Lone Wolf Dismayed
Okay, you don't want to talk about gun control? The one thing that all mass shooters have in common is that they have a gun (or 47), but we shouldn't talk about that. They must have something else in common, right? You think we should talk about the "underlying issues" that cause people to commit mass shootings, issues like mental health or disenfranchisement. Okay. Cool. Fine. Let's talk about it. I don't want to- BELIEVE ME, I don't- but let's talk about what the connecting tissue between these incidents might be other than the actual guns. Cuz you know what most, if not all, of these modern "lone wolf" shooters have in common? They're white men.
I know, I know, not a revelation, and of course I'm not saying that "all white men" are violent mass murderers. See, I have to point that out. I have to point that out, even though when I say "elephants are grey" I don't have to specify #NotAllElephants (some might be white or black or even pink, I don't know), because that's how words work. But for some reason when it's about men, I have to be sure to offer an escape hatch for anyone who doesn't want to be included. I have to put that little disclaimer that, oh no, I don't mean YOU. I could never mean you. You're one of the good ones. You know that. And so do you. And so does every single other man who now doesn't have to examine his behaviour because he's bullied and whined and cajoled the rest of us into exempting him from the responsibility of the very words and actions that we are criticizing even though, sure, not all men, but in all likelihood, probably him. Probably you.
America was born of the gun. With it, we "tamed the land" and "conquered the frontier." Which is a romantic way to describe genocide. There is nothing so quintessentially American as the image of a cowboy with a gun. The Gun is as American a symbol as the stars and stripes. It was the Gun that won the revolutionary war, the guns that no king could ever take away. The Gun is freedom. It is power. It is Independence.
Not everyone got to experience this freedom, though, did they? Not everyone got to feel powerful.
Deep down inside every single straight white American male is a rancher fiercely defending his homestead. An underdog. A lone wolf.
He's defending it from the Brits. He's defending it from the Indians. He's defending it from the n*****s coming to take his woman. Yes, "his." The woman doesn't brandish the gun. He wields the power, he has the freedom. She is his. She belongs to him, inside, tending to the children, and he defends them against those with darker skin tones- the Natives, the Negroes, the Mexicans. This is the heart and soul of America. This is our narrative. John Wayne, Dirty Harry, Rocky Balboa, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Captain America, Batman, Superman, RoboCop, and Kevin Bacon... they fight, they shoot, and they win. These are our "good guys." It doesn't matter how many stormtroopers or aliens or "injuns" they slaughter- they are the good guys. They all appeal to that scrappy little rebel clutching his official Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time deep in our hearts. We identify with them. We are them. We fight. We shoot. We win.
"The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." But what happens when we're all the good guy? When every single one of us thinks of ourselves as "the good guy", but the world only agrees with those who are white and male? What happens when some of those white males aren't so good? Because it turns out that there's no such thing as good guys and bad guys. There's just the choices we make, every day.
And if those white males have guns? What might they choose to do with them?
Imagine a world where all your heroes looked like you, and everyone who didn't was either a possession or an enemy. That's the reality that's been sold to you. That you've been indoctrinated into. Yes, yes, #notallwhitemen, but you can't help it. You didn't choose this. It isn't optional. This is the world. A world in which you are a person, a hero, and only your motivations matter. Anyone who gets in the way is an enemy.
It doesn't matter if they have their own motivations that are as valid as yours. You'll never know that, because you never hear their point of view. Hell, sometimes, and you'd never admit this, even to yourself, but sometimes you forget that other people even have their own goals, their own perspectives, and aren't merely cardboard cutouts, just background, or possibly obstacles for you to overcome. Those goals might be, oh I don't know, not having your entire race wiped off the continent. Or not being shot by cops in the street. Maybe the woman you're attracted to isn't attracted to you back. That isn't her making a decision for her own life- no, no, it's her depriving you of something that you want. And the hero always gets what he wants.
Why are so many mass shooters white males? What could the connection possibly be between being raised in a society that prizes your desires and celebrates your accomplishments above all others, actively dissuades empathy for people not like you, and worships gun culture, and mass shootings?
Why would someone raised with a sense of entitlement above all others feel like it's okay to do something that it wouldn't be okay for someone else to do?
Why would someone raised to believe that their beliefs and struggles and morals are superior to those of others ever think that they had the right to punish others?
Why would someone raised to believe that the narrative would always flow in the way that best suited their goals and motivations ever expect to be held accountable for what they've done to others?
"This is reverse sexism/racism/heterophobia/don't fight hate with hate." Don't bother. I hear you. I'm not hating. I don't hate white males. I don't think you're all mass shooters waiting to happen, unless you already have. I'm pointing out that, whether you realize it or not, you are living in a different world from the rest of us.
It's like the opposite of the Matrix- instead of everyone turning out to be a simulation that only exists for the benefit of Neo's story arc, it turns out that the rest of us are actually real. The woman in the red dress might not even like you, and you have no right to her body. All those people in that lobby- those were real people, just trying to make a paycheck. And you killed them. You slaughtered those innocent people like they were cockroaches, and all you cared about was how cool you looked doing it.
You destroyed Metropolis, but it's okay because you had a moral dilemma about whether to murder your enemy and decided it was okay, because you'd still be the hero. And hell, it's okay that you completely interfered with another couple's relationship, disrupting their wedding that they paid thousands of dollars for, because you've decided that the bride actually loves you- she doesn't get a say, of course, and the groom is just another obstacle in the way of possessing "your woman." Why oh why would you ever hesitate to shoot up a school, or a concert, if you thought it was the right thing to do?
And we buy it. We enable it. We don't call you a "terrorist." No, no, you're a "country music fan." We sing your name from the mountaintops- oh sure, condemning you, since we're living our narratives, not yours, in which we're the good guys, not you, though of course the country only agrees with the white males on that one, the white males who look upon the carnage on the news and say, "ho boy, lemme tell ya, if I had been there..."
If you had been there, there'd be some answerin'. Because you're the good guy, pilgrim. A good guy with a gun.
And sure, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I am sexist, or racist, or whatever. But something in American society is causing white men to murder masses of people, and it shows no sign of stopping, or even slowing down. There's no king to rebel against, and murdering natives is somewhat frowned upon now (though not nearly enough). So who do you shoot? Gotta shoot someone, right? That's what America is about. It's worth noting that even though women attempt suicide more often, they succeed less than men, due to the male tendency to turn his gun on himself. This is not okay. This has to stop.
Remember what Joker said: it only takes one bad day. There are no good guys, and no bad guys. We're just some people who had that day, and some who haven't yet. Maybe they never will. But if it happens to you, then you have no idea what you will choose to do with that gun you keep so safely and diligently locked away from the very children you're trying to protect. You will believe that you're the good guy, but that's what all the bad guys think. If that bad day happens, do you talk to someone about it, try to sort it out, address your emotions, your mental health, and practice an active and thoughtful empathy for others? Or would you not even know where to begin with any of that? Would you prefer to strap on your holster and solve the problem like a man? America has made the choice for you.
I feel like we only say this as a counter-argument against racist assumptions, when we should be saying it regardless: mass shooters are white males. Mass shooters are white males. MASS SHOOTERS ARE WHITE MALES.
They are not wolves, lone or otherwise. They are humans. They are men. And they are not alone. They have company. Those who have blazed the trail before them, whom most of us see as villains, but to you- maybe the bad day will come when they seem to you to have been onto something. Maybe they become heroes. Maybe you become one, too.
All white men- yes, #ALLWHITEMEN- have two things in common: an over-cultivated sense of entitlement, and an under-cultivated sense of empathy. Perhaps you choose to actively check your own entitlement, and practice empathy towards those who are different. Perhaps you're trying to beat the system. If so, good for you. That's what you're supposed to be doing. No, it doesn't make you a hero, and that realization is probably the hardest to come to terms with: you're not a hero, you're just another extra in everyone else's lives. And who would want to live like that, when the alternative is being handed to them in a silver holster?
So what do we do?
Teach children empathy for others, even and especially those who are different, from a young age. Teach them conflict resolution skills that do not rely on violence. Teach them that they aren't more important than anyone else, and their accomplishments don't count more just for being them. Teach them to be honest with their feelings, and ask for help when they're feeling overwhelmed. Teach them that it isn't their job to protect others, because those others don't "belong" to them. Teach them that their apparent enemies often have good reasons for doing what they do, even if it's inconvenient for them. And teach them that guns don't solve problems, don't make you look cool, and don't make you a hero.
And in the meantime, make it a little bit harder for those who don't understand that yet to do the wrong thing on that bad day.
This is something we can choose to do. Not because we are enemies of the NRA or gun manufacturers or white men everywhere. Not because we're trying to curtail anyone's freedom. But because the real heroism is in making change- it's the hardest, scariest thing to do, but also the most necessary.