Another mass shooting. Cue the same old arguments. I’m exhausted. We all are. Nothing will change unless we address our broken society. But how do we do that when we can’t even agree on what parts of our society are broken? Or can we?
I do not know how to stop the continual mass shootings in our country. As I wake up to another day of heartbreaking news coverage and heated online debates, I do feel a need to sort through my own thoughts on this mess. Here’s what I think above all else: there is not ONE solution.
If we want things to change we have to look at ALL the factors that create the violence in our society. There are certainly people who know more about this issue than I do. There are organizations dedicated to researching the topic.
Yet, here’s my citizen-on-the-street take on some of the issues I wish people would recognize as contributing factors in the violence.
Despite the adage, money does buy happiness… to some degree. When life is spent struggling to pay for food, rent, and other necessities, there’s little room for joy or rest and too much room for anger, fear, and resentment. To have healthy communities, we need an economic structure that lets people earn living wages AND have time for self-care, family-care, etc.
Emotional and Social Education
Public schools can be an ideal place to teach emotional intelligence and healthy social interactions. But that requires honestly talking to kids about the world as it really exists. Instead, we have ideological fights over politicized social issues. We don’t value the insights of teachers and those with advanced degrees in education and child development. We limit teachers with inadequate funding and force them to teach to standardized tests instead of using their training to meet the needs of the students in their classes.
This topic goes beyond the transgender and non-binary discussion. The assumptions in our society relating to gender roles are toxic. We have a patriarchal society that tries to force people into little boxes based on their gender. Yes, the cruelty and violence toward trans and non-binary individuals is abhorrent. It needs to stop. Yet, we also need to recognize that our rigid ideas about the roles of men and women are unhealthy in general. These are not “natural” differences but man-made social constructs to create dominance and control. Misogyny in particular has been cited as a common factor in mass shootings.
Racism exists in our country. It seems absurd to say that when it should be obvious. Too many Americans “don’t see color” or argue that racism is in our past. Systemic racism is built into our country. We cannot change that if we cannot see it. If you need help with that, start here or here. When it comes to mass shootings, most of the shooters have been white men and the recent Buffalo shooting joins a long line of racially-motivated mass killings.
Mental Health will be a primary topic in the wake of our most recent mass shooting. It always is. That sounds like a good thing, but is it? The state of mental health in America is not good, yet citing it as a cause for mass shootings is an oversimplification. Here’s a great article discussing the complexities in linking mental health to mass shootings. When people oversimplify the connection between mental health and mass shootings (or other gun violence), the argument goes in circles, or escalates, without ever finding a productive middle ground.
A distinctive gun culture exists in the United States. It goes beyond hunting or home protection. For many Americans, guns seem to be part of their identity and social community. Guns are sexy, cool, and stylish. Men’s men carry big guns and know how to use them. Sexy women pose with garter holsters or brandish massive weapons while dressed in heels and lingerie. Movies and video games use guns as entertainment. Guns are status symbols. They signify power, dominance, and independence.
All of this makes light of what it means to actually shoot another person–with or without the intent to kill.
Yes, we live in a dangerous world and guns may have a place in that world. But that does not explain the gun fetish in the country. And it does not take away the need for reasonable gun control measures.
Mass shootings are horrific. They are complex. And they are more likely to stop if we address the problems in our society as a whole.