I really can’t deal with how we talk about these mass shootings anymore. Every time this happens, everybody gets completely riled up trying to figure out how this could have possibly happened. Immediately we re-enter the endless debate of whether it was a result of inadequate mental health care (which is true) or an inadequate control on firearms (which is also true). Both of these are just the tip of the iceberg to explain why such tragedies are continuously occurring.
We live in a world where children (particularly young boys) grow up playing games that encourage them to shoot people in the head all day. They turn on the radio and listen to uneducated, borderline illiterate young men singing about getting wasted, treating women like absolute trash, and, of course, resorting to deadly violence to solve their issues. This is not fringe culture, this is American popular culture today. And somehow, after a shooting, we look around like it’s a big mystery where the shooter got his ideas from.
Even more disturbing, culturally, we don’t seem to address men’s issues at all. In our world, we tell our boys that to have feelings is wrong, that they must be strong and stoic at all times for fear of being labeled a pussy. And yet, just as many women aren’t able to live up to the standard that our society presents for them, neither can men. However, they are not allowed to vent their frustrations and emotions. They bottle it up until the sadness and pain eats away at their soul to the point where there is nothing left but a ball of anger and hate that eventually explodes in the most horrible ways possible.
I do not honestly believe that the men who committed these atrocities were inherently evil, though what they did most definitely was. Instead, I think that they were young men who had been kicked down, rejected, and told that they were inadequate for so long that they exploded, taking as many with them as they could. Though I would never do something like what they did, I can identify with the feelings that I think they felt. To put the blame solely on them is the easy way out, and requires no societal introspection.
The sickness that these men had in their hearts is the same sickness that lies in the heart of our collective society. We live in a world that bombards us with messages to compete, dominate, and take others down. At the same time, it also constantly tells us that we are not enough, that we are inadequate, but that if we buy Product X we will be okay. Of course, these messages are internalized by some until they can’t take it anymore.
If we really want these shootings to stop, we have to change our perspective on the issue. Mass shootings are a symptom of a societal ill, the same ill that is producing environmental collapse, wealth inequality, depression, cancer, and a long list of other issues today.
So, yes, we should make mental health care more accessible, and guns less so. However, we all need to stop and look at the way we all live our lives. We all need to examine the thoughts and feelings we have inside and try to figure out where they come from. We need to start creating a world focused on cooperation and acceptance, for others, but even more importantly for ourselves. It is the harder path, but it’s the one that actually gets at the root of the issue.