Mass Shootings Do Have a Cause: Entitlement.
Another mass shooting.
Another mass shooting at a school.
Another mass shooting in a city where police had the majority of the funding.
Another mass shooting at a school where, despite that, law enforcement’s response was woefully inadequate.
Another mass shooter who the media describes as bullied.
Another mass shooter who politicians claim was “mentally ill”.
Another mass shooter who bought his guns completely legally.
Another mass shooter who had acted out violently before, his behavior, dismissed.
Another mass shooter who is treated as more human than the people he killed.
It’s not really enough to say that I’m sick and tired of these discussions, these excuses, the passing of the buck. I mean, I am; I hold Republicans responsible for glorifying violent men, and I hold Democrats responsible for enabling them with their inaction. I am absolutely gobsmacked that police rescued their own kids from a school shooting in progress but cuffed other parents for trying to go in to save their own while they stood, guns pointed at panicked families instead of at the person shooting up a school. It bewilders me that I’ve seen people defend these police by saying cops aren’t stepping up because they’re receiving critique for murdering unarmed Black people. How anyone could look at what happened in Uvalde, Texas, and say “yep, I support our boys in blue” is beyond me.
If a well funded police force, in a cop-loving conservative town, refusing to protect elementary school kids from being gunned down isn’t cause to defund the police? I genuinely don’t know what would be.
But it’s more than just waking up mad and falling asleep madder. I am also, as a writer and a journalist, absolutely sickened at the consistency of the claims that this is a mental health problem. Hell, while I agree the guns absolutely don’t help, I’m tired of it being simplified as a gun problem. I still remember the year where any crowd of people had to be on alert for any car that might be revving up to run them down.
This isn’t a mental health issue. This is an entitlement issue.
This distinction is incredibly important, as someone who works on unpacking entitlement culture both through a consent culture lens and an anarchosyndicalist lens. There is a reason why so often, so much of the time, the people who are enacting this violence are men. I’d even argue this is why we see this so often with men who have other positions of increased advantages in the world — white men, young men, cis men, straight men, able bodied men.
These are people who have been told that the world was made for them, and when they hear the word “no”, they absolutely lose their goddamn shit.
Here’s the thing. Maybe these guys have mental health problems, who knows? They often don’t get assessed. On the other hand, people who aren’t men also have mental health issues and yet don’t tend to go down the path of mass murder. And I think that’s because of entitlement.
See, you can’t work on the mental health stuff in any real way until you address the entitlement that leads you to think your upset is everyone else’s fault. The media absolutely enables this, and the closer you are to being a cis white straight able-bodied man, the more likely your violence will be blamed on your parents, or your upbringing, or the internet, or your lack of friends, or the fact girls won’t date you.
And sure, we are products of our environment to some extent — the fact that 4chan and 8chan consistently get cited as places where mass shooters post about their plans, brag about their previous violent acts, and ask for advice on weapons and strategy, is and should be alarming. Absolutely, parents not being aware of what their kids are exposed to, combined with unfettered access to websites that encourage violent white supremacist and misogynist thought, yeah that’ll probably make a problem fester. And sure, the fact that you’ve alienated your peers because you’ve become a toxic shitbag probably feels pretty bad.
But the thing that continually doesn’t seem to get acknowledged is that scratching below the surface of all that, the constant thread is entitlement. The feeling of “I’m unsatisfied, and I’m going to make it everyone’s problem, and that’s something I get to do”.
Maybe we don’t want to acknowledge it because to acknowledge it would mean to also recognize how often other acts of violence share this thread. Police brutality against unarmed Black men? Entitlement. Militias beating down protesters? Entitlement. Trump supporters invading the Capitol? Entitlement. Anti-maskers attacking store employees for asking them to respect their policies? Entitlement. Anti-abortionists shooting up clinics? Entitlement. White women calling the cops and lying about what they’ve experienced so that the police will enact violence on their behalf? Entitlement. Entitlement. Entitlement.
This is, of course, an issue all over the world, but it’s especially poignant here in the United States, where the American Dream is gilded rot. We are against universal healthcare or robust social safety nets because we consider THAT communism — in fact, we call the desire to be able to feed your kids every day and go to the hospital when sick “entitlement” — but we regularly encourage American youth to trample on the faces of others to get what you “deserve”. We want to benefit from underpaid labor, especially underpaid immigrant labor, but we also want to be able to ensure those workers can’t find stability or safety. In the workplace and the bedroom, we encourage this “get yours” mentality and call those who critique it, cowards.
American exceptionalism has always been an issue in many areas, but we’re seeing it manifest horrifically well when it comes to gun violence. We’ve had 214 mass shootings this year and we’re not even halfway through the year yet. Every time, social media is awash with people saying “I knew this was a problem, but I’m shocked it happened in MY town”. Are you? Are you really? One political side regularly deifies violent revolution, cosplaying soldiers and voting in people who brag about being bullies. The other talks about being the bigger person, taking the high road, finding compassion, staying civil.
In other words, one is the boot, and one’s the doormat.
It leaves me feeling almost desperate. I don’t want to feel like I have to carry a gun when I go to the grocery store, but I also don’t want the only people to have guns to be people who feel murdering minorities is something they’re entitled to. I *definitely* don’t want to trust the police with guns when they clearly don’t have the training to be responsible with them. I don’t want to have to lose myself to individualism and entitlement to survive — that’s why I’m an anarchosyndicalist! — I don’t want to be coerced to choose between the boot or the doormat.
I don’t have an answer to how to unpack this entitlement. I mean, I guess on some level it’s why I wrote a consent culture workbook, to encourage critical thinking and reflection on our own behaviors because at the end of the day the only person we have total control over is ourselves. But I know it’s not going to be a New York Times bestseller. Examining our own entitlement is hard work, and uncomfortable. Far better to blame someone else… just like the mass shooters do.
I’m just mad and exhausted… and I don’t want to have to sew up a dude’s head at a protest ever again. But I know I will, and that makes my heart break, over and over. At least I’m still alive for it to break.
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