In this morning’s Washington Post, there was a summary of violent rhetoric some of our political leaders have used. “2nd Amendment Remedies,” “Lock and Load,” and other gun–related words and actions were detailed and attributed. Senator Joe Manchin from my state of West Virginia, along with President Obama himself, were the only two Democrats whose words or deeds were listed. All the rest were republicans.
I hate guns. My father was an avid gun collector, a life–time member of the National Rifle Association, and a paranoid personality (“paranoid” used here in its clinical sense). Guns scare me. More than scare me, though, they disgust me. I grew up seeing guns used to compensate for a frail and damaged masculinity. Rather than do the hard work necessary to understand and accept his weaknesses, my father gloried in the power of guns. He cleaned and polished them as if they were parts of his body. He made his own ammunition. He took every opportunity to talk about the power of his personal armory.
As much as I’d like to blame Saturday’s Tucson massacre on Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and their ilk—and I DO blame them—I believe that one of the underlying causes of this and similar incidents is the hyper–masculinity that seems to be the model in this culture for manly behavior.
George W. Bush wanted Osama bin Laden “dead or alive.” His state, Texas, murders convicts at a rate that is sickening to anyone who thinks, cares, or prays about human life. His eagerness to go to war, and stay at war, was and is tragic. As much as I disliked his presidency, however, I have to admit that Bush was very much a creature of our society and he acted as he thought a “man” should act in the 21st–century USA. Politicians, Ms. Palin among them, who want to appeal to Bush’s “base” adopt this masculine, gun– and war–loving world view. If disagreement exists, destroy the opposition. There is no need for compromise or rational consideration; real men don’t do those things. Instead, they fight, destroy, and so prevail. Carl Rove, in my opinion, is a great example of this hyper–masculine, violent approach to politics.
I agree that the assassin in Tucson on Saturday was too ill to be directly influenced by anything that people like Bush, Rove, Palin, Limbaugh, or Beck have said or have written. He, however, did come to manhood in this hyper–masculine environment where might, and only might, makes right, and where every “real” man knows how to lock and load. He and all young men in our culture have learned to be men by the examples set for them by people like Bush, Cheney, Rove, Palin, Limbaugh, and Beck and by a horribly violent culture where the hero saves the day only by blasting away the opponent.
Sometimes I think what a shame it is that only 10% of the male population of this country is gay. Gay men, by nature of their gayness, are unable to accept the masculine norms formed by our sick culture. Instead, we have to form our own image of masculinity, incorporating in that image a consciousness that every male is to some extent female, that every male is to some extent weak and needy, that every male is to some extent nurturing, and that every male is a vulnerable human being. On days like today, I am even happier than usual that I am gay. I am glad that I have had to go through the ordeal of forming my own image of manhood. I am glad that, unlike my father, I have had to deal specifically with my personal issues and resolve them.
I am so sad about the people who died on Saturday, and I grieve for them and their families. I wish all the best for those who were injured and are now being treated, especially Representative Gabby Giffords.
I also grieve for, and worry about, all the little boys—straight and gay—growing up today in the USA.