Thursday, October 8, 2015

Taking ownership

Isn’t it odd that we have already “forgotten” about the latest mass shooting in this country? Don’t remember it? It happened last week (didn’t it?), in some tiny town in Oregon where such things are not supposed to happen. The sheriff (who I will not name, because he is a Second Amendment fanatic who opposes all notion of gun control) in order to insure that the incident would not be remembered, decided he would not name the shooter. This is typical of the blind and dumb, once the media got wind of it. But it didn’t matter; the incident is destined to be another in a long line of footnotes, good only for Republican presidential candidates to make insane, tough guy statements and print and broadcast journalists to wax hypocritically.

This country has always short memory about these things, not just because they happen so often that we have become “numb” to them, and because many in America find violence “entertaining,” but because people “comfort” themselves that these are being perpetrated by “lone nuts,” not by “normal” people. After reports of another bloody rampage that the U.S. has become infamous for, in which there have been 10 confirmed dead and seven injured at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, President Obama went on air and told us the obvious: that such massacres have become so commonplace that the country’s reaction to them have become “routine,” that people wring their hands in varying degrees of dismay, and usually for entirely opposite reasons. And nothing useful comes out of it all.
One can observe that on one hand, there are those who blame these incidents on the gun culture in the country that “glorifies” violence on entertainment media, and bring shooters instant “fame” and attention from national news coverage. According to these people, we need stricter gun laws to keep as many guns out of circulation as possible, as other civilized countries do. Of course, much of the violence occurs in gang-infested urban areas that receives almost no coverage unless a child or an innocent bystander is involved, but that involves a pervasive disregard for human life; it isn’t “sexy” to the media unless it is a mass shooting or an attractive white female is the victim.

On the other hand, there are those who wring their hands over these shootings because they fear the bad publicity that rampant and uncontrolled gun ownership brings. They don’t really care that people are killed; they probably think that some people “deserve” to be killed—as long as they are the “right” people (i.e. minorities)—which is why they support open-carry laws, guns in churches and schools, a “Wild West” environment. Any kind of private ownership of weapons—even shoulder-mounted anti-tank rockets—are “guaranteed” under the Second Amendment. Mass shootings make these people squirm in discomfort, because they have to exercise severe mental legerdemain to find an “ethical” way to tell us that not only are guns “good,” but that incidents only underline the need to put more guns on the street.

But there is another, perhaps more troubling aspect to this. It seems as if every time something like this happens, or other incidents that the media hypes, people don’t want to take “ownership” of the crime, and this is mainly a problem of white people. Even though the vast majority of such shootings in this country have been committed by white men, no one wants to say that they are “genetically-wired” to do this. It isn’t “fair” to do so, because they are not “all” like this. It is always the people who are “strange” to them (minorities and “ethnicities”) who are more prone to this activity.

There are people in this country who whenever they hear about shootings, rapes, kidnapping or sexual assaults of children, the first thing in their minds is some minority is “probably” guilty. Short Hispanics are particularly “suspect” because of typical stereotypes, and whites can’t imagine that a 6-footer would assault a 6-year-old. I have more than a few times encountered people with their young daughters (or their cars) act overly “protectively” as if I had some “design” on them for no other reason of that “red flag” that instinctively pops in their minds. Yet the reality is that 90 percent of all child rape is committed by family members, relatives, friends or otherwise people who are known by the victim. People who make the accusatory stare should look at their own selves in the mirror, because there it will be seen the most likely guilty party. 

It is interesting to note how the greatest mass murderers in the last 100 years were allegedly the most “superior” and “civilized” races—the Germans, the Russians, the Japanese and the Chinese under Mao. “inferior” people are not really “human.” It is not surprising then that the people of these “superior” races don’t want to take “ownership” of this history (the Japanese in particular). It seems that nobody wants to take “ownership” of mass slaughter, unless some “uncivilized” or otherwise “inferior” person is the guilty party, and then they have to take “ownership” because that is just the way they “are.” That is why any minority who learns of a mass shooting hopes that it isn’t “one of them,” because whites will just use it as an rationalize their stereotypes.

But while Chris Harper-Mercer claimed to be “mixed race” and at least “appears to be so, he otherwise looks in his bespectacled fashion the kind of person whites would find “nonthreatening”; he even claimed be a “Republican” and a “conservative”—and some of his views could be interpreted as “racist” in the fashion of many whites who would view him in the same light as Clarence Thomas and some Asian groups, who to “fit in” try to out-bigot the bigots. He apparently does have a fascination with Nazis and the Irish Republican Army; his online moniker was “Ironcross45,” although is not necessarily a Nazi symbol, since it is a German military award that predates the time the Nazis came to power (Hitler was awarded it in World War I). Some of his online commentary suggested someone who was angry that people didn’t see beyond his appearance, and that he was just like “them”—meaning “white.” 

Mercer also claimed to be “spiritual” but opposed organized religion. He apparently lived with his mother, who according to neighbors tried to “shield” her son from what “normal” people would regard as common irritants that one must endure in daily life, like roaches and the noisemaking of children (and that of people with annoying voices talking loudly on the cell phones in crowded, tight places, like buses). Perhaps she knew her 20-year-old son was right on the “edge,” and did everything she could to “calm” him. Or perhaps in a small, insular white town where he was the “odd” person out, he saw such “rude” activity as targeting him for “special treatment.”

But there was something else, more “disturbing” than all of this: He claimed to be an “introvert,” another word for that ticking time bomb, that dreaded “loner.”

Thus the comforting “explanation”: Yet another mass shooting to be blamed on a “troubled loner”—emphasis on “loner,” since there are a lot of “troubled” people in this country who are not like an extrovert like Donald Trump, whose mania only inspires violence in others, and not bloodying their own hands. Because of the media characterization of “loners” in society (unlike “loners” in the wilderness who are often lionized as “rugged individualists”), there is a serious misconception of who these shooters are. These people are labeled “introverts” and “loners” because, according to the “profilers,” they are “quiet,” stick to themselves and nobody knows what they are thinking. Yet this isn’t exactly a true observation, since most of these “disturbed” people seem to have handy “friends” who are quoted by the media, to defend or recall “troubling” comments made.

But if Mercer really was a “loner,” he wouldn’t be displaying himself on a dating website seeking out a “soul mate,” or talking incessantly on the Internet for all to read and digest. A real loner doesn’t give a damn what other people think; he just wants to be left alone (as in alone, not “lonely”). The fact that in Mercer’s mind few were “listening” to him in his effort to “connect” with society, possibly brought about this desire to be “heard” in another way, and gaining “fame” from using a gun is nothing new or recent. Mark David Chapman assassinated the former Beatle John Lennon specifically for “fame” and the desire to make a “point”—in his case to rid the world of a man he idealized before Chapman discovered Jesus, and Lennon had infamously said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. 

That comes back to the notion of how Mercer’s action, and those like him, are interpreted. How can his actions be interpreted as anything but as that of an “extrovert”? If he was really an “introvert,” he wouldn’t care about what other people thought about him. He would find other means to make him “happy,” whether books, music, etc. and be content with that. He would mind his own business, and hope other people would to. He would go about avoiding people and situations that he found invaded his “space.” He wouldn’t be interested in playing the “games” that certain others would expect him to play. He wouldn’t be interested in finding a “soul mate,” because those people simply don’t exist. If he has a “beef” against society or how he is “perceived” by ignorant or prejudiced  people, he feels it is enough to get under their skin with pointed commentary aimed to cause discomfort (since it is unlikely to inspire self-examination). And who really wants to go down as a merely a name on a list of killers on a Wikipedia page, other than crazed fanatics like Charles Manson?

There was clearly something else wrong with Mercer, and that he not only an “extrovert” in his own way, but desperately wanted to be “someone.” Of course most of us would like to be thought of as “someone,” and I encounter a lot of people—both male and female, who are egoists who think of themselves as the center of the universe, even though 99.9 percent of all the people they encounter in their lives don’t have the foggiest notion who they are, or care.  But most of us go through our lives knowing that for whatever reason—the wrong height, the wrong race, the wrong “ethnicity,” the wrong gender, the wrong hair color, whatever—we are no more than so many worker bees in the hive, destined to live for a short time on this planet, and die, perhaps to be remembered by the previous generation of family and friends, or decay into the organic matter from which we came. 

But a few people cannot accept this fate; Donald Trump and Mitt Romney were aided by their fathers’ money and connections, some people born into money who are famous for being “famous,” and others who have genuine talent and have the good fortune to stumble through threw the right door. A few others, however choose the “fast track” approach, “fame” of an instantaneous fashion, however brief, like a shock wave that strikes hard, and is gone a moment later, leaving only the debris of dead bodies.

The other day I was waiting at the end of the line at the 8:10 AM stop for the 122 Metro route in Burien, and nobody seemed to have cared. This apparently but they do “care” if I’m the first in line, as I was yesterday morning. No one wanted to stand next me, and I observed that there was a long line starting ten yards behind me, the same length away from the curb, started by some white female, and everyone followed her lead. It was an absolutely bizarre sight that no one could mistake as anything but motivated by bigotry. I turned to them and said out loud that they were “sick” people. For me it is enough to call such people out, because I know that they have an aversion to be called what they are; there is a culture of discrimination in the state of Washington and even in Seattle against a certain “ethnicity,” and even the “diverse” Seattle Times doesn’t have a single person in its newsroom of that “ethnicity” despite it being the largest “minority” group in the country, thus there is no one who speaks to their concerns, which in large part explains the insensitivity and ignorance in that “progressive” paper’s reporting and choice of stories in regard to that “ethnicity,” meaning that it contributes to the atmosphere of hate. 

Of course, this doesn’t explain why “privileged” white males are the most likely perpetrators of mass shootings (many of whom feel that they are “victims” of society), but instances in which minorities (and Mercer is technically one) are the perpetrators, it is an example of people (unwittingly or not) choose the (very) wrong people to display such bigoted behavior, and they have the audacity to be “surprised” by the result.  

So the fact is that most true “loners” are so by “nature,” not by choice, and even if given a “choice” to shape-up or be ostracized, they choose not to live in a world of illusion, because when it comes right down to it, the vast majority of people in this world (or at least in this country) are greedy bastards who only care about Number One. In the final analysis it is only necessary to “get along” with the people you need to in order to get by in this world. Oh sure, if you were more “friendly” people might treat you better, if only in a patronizing way, and some people take it the “wrong” way anyways, or don’t want it because it isn’t socially acceptable for them to return it. It doesn’t really matter; take it from me: It doesn’t matter how you dress, that you speak a Midwestern brand of English, that you were born and bred in the “culture,” that you served in the Army and you have college degree. The only thing that really matters is how the majority “culture” perceives you, and how prejudices and stereotypes define you.

The bottom line is that a lot of arrogant, conceited people (female just as much as male) who don’t care about how they act toward other people—particularly those people who already have a gripe about how they are “treated” in society—will not take “ownership” of how their actions are perceived potentially by the “wrong” person, and in this case it was someone like Mercer. A fair or foul accusation, it doesn’t matter; 10 people died because of it, and as usual, nobody really cares. Just ask those people full of prejudice who wouldn’t stand next me at that bus stop.

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