The Blog

On Massacres, Masculinity, Human Rights and Gun Rights

As we grieve with the families, I hope the school massacre in Connecticut is the tipping point; the final massacre that lands like the last snowflake on an avalanche of change
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It doesn't just take a mentally disturbed young man to make the ingredients of a school massacre. It takes collective insanity.

In China , a young mentally-disturbed man walked into a school ready to do violence last Friday. Not able to procure a gun, he stabbed 23 people, 22 of them children. All survived.

On the same day in the United States, a young mentally-disturbed man walked into a school with a semi-automatic assault rifle and killed 27 people, mostly children.

Which country protects the human rights of its citizens? Ah yes, the right to own a gun... any gun, even a weapon made for quickly firing 30 rounds or more.

In the United States, we treat every massacre as an act of personally responsibility. The responsibility for pulling the trigger was one man.

But it is a collective mistake to keep reliving this national nightmare and not ask questions about the quality of our policy-making, about the care we put into constructing the foundations of our society.

The U.S. media stumbles over its analysis of mental illness, the rage of young men brought up to prove their masculinity through violence and threats. Men all over the world are too often rewarded and even urged by the media to demonstrate their masculinity by brandishing weapons. We raise boys to put on this "tough guise."

The media's role in linking masculinity and violence is global. Most violence is done by men to other men and some women and children. Why don't we have a conversation about the pressures on men to be violent or aggressive and to earn respect through acting tough? This is a global problem, not just in the U.S.

Young men in other countries also commit violence against other men and other people. But the U.S. experiences more of these types of massacres than other countries.

Much of the rest of the world look at the U.S. like we are a country gone crazy, a mentally ill nation. But why don't these types of massacres happen as often in other countries?

In the United States, the corporate profits of weapons manufacturers fund the National Rifle Association (NRA) -- one of the most influential lobbying groups in Congress.

In the United States, corporate organizations like the NRA can buy politicians loyalty, ensuring that any small efforts to limit the types of guns that are available are blocked by gun advocates claiming their Constitutional Rights.

In the United States, right wing political leaders demand that the U.S. not be part of the family of nations which works out problems by signing treaties like the Arms Trade Treaty.

In the United States, people propose giving more people guns so that they can stop insane people from using guns -- a solution that is like giving someone who already has cancer another disease that will distract them from the underlying illness.

Last Friday morning there were two young men who were mentally unstable. And now there are two countries that need to have a national conversation about massacres and masculinity, and about human rights and gun rights.

Ultimately, we choose which freedoms are more precious: the freedom to send our children to school or the movie theater without fear -- or the freedom to buy guns that can take away the rights of a classroom full of elementary children in a few minutes?

As we grieve with the families, I hope the school massacre in Connecticut is the tipping point; the final massacre that lands like the last snowflake on an avalanche of change that begins with recognizing our collective responsibility for designing a less violent society.

May this massacre bring with it the recognition that corporate influence on our political system means that we are collectively insane and may it bring an avalanche of public shame on the NRA and Congress to pass the Arms Trade Treaty.

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