Lisa Hickey explains why we talk about the very difficult subjects here at The Good Men Project. And why we’re not going to stop.

Trigger warning for difficult, adult topics such as sexual violence and violence.

I wasn’t going to talk about my part in all this. You know, the pieces of me that are just stories now: sexual abuse, alcoholism at age 14. College life filled with non-consensual sex. I’ve told a small part of all this already. If you haven’t read it, you can, here. Or here.

But I will tell you what came next. A lifetime of not talking to people.


I talked enough to get by, sure. It’s really hard to survive in this world without ever speaking. I could talk at work as long as it was only on the project at hand. “Focused” was what they called me. No one realized I was scared to death to say a word because I was afraid something really, really, really bad would happen to me.

Is that what happens when you are told, repeatedly, “don’t say a single word or I’ll kill you?”

It took me 40 years before I was able to say the word “rape” out loud.


One thing is clear. An incident like Penn State doesn’t happen because people talk too much. I haven’t heard of a single undercover sex scandal where large groups of people were all talking about it before it became known. The underreporting of rapes isn’t because people are walking up to authorities with confidence and are telling them all they know.

Those things happen, and stay hidden, because people are afraid to talk.


So how do we actually change behavior? Is it better to allow people to talk about things as openly as possible? Or is it better to try to control and limit the conversation?


If you look at the way Alcoholics Anonymous does it – they get people in a room to tell stories. You hear from people at every stage of addiction. People who have been sober for years. The drunk on the street who is still drinking but knows something has got to change. The person who doesn’t yet understand that it is the drinking that is the cause of their life going downhill, but is still blaming their bad luck, the bullying of others, the economy, the weather, anything but themselves and the alcohol, as the cause of their demise. The person who is in AA grudgingly, perhaps because of a court-ordered mandate. All are given a platform. All are allowed to talk. All in the room are allowed anonymity when they leave. All are allowed to say “hey, I’m an alcoholic.” Alcoholism, as you know, is bad. They are allowed to say they are bad. AA gives them a place to figure out – with people who let them talk – just how bad their behavior is and how they can change.

Scientific American quotes a study done by Rudolf H. Moos of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Stanford University. In a 16-year study of problem drinkers who attended at least 27 weeks of AA meetings during the first year, 67 percent were abstinent at the 16-year follow-up.

This correlates from my own experience — I know that I, myself, did a 180-degree turnaround from addictive drinking behavior. I also know, personally, dozens of people who were helped by AA who beforehand were engaging in risky behavior, illegal behaviors, and behaviors that would most certainly harm themselves and others if left unchecked. Through the power of hearing and telling stories about addiction from every side, people doing very bad things were able to change.


Let’s look at smoking. I worked on a campaign for many years to help stop smoking in the State of Massachusetts. We had a clear goal – get the rates of smoking in the state to decline. Around that time, 815,000 people were smoking in Massachusetts. A lot of people to try to change. I worked in advertising and mass media, on the creative messaging side of things.

The group we were working with, the Mass. Dept. of Public Health, did tons of studies over the years to find out which messages were most effective in actually creating change. What they found was very insightful to me – that the most effective strategy was to alternate messages – some positive and then some negative. It wasn’t all STOP NOW, and it wasn’t all “Look how great it is if you stop”. It was a coordinated effort that talked about both the good and the bad. That looked at smoking from the *smokers* point of view, as well as others. The people who harmed, the people who were harmed. One of the commercials I did was with a guy named Rick Stoddard, whose wife had just died. He had put in her obituary that she had died, at age 46, of lung cancer from cigarette smoking. It was something you didn’t see often – talking about the cause of death as a personal choice that could have been prevented.

So we, at the ad agency, called up Rick Stoddard and asked if he would like to be in a TV commercial. “No. Absolutely not. My wife just died.” He hung up the phone. But he called us back a day later and said, “I’ve reconsidered. This needs to be talked about. No one else has talked about it.” In one of the commercials, he talked about how, as his wife was dying, she asked him to light her cigarettes for her. The lighter she used had a smiley face, he said. A smiley face.

One commercial we shot with him eventually aired during the Super Bowl. We were one of the “most liked” commercials by USA Today the next day. Imagine – among Superbowl ads filled with tortilla chips, beer and scantily-clad women, a heartfelt story of a husband who lost his wife through smoking was one of the most liked. The commercial was him telling his story straight to the camera. We had gotten a conversation that most people didn’t even want to talk about into the mainstream.


In another commercial, done by others working on the same goal, we talked to the original Marlboro Men. The ones who, by that time, were dying of lung cancer. One agreed to sing through his tracheotomy hole. Had he done something destructive by helping sell all those cigarettes? Had he hurt people by becoming an American Icon for cigarette smokers? No doubt. No doubt. He certainly thought so. Did that stop him from talking about the harm cigarettes caused? Not even through a trach hole.

Rates of smoking in the state declined by 9% over the time I was involved – Massachusetts was the state with the second biggest decline out of the 50 states.

We didn’t talk less about smoking. We talked more. We allowed people who were harming themselves and others to tell their stories.


Drunk driving is a behavior that seems like it would be easy to change because of the potentially horrific consequences — you drive drunk, you might go out and kill someone, including yourself. On the other hand, it’s a stubborn behavior because people have the best of intentions – “I’m not going to drive drunk, I’m only going to have 2 or 3 drinks, I can handle it.” There’s active denial, especially among people who abuse alcohol, the idea that “this time it’s going to be different.”

One of the most successful ways that has cut down on drunk driving is to say to people, “Don’t wait until you get to the point where you’ve had two or three drinks. Hand over your keys before you go out drinking, so you don’t get into that place where your judgment has already been impaired and you run the risk of driving drunk even though you didn’t intend to.”

In order to be effective at changing actions, the person has to admit to themselves, “I am a person who might be capable of doing something bad even if my intentions are good.” In order to be effective, that person who might do something bad has to actually talk to someone else and say – “I will be drinking. If I drink, I might do something bad, like get behind the wheel of a car. Please don’t let me do that.”

The solution is not to keep potential drunk drivers from talking.


When I talked to someone about an early draft of this, he pointed out that the above examples were all around “substances”. Was there a case, before The Good Men Project, where I thought I could uncover truths by talking to people engaging in bad behavior – not with their judgment clouded by substances, but by something else? I remembered an idea I had for a series of TV commercials. The idea was to interview the mass murderers, the ones who killed others but not themselves, and get them to be advocates for gun control. Please note, this was an idea only. If these TV commercials had been filmed, which they were not, the killer would have to say what he truly thought, in his own words. The campaign was not produced, however, I’ll note that David Berkowitz was interviewed in August, 2012, saying we should “Take the glory out of guns”. The image below was updated to include some of his own words.

Please note: In light of the Sandy Hook massacre, there was once again a very hard decision as to whether to show this. My heart goes out to all the families, friends and loved ones. And to the millions of people triggered by the violence. But as we keep talking, perhaps we can collectively figure out a way to change. The time is now.



What would happen if we said to the addicts in my first example, “Don’t ever talk about your addiction”? What if we said to smokers, “Don’t talk about the fact that you smoke?” What if we said to people who were drunk drivers, “Don’t ever talk about the fact that you might drive drunk?” What if we said to shooter, “Don’t tell us why you did it?”

And what if we also said, “Don’t ever talk about the fact that you might be a rapist?”


To set the record straight, we, at The Good Men Project, aren’t apologists for rape. Ever. We don’t condone, endorse, or support it in any way. We’d like nothing better than to eradicate it from this planet. But we firmly believe that in order to do so, we need to talk about it. Honestly. Openly. Sometimes painfully. We have to understand why it happens and have the conversation with people who might not think about it in the same way we do. We believe that sometimes – not all the time, but certainly on occasion – people can actually be good before they do one stupid thing. That while consent is clear, not everyone knows how to give and take and express consent with 100% certainty, no matter how much we would like that to be true. We’d like to change that. But we’d like to change that with a wider audience – including people who don’t usually talk about rape.


I looked at what happened after we ran two very controversial posts about rape, (here, and here). I looked at the comments. I looked the reactions of our community. I listened to what people said. Did any good come out of it? Here is what I heard:

Some people said, “that was me 10 years ago.”

Some said, “wow, I didn’t realize some of the things I have been doing might be construed as rape.”

Others said, “that could be my son. I’ll need to talk to him more about these issues.”

Some said, “I need to talk to my daughter. Without shame. Without telling her to change her behavior. Just to talk.”

More than one person had the insight, “OH. Consent is not just something a girl gives a guy. It needs to be mutual consent. And consent every step of the way. Not just intercourse. I get it now.”

Some had the following ‘aha’, “OH. If a women is aggressively flirting, she MIGHT want to have sex. But even if that is what it means, it could mean some distant point, far into the future. It doesn’t have to mean tonight. And she might not want it ever. That needs to be respected. I’m glad I was able to articulate that. I’m glad we could talk about it here.”


It’s important to note that we are mindful of ALL the criticisms we are getting. That we read them, discuss them, and take action. We value suggestions even from our harshest critics. We want to get this right.


Let’s get back to silence for a minute. What is the worst that can happen if people talk about rape too much? If people are open and honest about their fears? If people look at their activities when they drink, and wonder about how that might  affect their judgment? If people talk together about consent, so they understand it’s mutual consent, not just something girls give out to guys? What would happen? What would the world look like?

Now what would happen if people didn’t talk about rape enough? If people were afraid to talk about it for fear they’d be shut down? If they didn’t talk about their behavior despite realizing it might be wrong? What if rape became something that people didn’t ever talk about? What if people were afraid to even say the word? What would the world look like then?


About Lisa Hickey

Lisa Hickey is CEO of Good Men Media Inc. and publisher of the Good Men Project. "I like to create things that capture the imagination of the general public and become part of the popular culture for years to come." Connect with her on Twitter.


  1. PDA wrote: “I’m wondering if your reaction might be any different if the response had been – rather than “Don’t ever talk about the fact that you might be a rapist,” – that publishing the account of an unrepentant rapist who clearly stated his intention to rape again, might be irresponsible. Which is what I was saying in my comments on that piece.

    Because that’s really different than what you posted above, and I’m having a hard time not seeing it as disingenuous.”

    I don’t think the GMP’s decision to run that article was irresponsible. I think, like it or not, if we want to get people to stop doing something, we must first understand WHY they are doing it. As with anything else, several different people can do the same thing for entirely different reasons. Some people rape because they want power and control. Some people rape because they think they have a positive right to having their sexual “needs” filled. Some people rape because they see rape as an acceptable risk in return for the benefits of participating in Party Culture. Some people rape because they think it’s really okay to get a woman drunk and push for sex, because women really do want sex but it’s just social conditioning making them “play hard to get”.

    If we want to prevent rape, we need to understand all those different reasons why people rape, because telling the “Party Culture” rapist to stop thinking he deserves to have his “sexual needs fulfilled” ISN’T GOING TO WORK, because that’s not why *that* particular rapist is raping. Telling the “power and control” rapist that it’s not true that he’s helping women get around bad social conditioning ISN’T GOING TO WORK, because that’s not why *that* rapist is raping.

    And the only real way to understand why someone is doing something is to listen to them – which is not the same as promoting that their rationale is valid or acceptable.

  2. *No one* is saying you shouldn’t talk about rape. People are unhappy about *how* you talked about rape. You may disagree with their criticisms, but it’s disingenous and unhelpful to mischaracterize them as just not wanting to hear about tough subjects. The same subjects are discussed elsewhere, in a variety of ways and often with disagreement, and don’t inspire the same anger as the recent series of GMP posts. I have trouble seeing how you’ve carefully considered the criticism you received if you continue to ignore what the critics have actually said.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      That’s a fair point. But some of the critics did say we should stop talking altogether, and did things like call for boycotts and ask writers not to write for us. Which — if you took those to the extreme — is an attempt to shut us down, which looks to me as a way of saying “stop talking.”

      We are looking at all the criticisms and are very much using those to see how we can do things better moving forward. One of our early critics, for example, wrote an article for us about rape culture, which we ran today. We are not opposed to taking helpful criticisms. We are not actually ignoring anyone.

  3. Lisa,

    I’m wondering if your reaction might be any different if the response had been – rather than “Don’t ever talk about the fact that you might be a rapist,” – that publishing the account of an unrepentant rapist who clearly stated his intention to rape again, might be irresponsible. Which is what I was saying in my comments on that piece.

    Because that’s really different than what you posted above, and I’m having a hard time not seeing it as disingenuous.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      What we ran was an article by a guy who acknowledges that he found out after the fact that he’d raped a woman, and has no idea how consensual much of the sex he’s had since has been, including consent on his part. He’s struggling with how that works and how he got to that point. He does want to keep partying, which is different than saying he wants to go out and keep raping. And we believe ours is a culture where that mindset exists and is taken for granted by way too many people, and is not talked about enough.

      I understand that you think we ran something else.

      And I appreciate your viewpoint — and I appreciate all the viewpoints, even our most adamant critics. But what we’d like to do is continue to talk about these difficult subjects but do so in a way that continue to get better as the conversation unfolds.

      • He does want to keep partying, which is different than saying he wants to go out and keep raping.

        Are you referring to the piece entitled “I’d Rather Risk Rape Than Quit Partying?” The one which ended with the man saying “it seems like I’ve accepted a certain amount of rape as the cost of doing business?” Is that piece the one you’re talking about? Because, while I certainly agree the man did not literally write “I can’t wait to go out and rape as soon as possible,” is it really that difficult for you to imagine someone could read what he did write as a clear intention to rape again?

        I’m glad that you express a willingness to continue to talk about it. Do you have any suggestions on how we could go about that? I get that we are coming from diametrically opposed viewpoints on what the man actually said, and past a certain point, of course, it’s not productive. But I’d rather not be stigmatized as trying to “silence” you or anyone else.

        • Lisa Hickey says:

          Ok, thanks for agreeing we should look at how to move forward. And I obviously wasn’t directly pointing to you as someone trying to silence us. Some, however clearly were.

          A few things moving forward — today we ran a post on rape culture, written by a woman who was one of our early critics. We hope to have another one on consent that we are talking to another person who was critical of our tactics. You, or any other writers you know, are also welcome to contribute on the topic. We will not publish direct attacks on us, we will carefully consider any thoughtful posts that move the conversation forward.

          We also really want to get that the heart of drinking culture and how that affects our society’s views on consent and sex. That was the purpose of the original article.

  4. Lisa – could you please Just Take Over The Planet and run is as a Lisocracy.

    You get my vote! … shameless crawling and creeping for a place in the new World Order! P^)

    • A sick, messed-up mind like that shooter will use a sword, splashed gasoline, Propane cans, pipe-bombs, 20′ Wasp Spray (kills people FAST), arrows, etc if he can’t readily get a gun.

      BTW: Where is the outrage of the 450,000/yr cigarette-related murders in this country?

      • I assume you’re referring to the 443,000 deaths annually linked to tobacco ingestion.

        There is outrage. There has been outrage for quite some time. Some of us are still fighting big tobacco to get tobacco banned from the US.

        In fact, we’ve recently made some big strides. Just this year, North Dakota enacted a Indoor Smoking ban, making them the 28th state to do so. Several other states have bans on some, but not all, indoor smoking.

        We’re working on it, but just like the NRA, big tobacco has a looot of money. They also have a looot of people addicted to their product. We won’t stop, but it might be a while before that number is reduced.

  5. Tom Matlack says:

    Lisa what an exceptional piece of writing. I have never been more proud of you and our team. Character in my mind is not the easy calls its what you do when it is really, really hard. I know this has been a hard stretch and we are all better for it under your leadership.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Thank you Tom. You, of all people, have worked with me long enough to know that I DO accept criticism. I take feedback of all sorts, internalize it, and look for ways to move forward in better ways. I am not trying to silence our detractors, I am just trying to get them to give feedback in more productive ways.

      We are doing something that has never been done before — looking at all these issues from a uniquely male perspective.

      I will never back down from seeing the extraordinary value to that mission.

  6. Lisa,

    Thanks for another great and insightful article. I have not read the articles about rape that precipitated this post. I doubt that I will. There is some content on this sight that I don’t choose to engage with. It doesn’t edify me. It doesn’t make me any better of a man. But this site is that I value greatly. Becuase you engage such tough topics, with the intent of exploring what it means for men to “be good”. By inviting conversation on tough topics, you bring those topics out of the shadows and into the light of examination. And as you so ably suggested above, things are not going to change if we are not talking about them.

    I appreciate the courage and conviction it takes to hold the course on your commitment to dialogue. And I value the way that you, personally, approach every topic in such a non-judgemental way. Thanks, Lisa. Know that I am one devoted fan of Lisa Hickey!

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Thanks Roger! And thanks for being a part of this discussion for so long.

      It is exactly the word “non-judgemental” that has been a problem for so many people. The question they are asking is really “Why didn’t you judge that man?”

      And that’s not what we’re here for.

      Sure, some actions are unquestionably bad, and some bad beyond belief. Rape and murder come to mind. But how do we engage people in the conversation *before* they get to that point? How do we connect with men at every level, without shame, but with empathy and understanding? I don’t even think it’s that difficult. You get together. You talk. You listen. Really listen. And you create a space where love of all sorts can happen. That’s it. And I am standing by my belief that good things and positive change can happen as a result.

  7. It’s been a harsh and unpleasant discussion to have, but it’s a discussion that should be had. These discussions have been weighing heavily on me all week, and even making me feel sick to my stomach at times. I hesitate to imagine what it’s been like at the center of this maelstrom, and I stand in awe of the courage this must have taken from Alyssa, Joanna and the rest of the GMP team.

    We could argue about whether the examples picked were the best examples to use, but at the end of the day, it was enough to get us talking and that’s what really matters.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      The thing that’s important to understand is that what we are doing at GMP is an ongoing discussion. We are looking to end the polarization of these topics. We are looking to have a really unique place — the discussion of these difficult topics from a male perspective. I just don’t know anyplace that’s been done at that level and scope we are doing it.

      As I’ve said to others, we are always willing to look at what better examples we can use to go forward. But I wouldn’t for a minute take back the discussion that took place as a result of the articles we ran.

      • Lisa,

        I love this article. I was highly disappointed at the polarization I saw occur based on some of these articles…and when I tried to engage productive conversation on the commonality of end goals on some the greatest critics’ blogs, I was met with such complete resistance and negativity that I was truly saddened by the responses.

        You are so correct that not everyone sees these issues the same way. We all come to the table with different life experiences shaping the framework of how we view each of these topics. Or, for the young, which we have the opportunity to shape the most, they come to the table with very limited life experiences which may be very uninformed or misinformed at this point.

        As responsible members of a community that is working to enlighten others and work toward a goal of ending rape, you as leaders are correct in approaching it from a standpoint that not all are as educated, well versed, or have access to the wider understanding based on your area of expertise. Most come to the table with their own experiences and a search for knowledge or understanding. Meeting this audience with realistic language, information, and an openness for their search to understand is what will make a difference. This is in great contrast to some of the “closed” communities that I’ve experienced in the last week as I tried to engage in converstation on opposition to the GMP articles. In the end, if the attitude you describe is one that GMP continues to promote, GMP will move forward the goals, regardless of the critics – those critics will continue to be critics in their own micro-circles of agreement and limited understanding of the greater population. I guess the biggest question I pose to those critics is – would you rather continue to convince your small group that already agrees to you on these important topics, or would you like to engage in meaningful social change by taking a moment to understand the world?

        Meanwhile, I hope you all continue work toward your goals and stay focused on the change you’d like to see while continuing to intelligently understand criticism while carefully analyzing which points are applicable to a greater movement vs. which points they bring to the table are meant to derail for their own personal gain. I have no doubt that the leaders at GMP can make this happen.

        • …regardless of the critics – those critics will continue to be critics in their own micro-circles of agreement and limited understanding of the greater population.

          It is a pity – but unfortunately it’s a pattern that is re-emphasised by the present operation of social networking – to paraphrase an old saying “You can take a horse to social networking, but you can’t make them sociable”. People have to wish to learn – so for me it’s easy. Don’t look at GMP as a classroom – It’s a University for life.

        • Lisa Hickey says:

          Thanks Gretchen. Well said.

          That was the piece that was so odd to us too — we talked about this internally. If, for example, feminists want to get the word about feminism out to a wider audience — why on earth would you ask writers to *stop* writing for a platform that gets over 3 million pageviews a month?

          On the other hand, I DO understand the point about not wanting to normalize bad behavior. I think that’s an important point. I also think that the point of trying to get to people *before* they engage in bad behavior is important. So at which point to you talk *with* people, and at which point do you talk *at* them?

          • Lisa – I don’t see the cries from some people and places as genuine. In fact they are overly dramatic, even melodramatic, from a Victorian Era and all about the Gas-Lighting.

            @tsbarracks @jlandrith @goodmenproject I don’t think it makes her a bad person or a rapist. He was sleep-walking, she thought he was awake.— Jill Filipovic (@JillFilipovic) December 16, 2012

            WebCite Copy

            No wonder some are screaming and acting like a scene from The Exorcist as they desperately attempt to divert attention away from their own views and public comments. Some folks really do need to stop attempting to excuse rape and explain it away when it is all about their personal bias and hatred for one group.

            In fact when the person doing the crying and campaigning has so many skeletons sitting propped up around their Living Room, one has to wonder why suddenly so much drama is needed. That is when the Victorian gas-lights come out. Some confuse gaslights with confusing the vision of only one person at a time. Of course it is quite possible to attempt to direct and confuse the vision of groups too – It’s called Propaganda. I have to wonder why certain people are so determined to keep issuing Propaganda and attempting to make so many look in only one direction.

            When someone says I think I’m a Rapist because I did my male partner whilst he may have been asleep – oh and he has this disability thing which means his memory does not work and he can appear to be awake but he’s 100% not present… so I did him any way and now he’s pissed. Well if in response to that certain people invent the idea VERY publicly that you can’t rape a disabled man if he does not know you did him… well I can see why some would really love to Propagandise and divert attention – It’s so Stalin and corruption of Marxist-Leninist thinking! It has ever been thus!

            So much for Enthusiastic consent and Rape Is Rape – if you can do him whilst he sleeps, don’t worry It may well be rape but you got away with it – and if he’s unconscious it can’t be rape! Us Girls Have to Stick Together .. come on over to my Castle in the Clouds. The door chime is the theme tune to The Twilight Zone!

            There is an issue called Hypocrisy. The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness.

            I see so many patterns here including the Bully retreat – It comes in three stages 1) Denial – we have had that already, been ongoing for months. 2) Diversion and misdirection … well that is going on now and is not very successful . 3) The feigned victim hood, Oh I’m so very ill I have to run, retreat and disappearance – That will come next.

            One thing about people who have twisted world views is they hate facts and reality. They are like Sunlight to a Vampire. Some just need to keep shining through and whilst the vampire screams and twists it’s best if those with less expertise just look on and don’t get involved.

            On the other hand, If anyone has some Garlic Bread it would be appreciated. Dealing with nasties is hungry work and some of us are famished! P^)

            Don’t skimp on the Oregano either!

      • I’ve been thinking about it, and given that Alyssa’s initial focus was to ask how someone could manage not to realise what they were doing was rape, despite it so clearly being so – her example was actually a pretty good one. It was pretty clear case of non-consent, and yet one I could imagine some people getting wrong due to fact we really don’t discuss consent in modern society.

        The thing is that it’s prompted a much wider range of discussions about consent, and that example doesn’t work so well for those other discussions. There’s really so many different topics here to look at. How can we mitigate the shame around sexuality? how can we promote clearer communication around consent? Where are the grey areas and how can we make those clearer?

        And the initial examples don’t work for those discussions as easily. But that’s got nothing to do with the quality of the example and more to do with how the discussion has changed.

        • “her example was actually a pretty good one. It was pretty clear case of non-consent, and yet one I could imagine some people getting wrong due to fact we really don’t discuss consent in modern society”

          Would you tell me how and why you think that would be true? How a sleeping person (even after drinking and flirting) could be confused? I’m not being argumentative, I’m just really unclear on how people could think, “well, I guess I’ll just start it up without waking the person.” and feel that there was a consent there.

          Because I don’t. And I have asked many many men in my life this question since the article ran (men who drink, men who drug, men who party) and all of them were appalled that people could consider being asleep part of the confusion.

          • I think you’ve hit on the crux of the difficulty that people have had in discussing that case. As I understand it, what Alyssa was trying to say was, in effect, “This well-meaning guy came to the conclusion that what he was doing was okay when it clearly was not okay. How did that happen?” However, I think some people who read it thought she was implying that that it was reasonable for him to come to that conclusion, or that the fact that he didn’t think what he was doing was wrong somehow excused his actions.

            I don’t think this guy had a good reason to believe that what he was doing was okay, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t actually believe it. People come to believe stupid things all the time, and drugs and alcohol make it that much easier to do so. People who do terrible things usually believe that there is some reason that there actions are acceptable or justified or even necessary.

            And to my mind, that’s the point of articles like Alyssa’s. It’s not to say, “Rape is justified if the rapist think it’s okay,” but rather, “How do people get these crazy ideas?”

            • Lisa Hickey says:

              Ok, this is to Julie and everyone commenting on this particular point: “How could that happen? How could the guy in Alyssa’s story not know?”

              And here’s the thing I haven’t brought up but I feel I need to — when I was young and drinking a lot, the same thing happened to me (a scenario just like the girl in Alyssa’s the story). And I never in a million years thought to call it rape. Ever. It simply didn’t occur to me.

              How could that happen? How could *I* not know? And since then, I’ve only ever had these conversations on GMP. So if I was young and drinking now, I wouldn’t know now either.

              Why is it so hard to believe the guy wouldn’t know?

              • “How could that happen? How could the guy in Alyssa’s story not know?”

                The most common explanation to that would be lack of frame of reference where certain patterns of conduct had been identified by others in the same social group as wrong – questionable – not acceptable. There is so much judgement by people taking their own experience (Primarily Women) and literally demanding that everything has to be filtered through the lens of their experience. That has nothing to do with understanding him – only expressing personal anger and indignation.

                I’m actually getting to the point of having great sympathy for this guy, because he is being placed on an impossible pedestal, and judged by impossible number and and level of standards… and no matter what he would never be able to satisfy the demands for his answers to fit other people’s requirements and demands. Worse – he’s not even part of the conversation.

                How could he not know? just a few examples dragged from some experience – Not socialised by his parents – they were uptight cluster fucks when to came to sex and could not speak about it except by poor euphemism that left him lost and just doing what he believed was normal – or maybe he had some issues due to an incestuous relationship where that is EXACTLY how he got treated … or maybe he had a set of brain lesions (Anyone of hundred of possible causes) which robbed him of certain levels of cognitive function exacerbated by alcohol… or maybe he was is and will remain a total Sociopathic rapist and has zero empathy and is 100% dangerous. That’s just 4 off the top of my head!

                How Could he not know – Hundreds of reasons!

                What peeps going to do about it? Endlessly go on about one person or get with the bigger picture.

              • I’ll take my question back. I think it’s actually pretty common for men not to know because the system around sex places their experience over women’s, and it places men and women in basically adversarial positions where women are apparently “selling” and then trying to keep the price high. It also places a woman in a position where she has to advertise just enough to get the buy but not so much that she’s consider cheap goods. Still.

                That pretty much creates a situation where if a guy can get it for cheap, hey, it’s all good. Good girls don’t, good girls fight, good girls don’t get themselves in situations where they can be assaulted and if they do, they probably wanted it so it wasn’t rape. And Lisa, maybe you internalized that yourself and felt, well…I was in a bad position, I made bad choices. I mean, I know that’s what’s happened to me. In college and after. I didn’t call it rape, and maybe it wasn’t “classic” rape, but there was a lot of him taking precedence over me. Anyway.

                So…yeah maybe this guy is carrying all that toxic waste in his system and that’s what leads to the idea that well, I’ll just start going for it because that seemed like what was supposed to happen.

                Her body was up for grabs maybe? I still think though, that there are lot of people in the world who don’t behave that way. Because they don’t see other people’s bodies as up for grabs.

                I think of this the same way I think of racism. There are a lot of people who hold racist beliefs that aren’t KKK level beliefs. And there is enough language over the past 50 years that pretty much most people know it isn’t acceptable to throw those beliefs out there, like they have the old dynamics but they are just at or above the line of consciousness. And I think they believe someplace inside themselves that either A) they should be able to hold those beliefs and damn anyone for taking away their privilege or B) they know its wrong but suppress knowing it because admitting it makes them feel bad.

                And they should feel bad. Anyone who is engaged in that kind of behavior, male or female, should feel bad and then find ways to freaking change.

                • Exactly. And I think that’s why it’s important to get past the idea that these kinds of acts are committed exclusively by malicious people acting in bad faith. People have this image in their head of the kind of person a rapist is, and they think, “That’s not the kind of person I am,” and don’t bother to consider their actions. The idea of the rapist-as-monster gets in the way of people seeing their actions for what they are, or taking care to avoid hurting people.

                  It’s interesting that you bring up racism, because I think the dynamic at work is very similar. I think we’ve gotten to the point where attempting to ostracize and shout down racists is doing more harm than good, because it paints racism as a thing that only evil, hateful people are capable of, when racism can be a very subtle, subconscious thing that affects even people who believe themselves to be tolerant and open-minded.

                  People are complex, and any given person is capable of doing both good things and bad things, often simultaneously. When we get too eager to label people who do bad things as bad people, we make it easier for people to hurt others while believing in their own virtue.

                  • Lisa Hickey says:

                    Julie, Morgan, Notavi — this has really been a fascinating sub-thread — a small piece of the larger discussion. Thanks so much for your comments. I would love it if someone had time to compile some of these thoughts and insights into a post — I will commit to publishing it if someone does it. Y’all rock!

                    • I’m just about to go to bed – I’m on a weird schedule – but I’d be happy to work on it tomorrow if no one else wants to do it. What kind of post did you have in mind? I’ve never written anything for the site besides the occasional comment.

                    • Lisa Hickey says:

                      That would be great. I think the main idea behind the post would be “How could he not know?” And then just discuss all the ideas the four or five of us have put on the table. You could tie it to the racism and whatever else larger themes came up. Thanks!! Email to me — — I’ll be happy to work on it with you when you have a draft.

                    • Feel free to contact me Morgan, I’d be happy to participate.

                    • Okay, great. I’ll be in touch sometime tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m off to bed. Thanks for the great discussion, all!

                • Lisa Hickey says:

                  But see — even with your comments here, you are assuming he had some words to describe what he was doing. “Her body was up for grabs” implies a consciousness, an internalization of what he was doing.

                  I forget what thread it was on, but someone was talking about a movie called “The Sky is Blue”. And it documents a father’s experiment where he didn’t tell his daughter what color the sky was — ever. And then finally he brought her outside one day and asked her, and she couldn’t say what color the sky was. She had no idea the sky was blue.

                  And my point is, if you haven’t ever articulated to yourself what is and is not consent, what is and is not rape — *you just wouldn’t know.* Not that you would know but think it was ok because of societal pressures — sure that’s one scenario — but I’m talking about just not knowing. I am not saying it is common, and I am certainly not saying it is good. But I am saying it is possible.

                  I think your racism example is very similar — with your point about things that can be just at or above the line of consciousness. But I think it’s also possible that if you were brought up to believe in racism, you might not know either.

                  • But see — even with your comments here, you are assuming he had some words to describe what he was doing.

                    Yup – Imposed frames and they are not his! Of course any frames he exists – existed – in are not exclusive and intersect with other peoples frames. It would be easy for people to not impose if he was a None English Speaking Mongal Nomad dressing in ethnic dress and carry a Golden Eagle on his left Wrist (They do that a lot in Mongolia).

                    The rape is rape trope is so fixed and fixated upon by some that all people have to have that as a Fixed frame of reference within their reality – as if it’s genetic and inbred. They keep on imposing the view that even if someone is on Rohypnol and has no memory, long or short term, is suffering from Paradoxical adverse effects whicj have even been known to lead to criminal behaviour – it will not matter because The Frame of rape is rape is all that matters – and in fact the “Rape is” is optional.

                    Then they trot out the Lisak etal study and attempt to make it all about Psychopathy/Sociopathy. …. Oh why is this so tiring and why is it that those who gain by fatigue are allowed to keep monopolising web space, page content and time, long after they have run away and are hidden giggling at the mischief they have caused. What is their motivation and frames?

        • Lisa Hickey says:

          Yes, that if a really good insight Notavi. And it supports the view that these things should be talked about more, not less.

          But I was actually talking on Twitter last night with some of our biggest critics, and I had an insight as to what the crux of the problem is (or at least one crux) — is that you don’t want people to think consent is a grey area. I get that. So by telling stories about how consent might be “confusing” to people, it could potentially make it seem like “it’s ok to be confused about consent.”

          And that is most definitely not OK. I bring up the drunk driving as an example — It is NOT ok to think you could EVER get in a car and drive drunk.

          So — with consent — the action we want people to take at the end of the day is “I know what consent is. And if I’m too drunk to really truly talk about consent with a partner —I’m not going to have sex.”

          You could even make it so that it becomes something people discuss with their friends “Hey, if we’re out partying, and you see that I’m too drunk to consent DON’T let me go home with someone.” Almost the same way you’d hand a friend a set of car keys. And we could make it cool to do that. And that would create social change.

          But I never would have gotten to that insight without all of the levels of conversation that happened with this post.

          Thanks for continuing to talk about it.

  8. There is clearly a culture of copycat massacres at this point. Many people flip out and kill their mothers across the world – they don’t normally go on and shoot up the local high/primary school afterwards, or at least not so much outside America. I have no idea how you address that though.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      So that is the question. I think the people who are the most vocal advocates for guns should be the ones getting out there and being vocal about how they would address it. And — putting prayer back in school is not a valid solution, sorry.

      But imagine if the NRA came out and said — OK, this year we are going to put 1/2 of our money into figuring out how to solve the problem of massacres using guns. You might not believe them, you might not want that to be a solution — but at least it would be money going to a cause you can believe in.

      • You think and believe people like ME are grasping to keep our guns. NO!!! Its because we appreciate their role in the Nation and Civilian hands that we clearly see the lunacy of blaming the hardware and LEAVING MY CHILDREN’S SCHOOL NAKED!!!!

        Again people…..THINK!!! There WILL be another school shooting! No? We ALL KNOW its going to happen again! And Again, children and staff will have no option but to crap themselves and drop-dead! THAT is criminal on OUR PART!!!

        Given that, aren’t we completely criminally at fault for letting our children be murdered if we have NO armed response as an option.

        Stop making this about mindless NRA myopic banter. You (general public) are beginning to believe your own perversion of the facts and roles.

        BTW: I live in a town without nighttime police coverage. ANY call for help takes 40 minutes to be met with a cop in a car, half assleep and fully unprepared to even think.

        What will my children and ex-wife do when a perv/sicko shows up with even a knife? Are my children supposed to battle a psycho with a knife.

        Stop the propaganda and start thinking for God’s sake!!!!

        • Rob, maybe I’m misreading you, but it sounds to me like you’re taking some of this discussion very personally. I don’t know if this is the way that you feel, but I know that some gun rights advocates feel personally affronted by the idea that other people might be frightened of the fact that they own guns. A central part of the argument for gun control is that there are some people who can’t be trusted with guns. However, saying that is not the same as saying that you can’t be trusted with guns.

          I don’t “blame the hardware” for gun violence. Rather, I recognize there is a small but significant minority of people that can’t be trusted to own or handle a gun, either due to mental problems or criminality. The more guns there are in circulation, and the easier it is to get access to a gun, the greater the likelihood that one of those people will gain access to a gun.

          I brought this up in a previous comment, but I think this most recent shooting is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The guns used in the massacre did not belong to Adam Lanza, the perpetrator. Rather, they belonged to his mother (who ironically became one of the victims). Lanza tried to acquire his own guns and failed (he wasn’t willing to go through the waiting period). But he didn’t need to. He gained access to his mother’s guns and used them instead.

          Now let’s say for the sake of argument that Adam Lanza’s mother was a reasonably responsible gun owner (I’m not sure that the evidence actually supports that assertion, but it doesn’t really matter here). She was someone who could be trusted not to misuse a semiautomatic rifle. She wasn’t going to use it to rob a bank, or to shoot a bunch of innocent people. She planned to use the rifle in the defense of her house, if necessary. In the end, however, her guns wound up in the hands of a person who could not be trusted, her disturbed son, and they were used to kill her. The semiautomatic rifle did nothing to protect her and may have even been instrumental in her death. And then it was used to murder a crowd of innocent children. If she had not been able to acquire that rifle, she would have been no less safe, but Adam Lanza would have had a much harder time killing as many people as he did.

          It’s entirely reasonable for you to want to be able to protect yourself and your family. However, what I would disagree with you about is the most effective way to do that. If I’m understanding you correctly, you would like to have armed teachers in schools, or maybe armed guards. As I see it, there are two primary problems with this idea. First, you’re assuming that these people would be responsible. I’m sure most of them would be, but when you’re talking about such a large group of people, there are bound to be some bad ones. Remember, school shootings are not a new phenomenon. What has changed is that teachers used to be the most common perpetrators. Second, even if all of them were completely trustworthy, you still have the problem of other people getting access to their guns. I was reading a piece (which unfortunately I can’t find now) written by a teacher who was strongly opposed to the idea of guns in the classroom. She made the point that students are incredibly larcenous: anything in the classroom that isn’t nailed down will go missing sooner or later. Arming teachers would just put guns closer to the hands of irresponsible children.

          I think the best solutions are ones that have been suggested elsewhere in this thread: better mental health infrastructure, compulsory training for gun owners, reduced access to assault weapons, and perhaps reinforcing the windows and doors of schools to prevent access.

      • In all honesty I find it impossible to imagine an America in which a single mother with a blank record, living with a young adult son who has no criminal or mental health record himself, cannot have access to lethal weapons if she wants them. Maybe not semi-automatics, for sure, but certainly killers. In all honesty it’s hard to see at the moment how this one could have been prevented. Virgina Tech and cinema shooting were (AFAICR) different stories.

        It would be rather odd if this, which is looking like the least preventable of all tragedies, triggered the most reaction.

  9. Amen to everything Lisa said.

    I understand the impulse to silence people who do terrible things. It is important to draw a line in the sand, to emphasize that there are some behaviors that are completely unacceptable. Ostracizing people who rape or murder is one way of accomplishing that. However, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture. Our top priority in the way we discuss violent crimes (and in the way that we treat the people who commit them) must be to prevent future crimes. Ostracism of the perpetrators serves that goal, but only to a point.

    If we want to prevent rapes and murders, we have to understand why people commit them. It’s not enough simply to say, “They’re bad people,” or, “They’re crazy.” There aren’t enough sadists and sociopaths to account for all (or even most) violent crime. (There’s a great book called The Murderer Next Door that explores in detail how most murders are committed by people who are psychologically normal.) We have to examine why and how people commit these crimes. And it’s not enough to just to observe them and come to our own conclusions about what motivates them. We need to ask them.

    Now, murderers and rapists are obviously not the most trustworthy people. We can’t just take what they say at face value. I read the piece posted earlier that was written by a rapist, and it was full of denial and attempts to justify his behavior. It was bullshit, and I’m pretty sure that he knows it’s bullshit, even if he won’t admit it to himself. But here’s the thing: it’s that bullshit that allows him to keep doing what he does, while disregarding the effect that his actions have on other people. If we want to stop this guy, and others like him, we have to confront their bullshit lies and justifications. And if we want to do that, we have to know what we’re up against.

    I’m not suggesting that we should give a megaphone to every violent criminal, to let them glorify themselves in the media. That would be counterproductive. But when they’re willing to talk about why and how they committed their crimes, I think we have a responsibility to listen, no matter how distasteful we might find it. Everything we learn can go towards the most important goal: ensuring that these tragedies aren’t repeated.

    While I think that some of the recent discussions that have happened on this site could have been handled better, I think that it is important that the conversation continue. If we really want to understand what it means to be a good man, sooner or later we’re going to have to confront, and learn from, evil men. There’s no time like the present.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Thank you Morgan. And Amen to your comment!

      And don’t you think that even when reports are “filled with denial and attempts to justify his behavior” — what we should be talking about that, too? That seeing a whole piece, filled with that type of language helps us better understand exactly what that self-justifying language is?

      One of the things we’re trying to do here — and I don’t think anyone else has done this, certainly not in the scope and style we have — is to try to understand rape from a male perspective.

      I can see why that would be scary to some people. And yes, we will always try to do things better. We are not dismissing the critiques of our site, we are simply looking at all of them thoughtfully, so we can figure out the best way to incorporate all those that make sense and proceed.

  10. It would be nice if there could be ONE article explaining the gun owner’s rationale.

    In the interim…no one in the media (or here) seems to discuss the thousands of incidents where guns save the innocent.

    “Hi! I’m a 12-yo boy living in New Mexico. One day while i was supervising my siblings, two armed adults kicked their way into our house. With no parents or police standing there with me, I retrieved my father’s gun and ended the certain murders of me and my brothers and sisters. Don’t take the option of survival away from me.”

    • I think no one is talking about how many guns have saved innocent lives, because the specific situation at hand is that a few guns killed a lot of innocent lives. People are less concerned with how many guns saved innocent lives because we just experienced a very real situation in which a single person was able to destroy so many lives so easily. That’s the issue here, the innocent lives that were destroyed and how do we best keep it from happening again.

      So similar tragedies will be pulled up to reinforce that these horrible things happen and as a society we need to explore all the ways in which we can remedy or reconcile the factors that allow this to happen. Unfortunately, the weapon in which so many people respect is abused again and again and therefore it gets critical scrutiny in times like these.

      And to be sure, what are the statistics of acts of firearm violence that were stopped/prevented by citizens with firearms? If anyone can phrase the question better please do. Essentially I’m asking what is the statistical cost-benefit ratio to lives being saved by armed citizens versus the number of gun-related mass murders in the United States. I am genuinely asking because I do not know, am admitting I’m ignorant to this information and want to be informed.

      • Lisa Hickey says:

        The number I keep hearing is that there have been an average of 213 “justified homicides” a year. I don’t really know what to make of that number, and that isn’t exactly what you were asking. I guess the question is — and it’s always worth asking — is what IS the answer if not to limit guns. The arguments that make sense to me are to better control the types of guns specifically designed to kill large amounts of people at one time. Is there any counterargument to that?

        The other issue that has come up a lot is better mental heath care. That seems huge. But what are your thoughts on what could prevent massacres in the future? I’d like to know.

        • I commented speaking of these very things on Professor Blumenfeld’s piece on “The Word ‘Insanity…” that I’m including an excerpt of below:

          “And while I know this particular article is about guns, gun control and gun rights, I think that our reaction/discussion shouldn’t be exclusively PRO or CON guns, but to ask ourselves deeper questions about what the root problems may be. So many lives were lost at the hands of a single person. But what factors made this possible and how did undercurrent cultural and/or social issues lead to this and other mass murders in our country?

          Stigmatizing the mentally unhealthy, guns, mental health education/options and societal expectations are likely all in relation to a very large and complicated issue. And this complication is why these topics are so difficult to talk about.”

          A part of the fear to talk about difficult and uncomfortable subjects is due to people’s discomfort in the societal stigmas and specifically the discomfort in which they lack knowledge. It is a lot easier to assert your pathos, your belief than it is to admit that there is a gap of education and a neccessity of processing that education. So silence is an easier option.

          My initial thoughts on preventing massacres in the future is what your article suggests about any topics we truly care about—discourse. If certain areas of discussion—rape, large scale homicide/massacres, mental illness, masculinity/feminism, skewed societal expectations—are shunned to due to the difficulty of bearing them, then we will never come up with solutions.

          I don’t have a process plan in mind to prevent massacres in the future, but Professor Blumenfeld’s attention to the unhealthy obsession with the 2nd Ammendment and guns comes into play (hence my questioning the statistics of firearm violence prevention.)

          Another start is to have more people aware that mental health is important. Health in today’s vernacular is (almost completely) synonymous with physical health (which really means “‘physical beauty as dictated by our culture.”)

          Health should be seen as a holistic composition of physical, mental and—dare I say—spiritual. Furthermore, our society needs education on what health is, what avenues one can choose when in need, a stronger system in place to help those in need and to realize that fear and stigmatization of mental health, the avoidance of it’s discussion and the lack of support ( all help create a culture that polarizes our concept of mental health.

          You are either mentally health or you are not. You are either”sane” or you’re “insane.” These types of polarization, whether talking about health, guns or any other topic isolates and demonizes. Furthermore, they leave no room for learning, discussion and solutions. After all, if something is binary, then it’s either on or off. There’s no room for high level problem solving.

          I don’t have a gameplan, but I do know that with all the intelligent minds in our country looking to solve deficits, fight against “terror” and bring about more jobs, we can start getting to work on diminishing the deficits of understanding that lead to these acts of terror brought upon our communities.

          • I strongly agree with what you said about mental health. We need to move towards thinking about mental health the same way that we think about physical health. Instead of treating it as binary (sane/crazy), we need to recognize that mental health is a combination of many factor, some of them innate and some of them situational.

            Some forms of mental illness are like a birth defect, a thing that you’re born with that can’t be changed (but might be mitigated through proper treatment). Others are like a broken arm, an affliction that happens to you because of events in your life that will heal with proper treatment. And still others are more like diabetes, a disease with a genetic component that nevertheless is affected by a person’s actions and lifestyle.

            Furthermore, it’s possible to be mentally unhealthy without having any particular thing “wrong” with you, just as you can be physically unhealthy as a result of poor diet and lack of exercise. There are ways of thinking and behaving that are hazardous to one’s mental health in the long run. Treating people as either “sane” of “insane” blinds us to the more subtle gradations of mental health.

            • Lisa Hickey says:

              Well THAT brings up an interesting insight. Thanks!

              Think of how — it wasn’t that long ago in the scheme of things, actually — think of how gyms and fitness centers have popped up all over the place. So that people can work on their physical heath in a place with dozens of people that are doing the same thing. There is not much shame for joining those places no matter what your physical health. As long as you are out there doing something. And it’s great. Health clubs, fitness centers, gyms — all changed my life for the better.

              And at the other end of that — when your health breaks down to the point where it’s not health anymore, but sickness or trauma — there is a protocol which is pretty clear. You go to a doctor, you go to the emergency room, you call the paramedics. It doesn’t always work the way it should (ask me about my recent tracheotomy experience, for starters). But it at the very least, there is a system in place that I understand. I know what to do when a problem with my physical health arises.

              But where are the same types of systems and protocols for mental health? With mental health, you are often told to seek a therapist, in the privacy of an office. There is stigma attached just to the thought “I can’t tell *everyone* about these problems, I need to be very secretive about my discussions.” And at the other end — the protocol for treating mental illness when it reaches a crisis stage — I don’t actually know what that is. I’m not convinced emergency rooms are best equipped to handle those, and the thought of going to a “psychiatric hospital” is filled with fear and stigma. What if there were more “mental health crisis centers” that didn’t have that same stigma? What if ambulance companies always had some of their team members equipped to handle mental health problems — all you had to do was ask? What if there were many more places where you could get together with people to discuss mental health issues without stigma or shame? Those are the questions we should be asking.

              • Morgan/Lisa,

                I think this is an interesting thread to the conversation. I would add another layer – spiritual health. I think health involves mind, body and spirit. And I think that “faith” has become stigmatized – in different ways – but stigmatized, noentheless, by those who find religion to be irrelevant. I am convinced that the framework of faith, if it ever existed, has been lost when someone takes the kind of action that the shooter took in Newtown. Faith has been largely marginalized in our day, and I think that has created some very unhealthy dynamics in our culture and in our communities.

                • Lisa Hickey says:

                  I agree that faith has been stigmatized and marginalized, Roger. Maybe the solution to that is to stop thinking of it as exclusive “clubs” that you need to belong to, where everyone has to be like-minded to belong.

                  • It doesn’t have to be an either/or, does it? I do think some people find value in associating with like-minded people. Whether it’s Presbyterians, the Airstream of America, or a Stamp Collectors Club, some people do like to associate with people who “get them”. Unitarians strike me as one “association of believers” who try to leave “belonging” out of the equation and certainly don’t insist on like-mindedness. But when it comes right down to it, Lisa, I think that most of us believe in something – have something in which we invest faith – whether that’s some version of “God” or “goodness” or “equality” or somehting. I think it is only the most desparate of people, like the shooter in Newtown, perhaps, who have lost “faith” in everything. We don’t have a good, consistent, non-judgmental way to address the “spiritual void” that all of us feel at different times in our lives.

                    • Lisa Hickey says:

                      You are right Roger — it absolutely doesn’t have to be “either/or”.

                    • I agree the health should refer to physical, mental and spiritual aspects of our well being. As Roger mentioned:

                      “The communal nature of ritual has been pushed to the margins, increasingly. I will look forward to reading Karen Armstrong’s book.”

                      Religion (along with art and agriculture) were large factors in the formation of civilization amongst ancient cultures. Religion, and the ritual that comes along with it, instills a societal code amongst the community. The important factor is that religion offered a perspective larger than the individual. This is why spiritual health is important. If I see myself as a part of a large network of people where my actions have ramifications to a greater whole community wise, but also that the core of my being has a connection to the universe/God/prana then I have a responsibility not just unto myself, but unto the greater around me. My rights are my rights so much as they are also protecting/enhancing the rights of others and not just myself.

                      If we look at things this way, my physical health, mental health and spiritual health isn’t just a responsibility for me, but also for my community and for whatever faith I may have. If we can shift this line of thinking, then we can start looking at concerns such as the health of our community, its poverty or lack of education and how these variables can play into a lack of adequate mental health systems and how all of these things play into those with mental health reaching a point of escalation.

                      I don’t think that this means that everyone must agree to belong. But as you pointed out Lisa, the people who are the most vocal advocates for guns should be the ones getting out there and being vocal about how they would address it. This is what a discourse community is. Vocal gun advocates may not agree with another part of the American population, but this is where they are able to offer insight and perspective the other side may not have. As such, rather than focusing on gun laws and the fear of its stringency, we can focus on a solution to the large number of massacres within the United States. In this way, everyone, with their individual differences are still able to move towards problem solving for the greater good, for our communities and perhaps for our sense of spiritual connectedness.

                      Thank you again Lisa for providing a stark call-to-action that has been relatable to all the different concerns we have. Articles like this reinforce why GMP is a great learning tool, a great public educational movement.

                  • I’m in the middle of reading Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God. She makes the point that religion in modern times has come to be defined primarily by beliefs, whereas historically there has been a greater emphasis on practices – the rituals that bind communities together and help people maintain mental and spiritual equilibrium.

                    I think that the marginalization of faith is symptomatic of this shift. As religion becomes a set of abstract beliefs to be argued over and stops being a set of best practices for connecting with each other and the world around us, it becomes less and less relevant.

                    Lisa, you make some very good points about our mental health infrastructure. I think there’s a vicious cycle when it comes to mental health: the stigma attached to mental illness discourages people from seeking (and providing) treatment, then people who can’t or won’t get treatment act out in ways that reinforce the stigma.

                    While writing this comment, I received a text message from a friend who is experiencing some psychiatric distress and is considering trying to get herself committed. There are very few resources in her area, and no easy way to learn about the ones that are available. She’s terrified of what will happen if she chooses a bad hospital, terrified of what will happen if she doesn’t seek help, and terrified that her issues make her a bad person in some way. At least she is married to a guy with a job that provides good health insurance, so she doesn’t have that to worry about.

                    As far as I’m concerned, the way our society handles mental illness is a national disgrace.

                    • Morgan,

                      Great distinction. I agree that the shift from practice to belief is a big part of has marginalized faith in our day. I think, though, there is an important distinction between faith and religion. Ritual is important, whether in the context of a religious organization, or in the privacy of ones own spiritual journey. The communal nature of ritual has been pushed to the margins, increasingly. I will look forward to reading Karen Armstrong’s book.

                      As for our handling of mental illness, I am with you. My older brother was mentally ill, but fortunately, he had a good support system around him, including his family. He lived alone in an apartment- Section 8 houseing – he was unable to hold a job, but he developed a set of routines (for him perhaps they were rituals that supported his spirit) that helped to structure his day. One of those routines was a regular trip to Applebee’s for coffee. When my brother died, the servers at “his Applebees” knew something must be wrong, since they hadn’t seen him in 48 hours. When we told them of his death, they took up a collection and bought and installed a plaque in memory of “Coffee Jim”. Anyone who sits at the bar in that Applebees will see the plaque. It was very touching to our family that our brother had found “community” at a local restaurant, and that his life meant something to others as well.

        • Mostly_123 says:

          “The number I keep hearing is that there have been an average of 213 “justified homicides” a year. I don’t really know what to make of that number…”

          Nor do I, but even if I were to look at it in the most ‘optimistic’ of lights: It still means that 213 people chose to do something so egregious that they forced their fellow citizens into a position where they were entitled to use (and did use) deadly force to stop them. Justified or not, it’s still a lose-lose scenario.     

          Everyone always has a choice; it’s just that sometimes both choices are horrible. 

        • The number I keep hearing is that there have been an average of 213 “justified homicides” a year. I don’t really know what to make of that number..”

          As i said a few weeks ago on another thread, last I looked at the figures comparing populations of the USA V Other countries where Guns are illegal, Gun deaths USA = 30000 per year Others =100.

          For anyone to maintain view or idea that Access to guns does not raise or relate to an Increased death rate is Rhetorical and Logical abuse. Even if you looks at Justified homicides with gun, protecting property, that still leaves the issues of about 29900 to deal with.

          Oddly other countries such as Switzerland have, due to military service, a higher gun ownership rate than the USA and a lower per-capita death rate than countries with highly restricted gun access. So it is possible to have a massive gun owning population where everyone is safe. That fact is of course used to justify Guns USA.

          Evidently – until some in the USA end up with a Swizz mindset, the best option is take away the toys – and people can only have their guns back when trained, found to be of sound body and mind, have the correct gun storage lockers and Ammo stores installed at home – and may only carry a concealed weapon after even further character checks are made.

          Oh – and all that admin is paid for by the person who likes guns and other tax payers are left free of the burden.

          Maybe some literacy classes would help too, cos I can read that 2nd amendment and I aint seeing any militias (Well Regulated or Otherwise) wandering the back woods of Connecticut or even needed to wander and take pot shots anywhere.

          A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

          There are a few clauses there but the way I read it and in fact all the people I know to read and understand English – if there is no need for a Militia there is no need for arms in the hands of Joe and Joanna Public – the right to bear arms Vs the right to be protected by an army!

          I do wonder at the language that gets bandies about – war on drugs, war on women, war on men , war on terror, war on boys, war on rape even the war on Chick-fil-A. Is this idea of the need to an armed citizen Miliatia just media hype driven by reporters in cahoots with the gun manufacturers?

          I wish someone could provide a cogent explanation of the attitudes to and views of guns in the USA, cos neither of the 2 sorry is it 3+ … erm ???? 15 plus sides are making any sense. Hate to offend anyone by leaving them out.

        • Because the EXACT LAST THING you want is people “doing battle” in a school with children. By providing someone in that school with a weapon and asking them to fight back, you are making a school into a battleground.

          Far better to make classrooms that can be locked down. My high school had doors and windows reinforced with steel mesh, and reinforced locks and doorframes. You couldn’t shoot them open. The walls were concrete. In the event of a shooting or any sort of really bad situation, all the teachers were drilled in how to lockdown the school completely. I was under the impression that all schools have these kinds of resources, but I see it’s not so.

          Instead of authorizing some teacher to go “do battle” with a school, give the students a really good shield to hide behind. Turning the school into a battleground doesn’t make children safer. Giving them a concrete wall to hide behind, call the cops, and wait for the professionals to deal with the situation.

          Plus the math doesn’t work out. There are 132,000 public K-12 schools in the US right now. Another 30,000 or so private. Training a “battle-ready” person for each of them would be roughly equivalent to training a fighting force the size of the Marine Corps. We don’t have the money.

          • Euro banks are universally guarded by live men with bullet resistent vests…

            Are They? I’ll have to check next time I go to me local branch. I never knew that the old lady with her shopping trolley sitting outside was a Security Guard in disguise and packing heat! We live and learn!

            • Evidently you missed a few Countries on your Itinerary – and the one’s you did visit seem to have been left with a few of odd and self serving perceptions! P^)

              I used to live in Italy – so I happen to know some law from there – and I still have me Italian bank accounts for doing Euros. A law was passed in Italy many years ago as a counter terrorism measure and anti-corruption measure. Banks could either fit specialist security doors and systems (Metal Detectors Included) to prevent access – or if the building was sort of ancient – listed status – preserved and not able to be physically altered, then armed guards were the option. Of course, Italians being so silly with money do prefer to have mechanical systems you pay for once and not wage slave armed guards you pay for weekly! I actually can’t remember the last time I saw an armed guard … maybe 1995?

              There has also been similar need in place such as Germany to deal with the Baader-Meinhof gang – and even France and Spain had to deal with some sillies such as the Red Brigades. Some places in Northern Ireland also did the same due to a few Terrorists issues and some using it as a smoke screen for criminality and a bit of bank robbing. Do American banks come with armed guards due to the Manson Family?

              Maybe if US banks went for Automated Security Pod Entry systems with metal detectors, people carrying guns would be kept out of banks? Oh but there is that 2nd amendment thing about not denying Well Organised Militias Access to the bank. When was the last time a well organised Militia turned up at a local branch of your chosen bank and needed entry on mass?

              Funny how Tourists view places and the impressions they take away, and how different locals and residents see things. Do visit the UK and Ireland if you get the chance – you may see a few Armed Police at the airport (Meeting agreed international standards of Terrorist Prevention), but after that you can go about your business for years and never see a gun – or worry about madmen in the night – and the banks are so Comfy cos they can afford nice seating not having to pay for needless security. Why do you think London is such an international centre of banking? P^)

              The way you are talking I would hate to visit the USA due to gun risk and the likelihood of being shot. It seems such a terrible place as advertised – and I’d hate to upset a Militia and get on the wrong side of them. Cest la Vie.

        • Chris Marshall says:

          If we are going to consider restricting the access law abiding citizens have to guns, we need to ask how many lives per year are saved through their use of guns to defend themselves or others. Notice how, as the public debate heats up over gun control, that question will be studiously avoided.

          A criminologist at Florida State University, Gary Kleck, started researching this issue in the 1990s. He designed a survey to answer it and found that there were 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year, and that widespread personal gun ownership was a large deterrent to crime.

          Here is a link to a summary of Gary Kleck’s findings on the number of defensive gun uses per year in the U.S.:

          And here is some information on the problems of trying to measure defensive gun uses, and why there is so much variance in the attempts to measure it:

      • And to be sure, what are the statistics of acts of firearm violence that were stopped/prevented by citizens with firearms? If anyone can phrase the question better please do. Essentially I’m asking what is the statistical cost-benefit ratio to lives being saved by armed citizens versus the number of gun-related mass murders in the United States. I am genuinely asking because I do not know, am admitting I’m ignorant to this information and want to be informed.

        That’s a very good question, but unfortunately I suspect it’s impossible to answer. The same problem crops up in any discussion of security: it’s also very difficult to judge how many terrorist attacks are prevented by the TSA, how many hacking attempts are thwarted by well-designed security security systems, or how many robbers are kept out by a given fence. You can’t measure things that don’t happen.

        I think maybe the most productive approach is to look at developed countries with lower rates of gun crime (note: that would be all of them) to see if there’s anything we can learn from how they handle guns.

        Japan has an incredibly low rate of gun crime (probably the lowest in the world), and they accomplish it through draconian gun control. In a nutshell, most kinds of guns are flat-out illegal, and the ones that aren’t are very difficult to acquire, and require licenses that must be renewed yearly.

        Switzerland, on the other hand, has a relatively high rate of gun ownership but still has a low rate of gun crime. The Swiss approach seems to be based more in culture and values than in outright gun control. Swiss military service is compulsory, which means that Swiss citizens have a high degree of training in firearm safety and responsibility. The Swiss don’t seem to view guns as “cool”. They’re just a fact of life, and robbing them of their mystique seems to go quite a ways towards reducing their misuse.

        The Japanese approach, while unquestionably effective, is probably out of the question in the USA. There’s just no way around the Second Amendment. Something more akin to the Swiss approach might be more feasible, however. Compulsory training in gun safety for gun owners would be a good start. I also think we need to foster responsibility by increasing the legal liabilities for gun owners, sellers, and manufacturers. If a gun you own is used in a crime, you should bear some legal responsibility. Likewise, if you put a gun in the hands of someone who should not have one, there should be stiff penalties for that as well.

        • “Compulsory training in gun safety for gun owners would be a good start. I also think we need to foster responsibility by increasing the legal liabilities for gun owners, sellers, and manufacturers. If a gun you own is used in a crime, you should bear some legal responsibility. Likewise, if you put a gun in the hands of someone who should not have one, there should be stiff penalties for that as well.”

          Well said and great example points Morgan. I agree that while we will probably never reach a point of firearm desaturation, eliminating the fetishizing nature we have on guns and firearms as a nation is a good place to start. As you pointed out, the Swiss see guns as a part of life, therefore as a tool and not necessarily a revered object. I think there is a difference—one can respect a tool without revering it. Fetishizing guns coupled with constant paranoia to potential danger surrounding us is not a healthy way to engage the world. Am I for self protection and the right to preserve the lives of my loved ones? For sure. And this is why I think addressing key things such as mental health, poverty and education will attack the root problems thereby creating a safer environment devoid of not only the crime everyone is seeking to prevent, but of the paranoia that is wrought by thinking that the world is a hostile place. Thinking that the only way to combat it is with killing power fetishizes a very real problem without looking at the causes.

          • …one can respect a tool without revering it.

            I agree. I think that is exactly the change in attitude that needs to happen in our country.

            And this is why I think addressing key things such as mental health, poverty and education will attack the root problems thereby creating a safer environment devoid of not only the crime everyone is seeking to prevent, but of the paranoia that is wrought by thinking that the world is a hostile place.

            I think that paranoia is at the root of the reverence that some people have for guns. If you view the world as a threatening, dangerous place, then you need something to put your faith in to allow you to continue to function. Some frightened people put their faith in guns. (I should note here that I don’t think that all gun owners are paranoid, far from it. However, I think that paranoia is at the heart of the problematic parts of American gun culture.)

            I’ve read reports claiming that Adam Lanza’a mother was part of the “doomsday prepper” movement. She stockpiled guns, ammunition, and canned food. She rarely allowed anyone who wasn’t a family member into her house. It sounds like she was a fearful person, and it is tragically ironic that the guns she thought would keep her safe were used to murder her.

            I also think you’re right that addressing mental health, poverty and education would go a long way towards reducing gun violence. When there are fewer frightened, powerless people, there will be less demand for guns. Since the Second Amendment makes it very difficult to address the supply, reducing the demand seems like the best option to me.

    • John Anderson says:

      @ Rob

      I keep hearing that a gun in the house is more likely to kill a member of the family or a friend rather than some intruder. I have two friends who were shot. Luckily neither were killed. One of the shooters was caught, charged, and convicted. Although we had access to several guns, I don’t know anyone who used one in “self defense”.

      • John,

        Now you know one. I’ve done so twice in Syracuse NY without shooting.

        I live for two years in one very drug and violence infested poop-hole of a neighborhood that surrounds the Univ. Home invasion was the order of the day in Syracuse, and it still is. My roommates and their girlfriends’ cars were ALL broken-in to and had their dashes ripped out numerous times each. The bad boys are bold enough to do it in broad daylight and on a busy street. Its hell there.

        I made my armed status known from the day I moved-in. I carried a .357 mag on my belt as I carried load after load of my crap into the new digs. The neighborhood was enjoying beer and barbecue outside. They ALL gawked at the gun. Children ran up and axed “zatta real gun?” “Yeah it is.” “Whatchoo-a-cop?” “no” “What’s the gun for?” For shooting anyone who breaks into my new car, touches my new car or even thinks about breaking into the apartment.” THAT sort of news spreads through the hood rather quickly.

        Our neighbors downstairs were film grad students. One was a very fit and capable Israeli Special Forces reserve officers. They’re place had the door kicked-in. They were all ordered (at gun-point) into a closet, and all their stuff, wallets, etc were stolen.

        My car was never touched. Our apartment was never broken into or invaded. One neighbor ran to me for protection from a nut-case that burst into his apartment. The police NEVER showed up for him.

        BUT!! (“Everyone has a big but” – P.W. Herman) I consider all of this gun-talk and 2nd amendment banter and case-examination to be a waste of my high-blood pressure and effort. The game is over. This over-the-top slaughter called the game. Reason and logic and solid evidence are out the window. Emotion will drive Draconian measures against guns and nothing will be done to help protect our schools. NOTHING.

        We have become a whimp-nation. We no longer have the brass to survive. Our young adults and even mid-age peeps don’t understand or won’t accept history, the Constitution or the dark-side of human nature. But…its GAME OVER, and B.Obama even said so.

        • John Anderson says:

          “I’ve done so twice in Syracuse NY without shooting. “

          That’s why it doesn’t get the press and that’s why I’m ambivalent on gun control. I don’t fear walking the streets at night even in the tougher neighborhoods, but I know I’m not as fast, as strong, or as skilled as I was 25 years ago. What happens 10 or 20 years from now or what about others who never took up a martial art?

          My cousin once warned us not to take a certain street to her house because there were always a group of guys hanging out around there messing with people. When we got there she asked if we bypassed that street. We told her no and she responded that’s because you can fight them. The conversation needs to consider everyone not just our situation.

          One thing is that you can’t afford to let anyone take away your gun so I wonder if there are certain situations where having the gun will force you to use it instead of considering other alternates.

          • Reasonable citizenship, humanity and social existence requires that one always avoid hurting others and go many steps beyond to avoid killing. If I were to ever kill a human, my life would be over. Even if I were protecting a child, my child, I would be forever changed. To take a human life is a virginity no one can afford to lose.

            In my homes, I utilize layers of protection ONLY when my kids are home. Alarms, doors, chemical weapons (lethal chem) and martial arts all come prior to using the locked (in safe) gun. When Its just me, I could not and would not consider using a gun on an invader. I will not deal with the trauma of a gun’s use for just me. Yes, i want to remain alive, and deserve to do so over the actions of a scum-bag invader, but I will take that chance and fight by all the non-firearm means possible.

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