Scrambling For Things That Matter

I am disgusted and frightened that when I hear about mass murders I immediately compare them to previous incidents and think, “well, at least it wasn’t as bad as the last one.”

They are all bad. They are all tragic, heartbreaking, and confusing.

Some of us think the conversation in the confusion is counterproductive. I disagree. I think the confusion is necessary.  We are confused because we don’t know how to stop this from happening. This time, there is a quantifiable element of hostile misogyny and bitterness. There’s also mental illness, entitlement, and rage. There is the ever pervasiveness of America’s gun culture. And so that’s what we talk about.

#YesAllWomen sparked a much needed conversation about our deeply rooted sexism. Critics claim that the timing isn’t right for this conversation, and bringing it up in the wake of a tragedy is exploitation.

I can understand that perspective, but I also think it’s a weak and problematic response. I don’t really have anything to add to #YesAllWomen because I’m not a woman, and I think the best thing I can do is just listen. I will say this — weeks ago we were criticizing hashtag activism for it’s flippant and naive approach to complex issues. I think that’s true when applied to a specific incident, especially tragedy, like #bringbackourgirls. In this instance, a cause that is more abstract and deep rooted and ongoing, it is inspired.

I am more curious about the collective phenomena of critical discussions that inevitably rises from these attacks. There is always gun control, and the nearly spring-boarded reaction from gun enthusiasts. I think they were almost preemptive this time. There’s mental health, which is an important cause, but complicated in this case because the killer had privileged access to mental healthcare (and how sad that it is a privilege), but even the best therapists and psychologists can’t stop violence where violence is determined. Some people blame media, some people blame video games, and some misguided person blamed Seth Rogan movies (note: if you’re looking for examples of misogyny in Hollywood, you’re looking at the wrong Seth).

I understand the need to seemingly grasp at straws for explanations of horror. Writers need to write, and they think, and then they write what they think, and they participate in the conversation — helpful or not — because it’s what writers do. It’s cynical to say that they need to capitalize on tragedy to get clicks, and I’m completely self aware that by putting my own thoughts into words I am participating in the same process, but there is truth to this cynicism.

Here’s my point.

These things are overwhelming. They are confusing. And we just don’t know what to do about it yet. Or maybe we do, but we’re just not all on board yet. We need to examine our proclivity for degrading women, especially when we have entire industries dedicated to it. We need to do something for the mentally ill. We need to talk about these things, and we need to lose our minds whenever this happens. Because if we refuse to examine our biggest, most glaring flaws, we risk normalizing the terror.


Published by

Cody Ray Shafer

Cody is a writer and media critic living in Salt Lake City, Utah. When he's not writing he plays guitar and sings with his wife Sara Beth. They have one son, Oliver, and pug, Hugo.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s