. The motive is simple, as it is for all mass killers. They are in pain and choose to assuage that pain through heinous murder. No matter their state of being they all make a choice. Whether suffering through political anger, mental disorder’s damaged thinking or aggrieved despair, the pain is the same and the choice to act with violence is the same, to make others suffer as they do. Having known severe pain I cannot hate them. But why do we make so many more of them than anywhere else?

These killers act out because American culture permits us to resolve conflict and pain with violence. Not only is it permitted it is the preferred means. Immorality as social norm. But one cannot legislate morality. Conservatives know this but are so heavy-handed and self-serving they cannot serve that truth in a way that serves society. Liberals want to help save people but sell themselves short out of fear. They cannot maintain outrage because more tragedy is always around the corner to overwhelm them. And the twain shall never meet.

Everybody knows subconsciously that the American culture’s affair with guns makes the gun violence dynamic here different than the rest of the world. We cannot be another Australia no matter how much we legislate gun sensible laws. Law can only scratch the surface. Sensible gun safety legislation will help, but not enough. There must be more.

Many say we can’t stop invisible lone wolves from acting, from committing mass murder. That it’s impossible to ferret them out. They use this as an excuse to never try stopping them. The gun makers tell us the solution is more guns. Plenty of us believe this to be true. And a majority of the country does not trust the law to solve anything. In this case, they may be quite right. But I see these people as cowards, throwing up their hands in insincere despair. Selling death for profit.

To my mind, there is a good solution here, perhaps the best solution. Instead of trying to stop these evil killers when they are fully grown and engaged, we should change the way we raise our children, especially boys and especially white boys. Call it sexism/genderism and racism but the statistics bear it out. White men make up a large majority of mass murderers.

The way to stop us from accepting gun violence as a solution to social problems is to stop teaching our children this myth, this soul-crushing lie that violence is the way to go, the way to make everything right. The circle of violence can only be broken by Americans acting in concert to stop telling our boys to “be a man” and then equating that manhood with violence. I feel strongly that this “be a man” syndrome is sinful. The Christ does not ask us to turn the other cheek for nothing.

The glorification of violence is outdated at best. The fight or flight autonomic reaction existed for a creature with few reasoning skills, creatures without language as a tool of peace. There is a reason it is buried deep in our brains. It is no longer a viable means of avoiding pain or resolving conflict. As thinking beings, we can overcome our instant calls to violence. This is not easy. But as humans, we can call on the power of mind over matter. It works.

We must begin the hard work of creating fewer and fewer men with unbearable pain, those who feel horribly wronged but who hide it well, those subjected to abuse who process violence as normal, and even those who are barely aware of what they are doing. Of course, there are anomalies. There are women who act out in this way but as much as prehistoric women were rarely called upon to fight for existence, modern women are rarely acculturated to violence. This, I feel, is part of why they make up a small percentage of mass murderers. Yet another anomaly, in the instance of the sins of psychopaths these souls may never be inclined to abandon violence.

As said, it is imperative that we contribute to the solution the right way, by telling our children that violence is never acceptable. We must still learn the ways of violence as a defense against an existential threat. Complete passivity is naive. But the best way is to show our sons and daughters that violence is not the way is by our actions, modeling peaceful negotiation and mediation as the preferred method of conflict resolution, that through human interaction we can ease our pain.

The best way is better than the right way. And the example we set is the best means of successfully moving our pain into hope, as befits sentient beings. The Sanskrit word for weapon is also the word for tool. We can, as the Christ intimated, beat our swords into plowshares. We can use our hearts, souls, and minds to change society, to join many of us together as one without needing a disaster to unite us. We would no longer need to battle in the halls of Congress. We wouldn’t have to fight so much at the taverns, cafes and dinner tables of America. We could change.

An addendum

You won’t like this.

This will be seen as and called racism and it probably is. But I must say my piece. The situation in the black and much of the Latino communities, as I observe it, is that the relative lack of mass murderers from these communities is due to the fact that their suffering involving gun violence is intimate, up close and personal. It is directed at the individual, the person right there in front of you. Violence here is not an anomaly, it is omnipresent. One need not meticulously plan a bloodbath of the anonymous. Here the pools of blood will be at their feet, and the plan was formed quickly, specific to the grievance. So when those in the public eye conflate murder in these POC communities with mass murder they are terribly wrong. Though the solutions to the violence are similar the essence of the problem is different.

Mea Culpa. Please forgive me if I am wrong about this. I cannot know for certain but I witness. I fully accept a charge of racism for these comments and the mantle of racist. I speak what I feel.

You won’t like this either.

A word about prayers, including candlelight vigils and moments of silence. Prayer is a good thing. Praying for the peaceful repose of the lost souls and healing grace for their friends and families is a good thing. Candlelight vigils and shrines and moments of silence are good things. But they are all also feel good actions. They allow us to feel as though we have acted, we have done something good, something to help. We can do this and then go home and not take any further action, thinking we have done our part. In this, I do not judge. I only bear witness. Think on it yourself.

As powerful as is prayer, for the departed, we must also pray for the strength to do the hard work of changing the nation’s zeitgeist. It will take several generations but we must change the way we do this business. Praising those we call heroes and changing our laws and offering prayers are all good things but they can only save a fraction of the lives we need to.

These things are right things to do but they are not the best things to do. It is not easy to find and choose the best thing over the right thing. Doing the right thing we are so tempted to be satisfied and go home. I am convinced that, for America, the best path to hope out of pain is accepting our own pain and finding our own hope. This will give us the confidence to teach our children well. I believe we all know in our hearts that this path is true.

Let us start on this path together in love.

 

Had it up to HERE

I usually wait longer than a week to chime in on major events, so I can get a reading of how the wind is blowing and respond in that very arrogant all knowing way I am prone to. The event in Charleston SC, though, has blown me away, and all of my above it all superiority has melted away in the fire of anger and disgust. For me this is the last straw.

This is not about Christianity. This is not about gun control. This is not about mental illness. This is not about race. This is not about isolated “lone wolves” abandoned by their society. This is not about crime as anomaly. This is not about terrorism. This is not about meting out justice. This is not about the law or government. This is not about partisanship. This is not about the Confederate flag. This is not about the death penalty. It is all of these things and none of them.

This IS about systemic violence used as a bridge to cross the gulfs created by divisions in our society; divisions created through any number of social ills; social ills created by deeply ingrained ideas of privilege and class structure; social ills created by contending norms of race and wealth and status and political ideology.

This violence is not only that of the physical. It is that of the emotional. It is that of the mental. It is that of the spiritual. That said, it is physical violence, appearing as it does in the densest plane of existence, the physical plane, that is most apparent and observable to us. Therefore it is physical violence that we most relate to and respond to when grieving and mourning the descent of civility into the morass, into the pit, into disintegration. It is physical violence that shoves our weakness as a species into our collective face.

In this culture, the American culture, more than any other, violence is an accepted means of resolving conflict. In fact it is the primary means, the most revered the most glorified means. Let me say that again. Violence is the preferred means of resolving conflict in this our America. Daddies teach their boys that to “be a man” one must learn how to fight, that the best way to settle differences with the other boys is a hay maker to the jaw. Government is made up primarily of those very boys, not far removed from the grade school playgrounds where they learned and perfected using violence as a tool to get their way. They tell us the best defense is a good offense. They tell us might makes right. They are like the husband who thinks he is strong because he can beat up his wife.

We spend an ungodly amount of money on machines of violence, so much more than on assuaging social ills and solving the many other problems that afflict us. We can read the words alright, but cannot seem to actually beat our swords into plowshares. Most of our great spectacles, professional sports, reinforce the message of violence, either overtly or covertly. We continually endorse this ideal of violent conflict resolution through the glorification of violence in all media, and in our blatant acceptance of it’s value.

The constant assault on our civilized sensibilities, at the expense of our mortal souls, and the resulting continuous and senseless destruction of those we love, this is the visible result of consciously or unconsciously applied physical violence. It is the part of the iceberg we can see. But, for me, it is the other forms of violence, the hidden violence of emotion and mentality, that cut society the deepest. Families slice each other up with focused, hurtful words. This too is violence. Businessmen step all over each other in the vicious battle we know as climbing the corporate ladder, the race to the top, rung by bloody rung. Political rivals, sporting rivals, romantic rivals, are not to simply defeat their opponents but kick their asses, to destroy them. We compete not to win but to annihilate. We do not call our rivals opponents but insist they are enemies.

We most readily use violence on ourselves. The fuel that propagates violence is hate. Hate is not the opposite of love as many may say. Hate originates within. It is the self loathing all of us experience somehow, somewhere, sometime, in that place we won’t let anybody see, that gives birth to hatred. Hatred is learned and we can only first experience it through hating something we ourselves are or do, something about our own selves that disgusts and mortifies us, something that holds us back from shining the light of our true, loving selves out into the world. Only then will we see those things in the “others” and hate them too. We begin to see anything that frightens us, or threatens us, perceived or real, and hate the “others” for it.

We use this hate of self to perpetrate violence on ourselves in myriad ways, some of them so subtle as to be nearly invisible and unreachable. These internal wars are the basis for the psychological, spiritual and/or intellectual violence that is so deadly to us and our culture, because of its ability to hide in places we can’t reach, like a virus in our bodies, waiting for that moment of weakness when it can emerge and strike swiftly and with blinding force.

As it is in the microculture of our own consciousness so it is in the macroculture of our relationship to the world. We cannot possibly be the decrepit creatures we see when we look inside. There must be some reason we fail. It must be that other, whoever that other might be. What the world teaches us is disgusting is in the other. We will assign any disgusting failure we want to the other, as long as it makes us feel better, as long as it stops the pain for just a few moments. Hatred and violence is the morphine of painful and failing lives. If we cannot shine our light then nobody can, especially the other, in whom we see ourselves mirrored so clearly. But we mustn’t let anyone know how alike we are. We must destroy the other before anyone can find out.

We need to look deep inside ourselves to find the buried vault of our hatred. We have to remove the multiple locks that bind the vault, one by one, regardless how difficult and wrenching. We must then take what we find there and search deeper yet, to find where it came from, from what decrepit fountain it poured forth. We must dive into that fountain of filth, swimming through the putrid bile of our own, hidden self hate to the source, the pump that forces the hate into our hearts. It is primordial.

It may be true, as many say, we are violent by our nature, it will never change, it’s in our DNA, it’s useless to try. But is that any good reason to give up, to stop trying, to throw up our hands and say it’s bigger than us, we can’t win. When has anything ever been bigger than a human heart full of love. If we truly believe that love conquers all then this is the time to prove it. This is the time to break the chain of violence. But it will take men and women and children with profound love and of unyielding courage, in action, the action of both warming the feet of the frightened and holding to the fire the feet of those both self righteous and only selectively human.

I speak to myself when I say we need to DO more and TALK less.

Americans believe in faith, even if it is the faith that no faith exists.

I have faith we can bury hatred and it’s weapon, violence, under a mountain of love.

Join me.