The Man Problem

At Salon, a fellow named Joe Scott points out that many of our domestic mass shooters begin their shooting spree by killing their mothers or another female family member — a wife, a sister. He says,

On a practical level, these female victims represent potential barriers to commission of the crime—people who could talk down the perpetrator, contact authorities, or otherwise interfere. In the mind of the killer, these women also may have posed a symbolic barrier to a conscious or subconscious self-image as the perpetually wronged party, a man with No Other Options, the prodigal avenger called to teach the world a drastic lesson.

Unfortunately, whether racking up points for piles of bodies in a videogame or assassinating terrorists with drones, to kill in the West is to win. And in order to win, on some level, regardless of biological sex, a person must purge barriers to winning by suppressing characteristics perceived as culturally feminine: softness and gentleness, submission and openness, sympathy, mercy, or hesitation.

You know: Shoot first and ask questions later. Make my day. Don’t be a pussy.

The private killing of particular women who could stand in the way of multiple public murders embodies an extreme and ultimately violent suppression of any force, internal or external, that might temper or “domesticate” the code of take-no-prisoners cowboy manliness.

The pattern doesn’t always hold true, but IMO he’s onto something. It strikes me a number of these guys still lived with their mothers or female family members, or were still dependent on them in some way, and that dominant female was the first person he shot.

Adolescent girls famously go through a Hate Mother phase that sometimes leads them to self-destructive behavior, like anorexia, running away or getting pregnant. But if they survive adolescence, they usually get over it. Too many men drag themselves through their whole lives with Mother Issues, and they usually transfer their resentments onto wives. Indeed, show me a guy who is chronically angry and abusive toward his wife and I’ll show you a guy who never worked through his issues with his mother.

Reminded me of something I wrote about ten years ago —

A few years ago, following the publication of Robert Bly’s visionary book Iron John (Addison-Wesley, 1990), there was a men’s movement. The men’s movement started out with progressive intentions but was soon taken over by various troglodytes and misogynists and flamed out. I want to go back to early men’s movement lit for a minute, though, because what it originally tried to do was a very worthwhile thing that still needs doing. It is also essential to seeing what lies beneath our current political landscape.

In Iron John, Robert Bly tried to reconnect manhood with nature and civilization — with building and creation and husbandry instead of destruction, war, and waste. Bly used fairy-tale metaphors to describe a way for males to grow into a mature manhood rather than remain stuck in the perpetual adolescence that passes for “manhood” in our culture, currently represented by “The Man Show” on cable television.

Bly’s premise (picked up from Joseph Campbell) is that in our culture boys grow up lacking contact with men. Therefore, they are uninitiated into true manhood, and beneath their bravado — often subconsciously — they are fearful and insecure. This in turn causes men to be prone to violence and fearful of intimacy. (Iron John was a revelation because a man was saying this; however, nearly any woman over the age of 40 will tell you the same thing.)

The faux masculinity celebrated by our culture equates violence with strength and power with potency. It is a rogue thing that does not honor the principles of civilization or the processes of governance. Like most John Wayne characters, or Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, following the rules is for girls and sissies. Why bother with a justice system when you’ve got a gun?

Now, consider the meatballs who participated in the recent Gun Appreciation Day. Does that fit, or what?

What’s connecting with me today is that many of the mass shooters as well as the 2nd Amendment absolutist who equate disarmament with castration are products of the same social pathology. They are not opposites (good guys/bad guys) at all, but variations on the same theme.

What say you?

The Inaugural Address

Here’s the text. TPM has a video.

See response from Ta-nehisi Coates

Obama’s speech is different. To some extent it exposes people to new ideas. But to a greater extent, perhaps, it shows how movements which only a few years ago were thought to be on the run have, in at least one major party, carried the day. This is not a small thing.

Update: Interesting commentary from across the pond at The Guardian.

Update: Charles Pierce approves.

The speech was a bold refutation of almost everything the Republican party has stood for over the past 40 years. It was a loud — and, for this president, damned near derisive — denouncement of all the mindless, reactionary bunkum that the Republicans have come to stand for in 2013; you could hear the sound of the punch he landed on the subject of global warming halfway to Annapolis. But the meat of the speech was a brave assertion of the power of government, not as an alien entity, but as an instrument of the collective will and desires of a self-governing people.

Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm. That is our generation’s task, to make these works, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.

We are not free because we are individuals, the president told them, daring them to hold two ideas in their heads at a time without their brains leaking out of their ears. We are free because, as individuals we work together in the creative act of self-government to produce a viable political commonwealth in which that freedom can thrive and prosper, and the primary instrument of that commonwealth is the government we devise out of it. That government must be allowed to function. That government must be allowed to operate for this freedom to be generally achieved.

Progress does not compel us to settle century’s long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time. For now, decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.

Firearm Appreciation 2.0

The Los Angeles Times has photos of Saturday’s gun appreciation day. This one’s my favorite. (What is it with wingnuts and spelling? Oh, maybe the double Ms in “comming” and “ammendment” are for “milimeter.” This might be what passes for “clever” on the fringe.)

In comments, Justme mentioned a 20/20 segment on armed “good guy” citizens and mass shootings. I found the segment, “If I only had a gun,” online. It demonstrates why the would-be heroes probably wouldn’t be all that heroic, or effective.

Our recent troll, Katechon, who alternatively argued that all mass shootings take place in gun-free zones and that armed citizens are more effective at stopping “bad guy” shooters than police (odd, if all those shootings were in “gun-free zones”) is, of course, wrong. Mark Follman at Mother Jones claimed that not one mass shooting over the past 30 years was stopped by an armed “ordinary citizen.” The “gun people” came back with a list of shootings in which, they say, an armed citizen stopped the shooter. But in another article, Mark Follman went through the list and found that (1) the “citizen” actually was a law-enforcement or security professional or member of the military, off duty; or (2) the citizen didn’t stop the shooter while he was shooting, but followed and shot him while he was leaving the scene; or (3) the citizen was pumped full of bullets by the shooter, who was later apprehended by law enforcement.

Way to go, armed citizens!

There’s still a lot we don’t know about yesterday’s tragedy in Albuquerque, so I will withhold comment on that. Let’s just hope the Secret Service is doing its job at today’s inauguration festivities.

Happy Gun Appreciation Day!

Apparently today’s Gun Appreciation Day was a great success! Only five participants accidentally shot themselves!

Emergency personnel had to be called to the scene of the Dixie Gun and Knife Show in Raleigh, North Carolina after a gun accidentally discharged and shot two people at the show’s safety check-in booth just after 1 pm. Both victims were transported to an area hospital, and the Raleigh Fire Department announced that the show would be closed for the rest of the day….

…Two similar incidents occurred at entirely separate gun shows in the Midwest, one in the Cleveland suburb of Medina, Ohio and the other at the state fairgrounds in Indianapolis, Indiana. In Ohio, the local ABC affiliate reports that one individual was brought to a hospital by EMS, and in Indiana Channel 8 WISH says that an individual shot himself in the hand while trying to reload his gun in the show parking lot. …

…CNN is reporting that three people were injured at the gun show in Raleigh, not two as originally reported. All were victims of a shotgun that fired while the owner was removing it from a case.

Hey, with law-abiding citizens like these, who needs criminals?

Somethin’ Happening Here

Today’s “abbreviated pundit roundup” at Daily Kos has a lot of good links to articles about firearms. One of them is “As a gun owner, I agree with Obama’s proposed ban on high-capacity magazines” by Kirk R. Wythers, from the Christian Science Monitor.

The first time my grandfather watched me feed five shells into my gun, he looked at me soberly and said, “Nobody needs more than three shells. If you miss with the first two, you’re probably going to miss with the third.”

I thought of this today after reading Josh Marshall’s long piece on being a member of the non-gun tribe.

It’s customary and very understandable that people often introduce themselves in the gun debate by saying, ‘Let me be clear: I’m a gun owner.’

Well, I want to be part of this debate too. I’m not a gun owner and, as I think as is the case for the more than half the people in the country who also aren’t gun owners, that means that for me guns are alien. And I have my own set of rights not to have gun culture run roughshod over me. …

… A big part of gun versus non-gun tribalism or mentality is tied to the difference between city and rural. And a big reason ‘gun control’ in the 70s, 80s and 90s foundered was that in the political arena, the rural areas rebelled against the city culture trying to impose its own ideas about guns on the rural areas. And there’s a reality behind this because on many fronts the logic of pervasive gun ownership makes a lot more sense in sparsely populated rural areas than it does in highly concentrated city areas.

But a huge amount of the current gun debate, the argument for the gun-owning tribe, amounts to the gun culture invading my area, my culture, my part of the country. So we’re upset about massacres so the answer is more guns. Arming everybody. There’s a lot of bogus research (widely discredited) purporting to show that if we were all armed we’d all be safer through a sort of mutually assured destruction, pervasive deterrence. As I said, the research appears to be bogus. But even if it was possible that we could be just as safe with everyone armed as no one armed, I’d still want no one armed. Not at my coffee shop or on the highway or wherever. Because I don’t want to carry a gun. And I don’t want to be around armed people.

Do read both pieces entirely. Josh’s point about rural versus urban is one I made a long time ago, and again here. I grew up in rural Missouri and eventually ended up in the New York metropolitan area, and I full well appreciate why New Yorkers don’t want guns around. And it’s not because they are “elitists” who think they are better than rubes. It’s because guns represent a much greater threat in high population density areas. As I wrote earlier,

After living here awhile, I came to understand why. New Yorkers habitually seek safety in numbers. If you keep to areas where there are lots of other people, you are generally safer than if you are somewhere isolated. New Yorkers prefer subway cars and elevators with at least a couple of other people inside, even if the other people are strangers. They stay in well-lit, high-traffic areas.

In short, they insulate themselves from harm with lots of nearby human flesh. Thick crowds of strangers that an Ohioan would find suffocating are comforting to a New Yorker. The thought that somebody in the flesh shield might whip out a gun and start shooting that flesh is more frightening to New Yorkers than the burglaries that worried my neighbors in Ohio.

If you aren’t used to living here, the density can be hard to imagine. Last summer some guy shot another guy in the vicinity of the Empire State Building, and the NYPD came and shot the shooter. They also shot nine bystanders. And I don’t think that means the NYPD are worse-than-average shots. I know the area; there easily were thousands of people within range of those firearms. “Clean” shots may have been impossible.

But I want to come back to Josh’s description of the two tribes of gun-owners and non-gun-owners, and that guns are part of American tradition. In my experience, the American traditional gun owner was more like Kirk R. Wythers’s grandfather, who didn’t see the point in loading more than three shells at a time. Today’s gun loon is a relatively new sort of critter, driven by a relatively new social/cultural pathology that is causing lesser-educated white men in large parts of the country to see the possession of military weapons as somehow necessary to their self-esteem, and even their very existence. It’s not surprising there is a growing threat from far-right terrorist groups.

How did this start? I dimly remember some talk about stockpiling weapons when John F. Kennedy was elected, because Ozark Mountain folk were afraid of a Catholic president, but that died down pretty quickly. Other than that, the obsession with having to be armed to the teeth in case one has to overthrow the government is just not something one heard in the 1950s and even the 1960s, even in the rural Midwest. This is not traditional. There is something else going on here.

See also “Hannity, Shapiro, and the Politics of Situational Patriotism.”

Pity the Poor Privileged People

Don’t miss this unintentionally hilarious graphic from the Wall Street Journal on the hardship of taxes. We learn, for example, that the frazzled working mother of two children making $260,000 a year will have to pay an additional $3,356 in federal taxes for 2013. My heart bleeds.

I say you could pop this graphic wholesale into Mad Magazine and it would be brilliant satire.

And as Charles Pierce points out, the only people on the graphic not paying more taxes are African-American. Yeah, real subtle.

Blazing Wingnuts

Lots of people are making fun of Michael Gerson’s latest column, which exposes President Obama’s sinister, underhanded tactic of being reasonable. Gerson actually wrote this —

Given this weak Republican position, Obama must be tempted by a shiny political object: the destruction of the congressional GOP. He knows that Republicans are forced by the momentum of their ideology to take positions on spending that he can easily demagogue. He is in a good position to humiliate them again — to expose their internal divisions and unpopular policy views. It may even be a chance to discredit and then overturn the House Republican majority, finally reversing his own humiliation in the 2010 midterms.

The whole column is pretty awesome. Kevin Drum writes that “It might set a new mainstream media record for compressing the largest number of conservative pathologies into the smallest possible space.”

Booman says “‘The momentum of their ideology’ will now join “catapulting the propaganda” in the pantheon of awesomely-coined terms Republicans use to explain their own evil/insanity.” For some reason, thinking of Republicans being forced to do crazy things by the momentum of their own ideology reminds me of this …

See also Jonathan Chait.

Meanwhile, the NRA continues to play the Mad Dog role and is accusing the President of being a hypocritical elitist because his children get armed guard protection and other people’s children don’t. Seriously.

If the NRA were listening to me, I would argue that keeping the President’s family safe is not just a courtesy but a matter of national security. It removes the temptation to negotiate with hostage takers, for example. And I would also explain that just because the President is unlikely to promote the guards-in-schools idea, I don’t see him getting in the way of local school districts hiring armed security guards if they want to. Even if you think armed security guards in schools is a good idea, why does anyone need a federal law about it?

I’ve looked at the ad, and I don’t see it appealing to anyone who isn’t already a foaming-at-the-mouth Obama hater. The NRA may think it has a winner because polls show fairly strong support for putting armed guards in schools. However, the same polls show even stronger support for tougher gun control laws

Gun Culties vs. Everybody Else

Why we need gun control — a man who sheltered some Sandy Hook elementary students on the day of the mass shootings is being harassed by Sandy Hook truthers.

“I don’t know what to do,” sighed Gene Rosen. “I’m getting hang up calls, I’m getting some calls, I’m getting emails with, not direct threats, but accusations that I’m lying, that I’m a crisis actor, ‘how much am I being paid’?” Someone posted a photo of his house online. There have been phony Google+ and YouTube accounts created in his name, messages on white supremacist message boards ridiculing the “emotional Jewish guy,” and dozens of blog posts and videos “exposing” him as a fraud. One email purporting to be a business inquiry taunted: “How are all those little students doing? You know, the ones that showed up at your house after the ‘shooting’. What is the going rate for getting involved in a gov’t sponsored hoax anyway?”

On the day of the shooting, Mr. Rosen found six small children and a bus driver on his front lawn. The children said their teacher was dead. He took them in, talked to them, gave them snacks, and called their parents. He gave some interviews after, and the truther mob went after him.

Numerous YouTube videos have been upload that purport to ‘expose’ his ‘lies.’

One man, posting under the name Police State Radio, posted a 15-minute video in which he claimed at least one of the Sandy Hook victims was killed in Rosen’s basement.

‘She was sacrificed in the house, in gene’s house,’ the man says.

This mob is made up of the same people who think they must be allowed to carry concealed firearms anywhere they go and have unfettered access to military weapons. Oh, and in their minds they are “patriots” and “law abiding citizens” who believe they must be armed to defend themselves against “bad guys.”

The NRA likes to frame the gun rights debate in terms of “law-abiding citizens” versus “criminals.” And I’m saying it’s not the professional criminals who scare me. I’ve never in my life been threatened by a gun-toting mobster. But I’ve had a few run-ins with armed hotheads who considered themselves to be “law-abiding citizens” and in fact probably did not have criminal records. But they also lacked heads that were screwed on all the way or as much sense as God gave pop tarts.

There are news stories saying that the President is poised to move forward on a comprehensive gun control package. The package could include some executive orders, which could include such measures as actually prosecuting people who lie on their background checks. Naturally, the usual whackjobs think this is tyranny and want President Obama impeached.

Polls show that support for and opposition to gun control falls along demographic lines; basically, we’re looking at middle-aged and older white men without college degrees versus almost everybody else. Groups most supportive of gun control include younger people of all races, college-educated women, and racial minorities. Josh Marshall prints a letter from a reader —

I view gun control from the prism of the gender wars. It’s a last-gasp attempt by lower-income men to hold onto some shred of self-respect: at least a capacity for autonomous violence, if they are left with nothing else.

And they are being left with nothing else, since the job market is increasingly feminized on all but the highest levels, most remaining male-gendered work (except uniformed public service) is increasingly losing income and status, and patriarchy is no longer a particularly strong legal or cultural norm. This is responsible for many things: almost all bad. I call it the Scots-Irishization of lower-income white men.

If it’s respect they want, they might want to stop acting like a pack of rabid hyenas, or buggier than road kill in August.

More Chicken Games

More than half of House Republicans say they are prepared to take the debt hostage and shut down the government to force the White House to make cuts in entitlement programs. The President says he’s not playing that game. If the House wants to trash the economy, it’s on them.

The tough talk was largely cheered by the left. As for the right, Paul Waldman says,

As any parent knows, when your children are young, you have one distinct advantage over them: you’re smarter than they are. It won’t be that way forever, but if it comes down to an argument, using words, with a six-year-old, you’re probably going to win. Faced with this disadvantage, children often resort to things like repeating the thing they’ve already said a hundred more times, or stomping their feet. Which brings us, of course, to the House Republicans. …

…I think by now all of us, including President Obama, know that these people are serious. But when they say “serious,” they don’t actually mean that they want to seriously confront the nation’s problems without getting distracted by trivial concerns. That’s not the kind of serious they’re talking about. When they say they’re serious and they want Obama’s attention, they mean it in the way that a suicide bomber is serious and wants attention.

See also Kevin Drum, GOP to Press: Obama Must Help Save Us From Our Own Crazy People and George Packer, Southern Discomfort.

Hitler and the Gun Nuts

You’ve probably noticed that whenever someone talks about gun control, the wingnuts shriek that Hitler confiscated the guns! I’ve long been skeptical of that claim, but I never bothered to check it out. Well, there’s a historian named Bernard Harcourt who fact-checked the Hitler confiscated guns claim, and he says it’s bogus.

As it turns out, the Weimar Republic, the German government that immediately preceded Hitler’s, actually had tougher gun laws than the Nazi regime. After its defeat in World War I, and agreeing to the harsh surrender terms laid out in the Treaty of Versailles, the German legislature in 1919 passed a law that effectively banned all private firearm possession, leading the government to confiscate guns already in circulation. In 1928, the Reichstag relaxed the regulation a bit, but put in place a strict registration regime that required citizens to acquire separate permits to own guns, sell them or carry them.

The 1938 law signed by Hitler that LaPierre mentions in his book basically does the opposite of what he says it did. “The 1938 revisions completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition,” Harcourt wrote. Meanwhile, many more categories of people, including Nazi party members, were exempted from gun ownership regulations altogether, while the legal age of purchase was lowered from 20 to 18, and permit lengths were extended from one year to three years.

You mean, Wayne LaPierre lied? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you … For more, see ON GUN REGISTRATION, THE NRA, ADOLF HITLER, AND NAZI GUN LAWS: EXLPODING THE GUN CULTURE WARS by Bernard Harcourt.

It’s true that Jews and other people identified by the Reich as “problems” were not allowed to own guns. But another historian, Omer Bartov, pooh-poohs the idea that if the Jews had been armed they could have avoided the Holocaust. “Just imagine the Jews of Germany exercising the right to bear arms and fighting the SA, SS and the Wehrmacht. The [Russian] Red Army lost 7 million men fighting the Wehrmacht, despite its tanks and planes and artillery. The Jews with pistols and shotguns would have done better?”

By the same token, today’s “patriots” armed with assault weapons quickly could be rendered into a quivering pile of protoplasm by the U.S. military. One would have to be demented to think otherwise.

Bartov, of Brown University, continues,

“Their assertion that they need these guns to protect themselves from the government — as supposedly the Jews would have done against the Hitler regime — means not only that they are innocent of any knowledge and understanding of the past, but also that they are consciously or not imbued with the type of fascist or Bolshevik thinking that they can turn against a democratically elected government, indeed turn their guns on it, just because they don’t like its policies, its ideology, or the color, race and origin of its leaders.”

The fanciful notion that the Second Amendment arms citizens so they are perpetually prepared to overthrow the government (see example) is a gross distortion of history, of course. There is a credible argument to be made that the Second Amendment was written to make sure that the federal government could not deprive the states of their militias. And the reason the early Republic chose to maintain state militias was that some people of the time were nervous about maintaining a large standing regular army. But the Second Amendment obviously is concerned with arming a militia, and the first purpose of the militia was state and national defense.

The very first time state militias were called into federal service was to put down a tax rebellion in Pennsylvania, the Whiskey Rebellion. President George Washington actually put on a military uniform and rode at the head of the troops. If you listen to today’s Gun Nuts, the second amendment was written so that the whiskey rebels could defend themselves against George Washington’s militia. I don’t think so.

The NRA wants to register crazy people instead of guns. Considering this guy, this guy, and these guys

The U.S. Government effectively dissolved, in either the Civil War or 1933, when it went off the gold standard. And because of that, “you don’t have to pay your taxes, pay off your house, you don’t really owe anybody anything, and by the way if you file the right documents, you can get as much as $20 million from the federal government.”

That’s right, the government actually owes you money. See, when it went off the gold standard, in order to maintain this false sense of legitimacy, the illuminati turned us all into “straw men.” Those capital letters on our birth certificates are our straw man names, and our Social Security numbers are just a way to keep track of us. The government then convinced some suckers in China and other countries to fork over their hard-earned Yuan for a stake in Americans’ future earning potential, anywhere from $600,000 to $20 million, per person. The so-called U.S. Government has been cashing in on you since the day you were born, somehow. And all you have to do to collect is file the right paperwork—and in the meantime, refuse to acknowledge the straw man.

I seriously think that gun nut extremism is some kind of mental pathology. So maybe we should take them up on the crazy people registry thing.