Thursday, April 26, 2007

Selective Prejudice.

People reading my formed words (with a special shout-out to "Abbe"),

Well, it's been a couple of weeks since the VA Tech massacre and I've heard plenty of blame to go around. I've heard NRA-types and pacifists shrieking at each other. I've heard psychologists (aka "crazy hippies") preaching the importance of inclusion. And I've seen meat-eaters and vegans engaged in ultimate fighting while Metallica blares from the speakers. Admittedly, this one confuses me.

Surprisingly, I have come to (essentially) agree with the NRA when they say, "Guns don't kill people, insane NRA members kill people." As Michael Moore pointed out in his brilliant documentary "Bowling For Columbine," Canada has far more guns per capita than we do but far, far fewer murders per capita. A more civilized, empathetic culture? Yep. Guns are illegal in Japan and there are virtually zero murders. But is it really so hard for a determined Japanese citizen to get a gun? Doubt it. Canada (many guns) and Japan (few guns) both have a tiny fraction of the murders we endure in the U.S. because, well, they CHOOSE not to kill each other when they get grouchy. It is American society, not guns, that causes this nightmare. I am not particularly knowledgeable on WHY we are such a violent people but I think it has something to do with the "We're number one, greatest country on earth" bullshit we stuff into our kids' heads at an early age. The same age as Kim Jong Il convinces the North Korean kids that he is God. I would welcome any thoughts from readers.

Many people have argued that we need to make campuses safer. That certainly is worth exploring. But how much safer is debatable. Nobody supports the idea of huge walls around campuses and iris scans at every door. Society as a whole agrees that risk, safety, and freedom must be balanced. Some would say (and conservatives supporting Bush have suggested it) that greater safety is what's most important. Worried about phone taps? Why, if you have nothing to hide? Opposed to subway searches? Don't pack a bomb! Of course both sides have valid arguments. For instance, few liberals argue against the legality of suitcase searches at airports. It's an invasion of privacy, sure, but acceptable to (almost) all. When Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Those who would sacrifice freedom for temporary security deserve neither," he probably didn't consider the emegence of Al Qaeda but he very well may have envisioned the actions of our current administration. Gray areas, my friends. By the way, is that the way you spell "gray?" "Grey?" Who cares.

But those who ALWAYS argue on the side of safety are ALWAYS fools. "If it makes us safer, do it!" is just nonsense. I ask these mouth-breathers why we then simply don't reduce the national speed limit to 22 miles per hour and save tens of thousands of lives. They then seem to be in a hurry to get somewhere and the discussion abruptly ends. Compromise, compromise. Safety and freedom. So most people (probably most at VA Tech) would prefer that college campuses remain open and accessible and everyone (just like interstate drivers) will TAKE THEIR CHANCES! It's part of a free society, an acceptable risk if you will.

Changing gears. Many people have been blaming rappers for promoting violence and disrespect for authority. Guys like Bill ("Peabody Award") O'Reilly routinely blame rap artists like 50 Cent and Ludacris for fomenting violence. Yet they never blame (white) folks like Martin Scorcese, Brian DePalma, and Vin Diesel. "What the HELL are you talking about?!" you may roar, Jumbo Snickers bar in hand. Well Scorcese and DePalma routinely direct vicious movies and Vin Diesel (often) portrays violent characters. But most of us (correctly) absolve them of any blame for society's ills because they are just portraying characters. It's art, good or bad. And yet when a guy like Ludacris leads a crime-free life and only portrays a vicious character to sell CD's, racists like O'Reilly are quick to assign blame. Inconsistent, faulty logic (from the bloated phone pervert).

But blaming any rappers, directors, actors or producers of violent video games is ludicrous (tee hee!) in itself. In Asian cultures (remember, no gun violence) their citizens absorb far more violence and pornography than we do and (voila!) there's no corresponding criminal impact on the streets to speak of. It's so easy to lay blame and lump others together in groups, but where's the supporting evidence? I encounter countless Americans who support this (illegal) Iraq war because of what "they" did to us on 9/11. When I ask who "they" are, conservatives (consistently) answer "the Muslims." And yet nobody blamed "Christians" for what Timothy McVeigh or David Koresh did. Scream all you will about Janet Reno but SHE did not ignite the Branch Davidian house. Crazy Christians did. We never seem to lump ourselves together in a "negative group" if part of our group does wrong.

Being too lazy to edit, I look back at this stream-of-consciousness blog entry and realize I was all over the map. But on another map, several hundred Iraqi citizens died on the same day as 32 students at VA Tech. And I did not hear the President say one word about this tragic loss of life beyond our borders. Clearly it's because "those people" don't count as much as "our people." Because they're not part of "our group." Inexcusable.

American Asshole.



Anonymous said...

I like the way it feels when minnows nibble on my toes.


Hon said...

Sociologist who study American culture have often cited the double-edged sword of our melting pot, cheek-to-jowl existence. The very diversity, they posit, that is championed and indeed often depicts the best of American life, has a dark underbelly of distrust of the "other" and an unwavering attitude of we were here first, go back where you came from. It has been suggested over and over that our violent streak can be, in part, traced to this negative side of living with people who hail from very different cultures with very different beliefs, languages, and common living habits. It's possible they are on to something since Japan, cited in this post, is almost 100%, if not 100%, ethnically homogenous. All residents of Japan are Japanese; they've been raised in the same culture with the same cultural habits and belief structures, and a common language. On and on. Just one point of view but it is one that has some scholarly credibility behind it.

Certainly, I believe that in the case of the VT massacre this kid was clearly in an openly psychotic state with both auditory and visual hallucinations in full expression.

He was mentally ill. Probably a schizophrenic that just had not been properly diagnosed yet. He had all the hallmark symptoms: he was paranoid, delusional and right in the exact age range (late teens to early 20s) when this illness most commonly manifests itself in a clearly diagnosable way.

He was also a VT student so would have fallen outside of the range of any potentially "suspicious" individuals had the school chosen to exercise a more locked-down approach to campus security. Crazily he also was in perfectly legal possesion of firearms because he had no prior arrests and hadn't been incarcerated in a state mental hospital. America really, really, really needs to get over it's love affair with guns. It's sick and a pathetic example of the undeveloped nature of our American identity. Why do we need to have the legal right to shoot other people in order to feel "free" as citizens. Insanity.

I know this is a long comment, but I'll close with one other thought. This kid, like the Columbine boys, were, by the admission of several independent, third-party witnesses, mercilessly bullied throughout middle and high school. This shit probably pisses me off the most. We as a culture should be deeply, deeply ashamed of our inability (or resistance) to take this kind of hostile, aggressive, sociopathic behavior seriously because it's "just kids" being "kids". Bull-fucking-shit. These are mean kids that grow up to be mean adults and cause all kinds of problems for anyone unlucky enough to come in contact with them throughout their sorry lives. Stop them and stop them hard when this kind of pathological behavior is identified and maybe we will have fewer kids suffering the misery of being singled out for what is essentially school-sanctioned mental torture.

I've said enough. Thanks for listening.

Paul "Paul" Rosa (NY City), 45. said...

Wise words from "Hon." But the melting-pot analogy does not explain the incredible levels of violence inflicted on African-Americans by other African-Americans.

The "bullying" point was very strong. No one in the documentary "Bowling For Columbine" impressed me more than Marilyn Manson. While not excusing the murderers in any way, he warned against the dangers (and consequences) of vicious bullying. When this happens, the bullies MUST bear some responsibility for the explosive results!