Saturday, October 3, 2015

Body Politic

After all the initial reactions to the regularity of mass shootings in this country, the comments seem to divide themselves into categories.  It's the gun culture...it's mental illness, it's it entire history and totality of violence in this country's past, it's our lack of adequate health care, it's all these things, it's none of these things.
Some folks don't like the pressure put on mental health acknowledging that mentally ill people are no more violent than anyone else.  Others want to regulate guns while some think that arming teachers will be just the ticket.  It seems to me that teachers will not carry guns...at least most of them.  I'm sure some already do, but then there is a wide variety of personality types in the profession in case you hadn't noticed.

I favor the gun obsession argument.  Chickens do come home to roost.  Think about how much exposure a typical citizen in this culture has to violence.  It's revered.  It has enormous arenas built to celebrate might.  And those are just the healthy responses!
What also seems to bubble to the surface are the profiles of these shooters.  There are so many similarities with the depressed, disaffected, isolated, alienated 20 something that it seems we could predict some of these paroxysms before they take more innocent lives.  What pains and continues to mystify me is how some of these folks have so many guns in their homes.  In the recent Oregon shooting there were 6 guns on site attribute to the shooter and another 7 more found at his home.  All legal, of course.
In the wake of all this, I've been reading what I consider to be the most powerful and insightful book about race, violence, fear and anger born and bred in America.  Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me  should be required reading.  In fact, that's what Toni Morrison urges in the blurbs on the cover.  What Coates does, that seems to be the singular quality of this book, is set the fear and anger in it's accurate historical context.  There are powerful reasons that people don't feel comfortable talking about these things.  Coates' book is in the form of a letter to his 15 year old son.  Aside from being the familiar father-son talk necessary for African American men, he sheaths his ideas in the form of threats to the body.  You must realize that there are forces out there who are trying to take your body from you.  These forces feel entitled and emboldened in doing so.  The similarities to what many innocent students feel in this moment in time are inescapably glaring.

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