Monday, May 26, 2014

Yes ALL Of Us

It is always... I'm going to say "disturbing" but it lacks the power to convey how I really feel. But for now, lacking a better word, I'll go with that.

Let's start again.

It is always disturbing to me when some nut case decides to take the lives of people with the rationale of righting some perceived wrong, of meting out some perverted sense of justice, to strike back against imagined oppressors. 

Several weeks ago, an old man with a mad on at Jews decides to go to a Jewish community center and a Jewish retirement home to take out some Jews. The fact that the three people this asshole killed weren't even Jewish only served to underscore just how out of touch this moron was. But no matter the religion of the victims, in the end, three people died suddenly and violently because this brainless twit decided that his perceived problems with society could be addressed with a gun.

Another anti-Semitic nut case raised his ugly head today in Belgium when people were shot and killed at a Jewish museum.

This weekend saw a horrible outburst of violence and death in Isla Vista, CA where a guy with a gun decided to use that gun (and a knife as well) to answer the perceived menace of a specific group of people: women. Yep, this idiot's hatred was for half the planet.

Per Elliot Rodger's manifesto, "My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger," he recorded every slight, insult and humiliation  he reportedly suffered "at the hands of humanity, particularly women." By the way, Rodger had spent nearly his whole life in therapy and being treated for mental illness. Well, duh! This guy had problems, let's be clear on that. But let's be clear on this too: this guy with problems was able to LEGALLY purchase the guns he had in his possession and used in his killing spree. 

(I'm sure the NRA will point out he was also able to legally procure the knife he used to stab his roommates. I'm sure some talking dickhead on Fox News will have made that point by the time I post this.) 

The fact is, whether the issue is anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry towards gays, misogyny or any other variety of fucked up ways of thinking that exist, it is too easy for people to put their darker impulses to action. It's too fucking easy to get a gun!

The father of one of the shooting victims of Isla Vista laid it square on the line when he asked between the tears shed for his fallen son, "When will this insanity stop?"  He forcefully accused "craven politicians" giving in to the NRA of complicity in his son's death.

So far, the NRA has kept its trap shut; trust me, that will not last long. And when a voice is raised for the gun lobby, it will be a demand for the usual:

  • Better enforcement of the laws we have now, we don't need new laws.
  • More people should have guns to defends themselves against people like Elliot Rodger.
  • Gun laws don't stop people from being shot by guns. Look at Belgium.

Hey, let's look at Belgium. Yep, Belgium...and indeed, most of Europe...have way stronger gun regulations and laws than we do in the US. And yet people in Belgium were shot. So why bother with gun laws if people are going to get killed by guns anyway? Well, that argument was, is and will always be bullshit.  Why have laws against theft if people are going to steal anyway? Why have speed limits if people are going to drive too fast anyway?

No, strong gun laws do not guarantee safety from guns. We found that out today in Belgium.  Months ago, Norway found it out the hard way. But here's the thing: these are aberrations. I imagine those hurt by the loss of those killed in gun attacks in Europe will have a chance to bury their loved ones and mourn their loss before the next set of killings occur.

Meanwhile, here in the US, while we're still reeling from the horrific deaths in Isla Vista, CA, there this headline: Twelve Shot in Less Than 10 Hours in Chicago .  Meanwhile in Myrtle Beach SC, there are 3 dead and 5 others wounded. Americans have almost no chance to contemplate the horrors of violent death in one place before we have to deal with it somewhere else. Which would make sense if we were in a war zone. But we're not, are we?

Certainly the events of Isla Vista brought home in a very disturbing (there's that word again) fashion that women in 21st century America certainly seem to be under assault, both metaphorically and literally. Some of the more heated rants in Elliot Rodger's manifesto target women with a misogynist's unfettered rage and too many women recognized this twisted view, having seen it in too many other men who may not have expressed their warped opinions of women in a volley of bullets but with the back of a hand in the bedroom or the knife to the throat in an alleyway.

And too many times of late, it seems what isn't being done by violence is being done under the cover of law. Women denied control over their own health, having to describe if a rape was truly "forcible" or "legitimate".

In response to Elliot Rodger's rant and indeed under the pressure of some many other injustices women have had to endure, #YesAllWomen began trending on Twitter. It was an outpouring of rage and frustration but not in violence or hatred but in the very civilized act of having their voices heard. 

A lot of what was posted under this hashtag was eye opening to me. No, I wasn't unaware of the things women have to put up with but it was illuminating to see just how pervasive these frustrations are.  The idea of something as mundane as riding a subway or walking to your car is fraught with a very real sense of peril on an ongoing basis is a daunting thing to contemplate. 

Of course, as with most things on the internet, the honest expressions of pain and frustrations felt by women were met by the defensive retort that "all men are not like that".  No, all men are NOT like that. Not all white people are racists. Not all straight people have anti-gay bias. But there are those who do. And in the 21st century, even if that number is barely a percentage of a percentage, that's still enough to make someone's life a living hell. Or a deliver a sudden violent end.

And when any part of our society is threatened, we are all threatened. Remember the guy who hated Jews but wound up killing non-Jews. Elliot Rodger's hatred of women took the lives of men as well as women.  In a modern world, where the hate filled thoughts of small minded people have no place, we must stand together and stand up for each other. #YesAllWomen is a vitally important outlet of expression. But what hurts any one group of people hurts us all.

Yes, All Of Us.

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You


Below is a famous poem that underscores more than ever how much it is vital we look out for each other because in doing so, we act to protect ourselves. 

"First They Came for the Jews"
By Pastor Niemoller

First they came for the Jews a
nd I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

More than ever, guys and gals, please be good to one another.

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