Thursday, December 20, 2012

James Livingston: "Why Do These Young White Male People . . . Always Rehearse and Recite the Same Script?"

That discussion that makes many of us eminently uncomfortable, which quite a few of us would prefer either to ignore or shut down? It keeps on keeping on.

And it needs to keep on keeping on, no matter how it shakes us up. Here's James Livingston asking some uncomfortable questions at Salon:

Let us also ask the obvious question.  Why do these young white male people whom we routinely characterize as crazy—as exceptions to the rules of civilized comportment and moral choice—always rehearse and recite the same script?  If each killer is so deviant, so inexplicable, so exceptional, why does the apocalyptic ending never vary? 
The answer is equally obvious.  Because American culture makes this script—as against suicide, exile, incarceration, or oblivion—not just available but plausible, actionable, and pleasurable.  Semiautomatic, you might say.

As I say, in my view, these questions absolutely have to be asked. They have to be asked if we really do want to get to the roots of what's causing one gun massacre after another in the U.S.

And equally important to ask as we ask these questions: precisely why does asking these questions make so many of us so squeamish, so quick to resort to one qualification and abstraction after another--when we don't resort to endless qualifications and abstractions when explanatory memes to address other social issues are being developed?

(Hint: the squeamishness has everything to do with who holds and wields power in our culture, and with the neuralgic buttons that get pushed in all of us when the central symbols of power--e.g., God-as-conservative-white-man-writ large--are in any way subjected to critical scrutiny. If the current conversation of who and where God is in the public square represents cracks in that idol, then perhaps we all stand to benefit from pushing beyond our comfort levels and engaging honestly in this discussion about the connection of white men to too much talken-for-granted violence.)

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