Since the shooting in Las Vegas Sunday, something has been bothering me. Something other than the obvious horror of hearing about yet another mass shooting here in our nation. It’s been bothering me since Columbine, but the articulation of this thing has evaded me. None of the theories of the why have fully hit the mark for me. None of the solutions seem to point to the core of how this continues to occur. We have a problem right here in River City, and none of us seems to fully grasp the whole tamale.
Its not that White Anglo Saxon males haven’t been capable of mass slaughter before. They, in fact, are kinda good at it. Our country was founded on it. Think about Wounded Knee. Or hearken back to the Raithlin Island Massacre in Ireland, where English Protestants murdered over 500 McDonnell clansmen in a day. The list goes on.
And white men don’t have the corner market on slaughter. Throughout history, humans have been butchering each other right and left, with whatever tools that came to hand, for one reason or another, or none at all. In the recent Vietnam documentary aired on PBS a Marine interviewed stated that the military was just “finishing school” for men’s natural killer instincts. It’s hard to deny the evidence that as a species we are capable of all manner of horrors.
But this is different.
In most other instances, when humans raze groups of other humans to the ground, the humans they are killing are somehow “other”. Other skin colors, other cultures, other languages, other team. Other. Not us.
The mass shootings here in our Pleasantville, these are American civilians mass murdering other American civilians. For no apparent reason.
Psycho killer, ques que c’est?
And yet, for instance, as with the Aurora, Colorado theater shooter, these white men are deemed legally “sane”.
So this is quite specific in my mind. A twist of the mind peculiar to our culture. And getting worse all the time. The frequency and amplitude of these massacres is continually on the rise.
And in that definition of the phenomenon I finally saw the answer. The Other.
Here is what these killers all have in common. They are alienated from their own society. So average citizens are The Other.
Charlie Hoehn wrote October 3 about this phenomenon. His solution is for white American men to play more as children. But I think this goes deeper than that. I see this as one part of a cultural disease that effects us all. To me, this phenomenon is all about Self Loathing. With men, whose energy generally gets directed outwardly, the Self Loathing gets projected onto their own people. Therefor mass slaughter. With women, whose energy generally gets directed inwardly, the Self Loathing takes the form of grotesque levels of plastic surgery, until their faces are no longer recognizable as human. Self mutilation. Cutting in teens. Addiction. The opiod epidemic. Obesity.
Our culture has become more and more isolated from one another, from our true selves, from connection with spirit, from connection with nature, with anything that nurtures and fosters a deep sense of well being. The focus continues to be on the exterior, on appearances, on material acquisition, on career accomplishment, on skeletal thinness, on agelessness, on imperviousness to time.
We are paying for it with these occurrences. Mass murder. Climate change. Our elected leaders. Poison in our food supply.
There is no free lunch.
We cannot live forever hermetically sealed away from the laws of existence. We cannot cheat death and not pay. We cannot take more than our share and not have repercussions. We cannot have our cake and eat it too.
Yes, that is a quote from Ted Kaczynski. Another white alienated American man who took out his loneliness violently on random strangers. It wasn’t that his perceptions and observations were incorrect. It’s that his methodology of solving it wasn’t effective. Blowing people up, or shooting them from a building high above, doesn’t change what is wrong at the heart of our culture.
So what does?
The only answer I have is a personal one for me. I must attend to that in me that has gone along with this separation from self, other, nature and spirit. I must do what I can to turn toward those I encounter with compassion, connection, and responsibility. I must consider each human on this tiny blue-green sphere to be of my tribe. I must consider each animal in this great biosphere to be a member of my family. I must consider all of this universe to be a great web of connection in which I am but a tiny, vulnerable, part. Vital, yet inconsequential at the same time.
Is this a tall order? No doubt. But it’s all I’ve got. It likely will make very little difference in the giant scheme of things. As the voice of the ancestors of Ireland said to me one night in a ring of stones to the west of Cork City, “The world has it’s own story, missy, you just stick to your own.”
There will be a reckoning. It’s currently in progress. Where will you stand as it transpires? Can we turn this Titanic away from the iceberg? Who sees in the dark? Who is at the helm? Who has a lifeboat? Who doesn’t mind a little cold water?