As a professional working in the field of G.B.V. (Gender-Based Violence) for the last 16 years, I am exasperated. I have worked with groups of men (including many gang members) in one of the most violent cities on planet earth, Los Angeles. I have had to attend five funerals of young men I have worked with. I have had to attend two funerals of young women murdered by ex-partners. When will the true roots of this issue be addressed?
GENDER is the missing cornerstone in the dialogue around the ongoing American epidemic of school shootings, gun violence, domestic violence, etc. Yet, gender is the KEY factor in all these violent American atrocities. Gender, and how American boys are socially programmed are the core issues.
Second Amendment-Gun rights activist rally each other with outdated slogans like, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Apart from the arguments around gun control, there is a glaring falsity present in the gender neutrality of this statement. How many women and girls are pulling the triggers in school shootings? How many women and girls are murdering people in gang violence, military actions, domestic violence, and violent crimes? Dam few.
Global statistics on the issue of violence over the years are consistent; 90% of all violence is committed by males — men and boys. I could fathom perhaps 60%, or even 70% could perhaps be attributed to environmental or physiological differences in gender. But, 90%!!!?
This points to a deeper and more profoundly difficult web to untangle. Our concepts of what makes a male “masculine,” or what makes a “real man” are fundamentally sick, contorted, and destructive to the human species as a whole. Boys are being programmed by families, media, and society to be “born to die— and kill.” What kind of species raises 50% of their members in this way? Guns actually do kill people, but it is almost universally males loading them, pulling the trigger, and murdering partners, children, and other males. It is not women.
Why are we silent on this issue?
Jackson Katz and others have laid a foundation of understanding around the societal power dynamics of gender and race in language and news. Since this is a patriarchal society and men institutionally still wield the lion share of power, their gender is the “unspoken norm.” From the 1920’s news media in America has perfected the subtle use of propaganda to ensure democracy stays in check. This is done primarily not through what is said, but by what it left unsaid. This sets the parameters of thought, conversation, and debate. Checkmate.
Race and ethnicity operate on the same institutionalization (through language control) of social power imbalance. When white boys murder children with guns in schools, the news does not refer to either their race (white) or their gender (male.) They are considered the “all holy” and “untouchable” norm —merely by the sheer absence of specification of their gender and race. If the murderer with a gun was a person of color, or a female, we know about it immediately.
Gun violence is not a universal issue; it is an American issue. Having traveled for research around Africa and Europe for the last year and a half, I can attest to the fact that not only is our president universally despised and hated, our country is viewed as a sad joke. We are viewed as Neanderthals with firearms, a nation of lunatics killing each other. We are the reality show, the gladiator circus of violence for the onlooking world.
The U.N. has issued a warning regarding the racial violence in our country. Many countries have issued travel advisories for non-Europeans visiting the U.S. I fear to travel in many areas of my country with my wife due to her ethnicity. Why? Because in rural and urban America, everyone (hateful racists included) loves their guns. “The Wild, Wild, West” is still full of trigger-happy cowboys waiting to see just who is rolling into town. I lived in rural Wyoming for two years. As a white male, I learned what many white men TRUELY think and are willing to do to someone of color they do not want in their region. The thought petrifies me.
G.B.V. is indeed a global issue, not just an American one. Yet, not all abusers around the globe have access to the easiest tool men use to murder a woman — a gun. America’s love affair with guns is rooted in the conquest of the land from the “hostiles” (Indigenous residents) and for protection against rebelling kidnapped Africans. We are about exerting dominance, power, and control over forces and entities opposed to our will. This is our “Manifest Destiny,” so-called. That is what being a white American male is all about. That “destiny” is falling back upon our heads as a nation. We don’t need the “Commies” or “terrorists” to come kill us. We are murdering ourselves.
The white American male has been shooting and fighting since they landed on Plymouth Rock. When will the epidemic of gun violence end? When we face how American males are programmed around what constitutes their masculinity. Until that day we “get real” on gender roles and our violent past as a nation, your best bet is to buy stock in the funeral industry. It always has been, and will continue to be booming. Death will be our #1 business until we stop raising Johnny to go get his gun.
Previously published on FrankBlaney.com
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