Monday, October 02, 2006

My gender, reconsidered.


In light of today's tragic events in Lancaster, PA--an hour southwest of where I sit as I write this, and the setting for some of my life's most beautiful moments--I'm moved to wonder: Maybe men really are defective girls, after all.

16 comments:

Cosmic Connie said...

No, Steve, it's not your gender that's defective; it is our violent culture. Over the past decade or so, school shootings have become another unfortunate trend. One school shooting led to another, and then to another, and then to another...when will it stop? Gunning people down in public places has become an all-too-common way for the misfits among us to express their rage and despair.

And no, I don't think the solution is gun control. But something's gotta give...

Steve Salerno said...

I agree with you about the culture of violence, CosCon, even though sometimes my own tendency (in a philosophical, geopolitical sense) is to see violence, of the officially sanctioned kind, as "the answer" to some of the world threats that confront us. But still, the question must be asked: Why is it almost always men?: at Columbine, at that post office a few years back, last week, and now again here. Chessman, Manson, Speck, Son of Sam, Dahmer, BTK, Green River, Zodiac, etc.; even Jack the Ripper, if you want to go back that far. Man, man, man, man...and on and on.

It is disconcerting. And can make you wonder: What is it that's inside of me?

RevRon's Rants said...

Perhaps when society stops glorifying war and other assorted acts of violence, the violent among us will eventually seek out other forms of validation. I was commended for participating in what remains to this day the most inhumane act I could ever imagine (and from which, I have struggled to heal for over 30 years).

Of course, we all (males, anyway) have within us a long-evolved and testosterone-fueled agressiveness that's not going to disappear anytime too soon, and won't begin to diminish until it no longer serves a purpose (such as dealing with other agressive individuals). Literally a vicious cycle. Our only real hope is for each individual male to choose a way of life that diverges from that for which we have evolved - physiologically, emotionally, and socially - so far. As to those individuals who are so sick that they feel compelled to violence, well, I guess we'll still need a few (hopefully balanced) agressive individuals to protect us from them.

Prayer might not be quantifiably effective, but seems to be worth a shot, nonetheless.

Steve Salerno said...

I hear what you're saying, Ron, and once again I hear it all the louder because because of the eloquence of *how* you say it.

This has never been easy for me. I think what we're tackling here in our fumbling way is the great paradox of humankind: blending the desire to flourish as a civilized species with the imperative of also ensuring the survival of the species (or the individual clan, since I don't know that it's possible to count on anything so broad and inclusive as species-think, given the schisms that have separated us since the beginning of time, and probably always will) when one is confronted with those who simply will not agree to live among us in peace in harmony. The war you were sent off to fight, Ron, was framed here at home as a battle for decency and the rescue of a people from tyranny. In the beginning, we accepted that, as it was much the same rationale we used in fighting WWII, which most still agree was a noble endeavor. But what of those of us where the struggle against tyranny rages WITHIN--as was the case, apparently, with this man yesterday, who, after kissing his wife and dropping his kids off at their school bus, went to another school in order to commit this heinous act? We don't know the whole story yet--and as is ever the case with seemingly insane acts, we may never. But I am moved to wonder, is there something in the heart of man--I use the term with its more specific connotation--that is always looking to exact vengeance for...something? That is always looking to fight the next war--whether it be because that man perceives a far-off nation as a threat, or is desperate to retain sovereignty over the ugly patch of urban turf that his gang calls home, or is seeking retribution for a perceived slight against his honor from 20 years ago? I say again, what is going on inside us, somewhere deep and inscrutable, that paves the way for these things to happen?

Steve Salerno said...

It also occurs to me--I posted on this some time back, but it's apt again now--I too would like to turn to prayer. I truly would. But then I ask myself: To which god am I praying? Whose "side" is he on? And can prayer and even god ever be the answer if some people pray to their god before flying planes into buildings and killing thousands of innocents...? Hell (and I use that word advisedly), even the parents of the poor little creatures who were assassinated yesterday see most of the rest of us as infidels who are destined to suffer god's wrath in the end.... How to make sense of it all?

RevRon's Rants said...

I think that the deep-seated roots of rage still exist within us all. In some, it is manifest verbally; via acerbic cleverness among the more educated and/or intelligent, or via screaming threats & obscenities among the less intelligent. In others, that rage boils to the surface, with disastrous results.

Perhaps for some individuals, anything will suffice as an excuse to vent their rage, be it the slightest affront years in their past, or the mere honking of a car horn during rush hour. For others, it may be a cumulative reaction to a lifelong series of unrelated but somehow interconnected events.

I think the best solution is to acknowledge that the demon lives somewhere in all of us, and to engage it consciously and appropriately. When we supress or otherwise deny our rage, it adapts and builds, ultimately to be released regardless of our desires.

I've learned through hard experience what happens when I try to ignore anger. When something makes me angry, I express the anger pretty much immediately, but in a manner that won't cause a situation to escalate... Most of the time, anyway. For me, that lets the pressure off, and the anger passes. As the years go by, I find that fewer things awaken the beast, and that the anger itself is of a much lower magnitude. Perhaps it's in part the result of the lower testosterone levels produced in my body. Perhaps my inherently laid back demeanor is finally winning the battle with my inner jerk. I do recognize that what is left of my agression is more appropriately focused and less emotionally driven - much like it (supposedly) was in combat. I have to admit that it is comforting to finally know that even with the seeds of rage living inside, I pose no danger to anyone who does not pose a danger to me. That might sound like faint self-praise, but from the perspective of my younger days, it feels like a victory, nonetheless.

RevRon's Rants said...

I think that the most powerful prayer is one in which we seek the guidance from the best part of ourselves. It doesn't matter if we're consciously addressing an externalized diety, so long as the answer we seek involves a positive outcome for all involved, rather than a specific desired result for ourselves. My most fervent prayers are that I might listen to that part of myself that is wise and benevolent and strong, rather than that part that is frightened and petty. For these prayers, even my own deeply held belief in a divine being is unnecessary, which also shifts the responsibility for "answering" the prayers to the most appropriate source: myself.

Steve Salerno said...

Yes, but Ron, who ultimately decides who poses a danger to us? Is this each individual's individual call? Isn't that the rationale that Bush used to move us into Iraq? And for all we know, it's the rationale that drives the paranoic crazies, too: They are "getting us before we get them." Or taking vengeance upon those who have already hurt them deeply. Certainly that would seem to be the operative mindset that drove Charlie Manson.

I'm not trying to be a jerk about this. I'm just saying that I don't see any answers here that don't break down (or lose their implementability, if you will) right below the surface--and I mean that in multiple ways.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, there will always be sociopaths (both in and out of government) and psychotics who will strive to justify any action they choose to take. Thankfully, they have always been - and will continue to be - a miniscule minority, whose horrific actions draw attention simply because they are so far removed from the norm. Perhaps if we didn't invest so much energy in public speculation about them, we might remove one incentive that drives some of them.

Our challenge as a society is to encourage evolution beyond violence as an acceptable form of expression; to raise the collective "consciousness" and make these kinds of events even more rare. Even as we do so, we must not allow our perspective of humanity to be overly influenced by the abherrations of a fraction of its members.

Trish Ryan said...

On the Prayer front:

Here's what broke me out of the "what god am I praying to/would it even do any good?" dilemma:

"God, I need your help. If you're really God, you probably know that already. Would you please cut through all the nonsense and rhetoric and crazy claims about who you are and let me know the truth? If there are specific things I need to know, tell me. I'm stubborn, so make it something clear I can't deny. Thanks in advance, Trish."

I've been impressed with the results.

Steve Salerno said...

Trish, if that "does it" for you-- leaving it open-ended as you have--more power to you. Especially if you feel that you've gotten results. And I am NOT in any way being sarcastic or patronizing when I say that; "lord knows" I wish I could draw more comfort from falling back on faith. My wife is a woman of profound and enduring faith (tested daily by her marriage to me), and though I find it hard rationally to identify with her, I envy her the peace it gives her.

Trish Ryan said...

Okay, I know there's a bumper sticker in there somewhere:

"I wish I had the faith that allows my wife to put up with me!"

Expect to hear from the Focus on the Family marketing department shortly...

:)

Anonymous said...

Steve, I'm surprised at you, of all people, there is a difference between MEN and CRAZY MEN. This is a terrible tragey of course but you can't tar all men with that same brush.
-Carl

Steve Salerno said...

Carl, I think you miss my point. I grant you that not all men do these kinds of things... But why is it invariably men who do?

Steve Salerno said...

I keep coming back to this case because the disharmony between his wife's characterizations of him and what he ended up doing are so jarring and extraordinary. This guy, Charles Roberts, was not a closet Satanist or one of those hermitic Unibomberish types who lives in the woods with sex ferrets and spends an inordinate part of his afternoon staring into the sun, in between sharpening tools to a lethal edge and shopping for excessive amounts of ammonium nitrate. If Roberts' wife can be believed, he was a good husband and wonderful father, an easygoing neighborly man, helpful to all, who showed no signs that this slaughter was brewing within him. Keep in mind that earlier on the very day of the massacre, he finished his customary milk run, came home and took his own children to the bus stop. Just another day in Paradise. Literally.

Now, as so often happens, the facts may prove otherwise. It's possible that Roberts' wife did indeed notice something, and is just denying it (or repressing it?) now because to face up to that--that she could've and should've said something--is too much to bear. But leaving that aside, the implications are chilling.

If this can happen to a Charles Roberts, then anything is possible. No man going to bed tonight can predict what he might be capable of tomorrow.

Cosmic Connie said...

"No man going to bed tonight can predict what he might be capable of tomorrow," you wrote.

A chilling thought indeed, but, I would like to think, not entirely true. It seems that Charles Roberts had a pretty good idea of what was brewing inside himself for many years -- even if none of those around him knew.

I do, however, tend to think his wife must have sensed something was amiss with him. If so, that poor woman will almost certainly bear an unbelievable feeling of guilt for the rest of her life.