What is wrong with America? Other advanced nations do not suffer internal violence as we do in this nation. Writing for CNN after the tragic church shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX, Mel Robbins pointed out, “A mass shooting is defined as an event where at least four people are shot. We now have one every day in America, if you adopt the broad definition used by the Gun Violence Archive.”
After each horrific incident, we hear representatives from both the Left and Right call for action: Fewer Guns; More Mental Health, respectively. Yet nothing seems to change. The public is outraged for about a week and their energy soon dissipates. These are horrible events. Why the apathy? Robbins believes that “until gun violence impacts your family directly, you won’t care enough to do something about it. There’s a ton of research to explain this apathy.”
After World War II, Cambridge psychologist J.T. MacCurdy studied bombings in London. He found people affected by the attacks fell into three categories: those who died, those who were a “near miss” (closely witnessed the horror of the bombings but lived), and those who had a “remote miss” (may have heard the sirens, but were removed from the direct scene of the bombing). MacCurdy concluded people who witnessed a “near miss” were deeply affected by the bombing — while the “remote miss” group felt invincible and even excited.
Although shootings appear to be highly prevalent, in reality we are not likely to experience this directly. I worked for SolAero Tech, a company that manufactures solar panels for space missions, and suffered an active shooter in the workplace a few years ago. In their hiring process, new employees receive specialized instruction how to handle a potential shooter. Their instructions were logistical — how to hide or barricade a door; where to assemble; or how to call for help. Nothing the company provided discussed how to prevent shootings in the first place. As a nation, we don’t seem to have answers to this critical question.
Although I’m a progressive, I don’t believe we can remove guns from American society. “Less Guns” is a dead-end proposition (no pun intended). Calls for more mental health screening are equally Quixotic. An employee might appear “mentally healthy” on Monday when periodically reviewed, but lose a job on Wednesday, and return to harm managers on Friday. Unless we accept implanted microchips in our brains and tolerate BigBrother watching over us 24/7, this approach is ineffective. What then can we do?
Americans must learn to be KIND, COMPASSIONATE and EMPATHETIC to each other. We must accept non-violent means for resolving our differences. As we boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, stepping back from our violent character will be difficult. As our blockbuster movies and popular TV dramas feature massive bloodletting, shooting, and blowing up of things, recalibrating our behavior will be difficult. As we honor those who kill for a living and indoctrinate our children through activities that dehumanize the loss of life, such as video games, music videos, and violent sport, rebalancing our internal psyche will be difficult.
There are colleges across America today that feature classes to highlight “toxic masculinity.” These courses do not intend to demonize men or male attributes, but rather emphasize harmful effects of certain traditional masculine ideal behaviors such as dominance, self-reliance, and competition. Writing on this subject, Amanda Marcotte adds toxic masculinity is “a specific model of manhood, geared toward dominance and control. It’s a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world.” Marcotte writes:
“Shooters involved in mass killings are motivated in part by a lethal toxic mix from the gun industry and the NRA that has cultivated a culture of gun-powered macho power fantasies.”
As a researcher, I had hoped the ascendancy of women in positions of power would gracefully push American society to a “kinder, gentler” disposition. Sadly, just as Worst Angels of Men have dominated American male behavior, it appears Worst Angels of Women now dominate American female activity. Just as toxic masculinity aspires to toughness but is, in fact, an ideology of living in fear: The fear of ever seeming soft, tender, weak, or somehow less than manly, we increasingly see examples of “toxic femininity,” where women stand up to “prove” how tough they can be.
Hollywood women shocked the nation recently by revealing sick, predatory behavior of powerful men, such as Harvey Weinstein and others. None can defend this demented abuse of women. Alex Baldwin spoke about the unacceptable actions on PBS NewsHour. He stated he believed women who accepted financial settlements from Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein to keep quiet about alleged sex harassment or assault may have delayed justice. Twitter wars erupted scorching Baldwin for “mansplaining” and accusing him of “blaming the victim.”
Although not a fan of Baldwin, I thought he made a reasoned point. I’m sorry for the suffering these women were forced to endure. Their pain is unfathomable. Yet refusing to speak up allowed sexual predators to hurt other women — your sister, mother or daughter. Receiving a payout might have satisfied a particular victim; silence ensured the predator lived to abuse another day.
For five decades, long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad has publicly discussed how her swim coach repeatedly assaulted her when she was 14. “I will continue to tell my story until all girls and women find their own voice. We need to construct an accurate archive of these abuses. And we need to prepare coming generations to speak up in the moment, rather than be coerced into years of mute helplessness.”
Emotions are high at this time, but reasoned people must be able to have civil conversations. This is Rose McGowan’s response:
“Wee little baby man had a wide baby tantrum cos he wants to protect rapists. You’re sooo liberal, you scum bucket.”
Is this an example of women being Better Angels in American society? Clearly Baldwin wasn’t trying to “protect rapists.” In his opinion, women who spoke up and didn’t remain silent helped society stop predatory behavior. McGowan called on her #ROSEARMY to join forces with her and shame Baldwin. Asia Argento was one who answered the call. She referred to Baldwin as “bully boy.”
This is America. We are not a KIND, COMPASSIONATE or EMPATHETIC people. It seems we are simply too afraid to be humane to each other. We hide behind deception, lies, and half-truths. I believe this is why people carry out such heinous acts across our nation. We are just mean, cruel people and it’s a mean, cruel time in America. I had hoped women would champion us into a new era, but it seems American women plan to continue old ways, although with them in charge.
I’m fortunate to spend time training and socializing with Japanese athletes and coaches. I respect these people and their culture. They focus on two key attributes in their relations with others: kindness and humility. I am grateful they accept me to train with their teams and share their ways with me. They have taught me much. I wish America could be more like Japan. I wish we could do a better job empathizing with others and finding commonality with one another. I wish the anger and hatred in this country would end. I wish America could hear me!
Love and Aloha