Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Boston


from a detailed Wikipedia article
Like the time I was watching the movie Juno when I found out my teenaged daughter, a freshman living away at college, was pregnant, I was watching the early Red Sox game on Patriot's Day and reading the People  story on the Newton families the day of the Boston Marathon bombings.  The photos in People are incredible, and the families very brave--they tell a story all by themselves. And reading about one horrible event while another happens makes you draw connections quickly.  In this case, I've been wondering all week:

Why do men kill women and children?

Because, as it turns out, the bombers were young men, again, and the victims who died last Monday were another 1 child and 2 women. The total, in Newtown, was 6 women and 20 children. And while violence towards women and children within families is common, these were all strangers, and targeting women and children is anathema of what we think of as our moral code.

Michael Kimmel
There was an article on cnn.com in December, "Masculinity, mental illness and guns: A lethal equation?" by Michael Kimmel that did a good job, I thought, describing the dynamics in the Newtown case, and possibly Boston, I'm not sure yet. It's not specific to the "women and children" question, but then again, in Boston there were many men injured, Sean Collier was killed, and the attackers were aiming indiscriminately for not just women and children, but innocents in general.

Kimmel is a sociologist at SUNY-Stony Brook, and yes, a bit of a liberal. He co-wrote a funny book called The Men's Guide To Feminism, which breaks down the concepts like a football playbook, but he's also writing a book on Angry White Men about white supremacists, and has described the "bro" world of drinking, video games, hookups and hanging out with each other in a book called Guyland. You may disagree with some of his points, and his research methods are open to critique, but he's onto something. While it may be a problem for some that adolescence has extended far into a young man's twenties with its culture of playful male bonding, including me, as I put in this blog, at least any harm done is only to themselves, and their relationships. The problem of disconnected men, without such close ties is far worse.

Because alienated men with murderous intent cause the majority of violent havoc in our world.

For many of us, the Newtown murders will leave a lasting bitterness and grief in our lives even if we didn't know anyone personally who went to school or worked or responded there.  Though they're national news, they are local for us in this state, and it was our school safety and our mental health systems that will be examined as a result, our communities devastated, our families and first responders traumatized, and later testifying with passion in the state house or Capitol for whatever state laws we decide need to changed or budgets shored up.  The President's initiative has already started, with much acrimony and, so far, defeat.  I suspect, eventually, some good will come out of it, but nothing will ever outweigh the horror, or the pain, or the loss.

When I lived in Rhode Island, there was a crime that led to national changes in day care release policies, after the killer of the Brendel family in Barrington in 1991 had taken the father's license and gone to pick up the daughter at the Y after school program.  After that, policies changed everywhere on release lists and photo ID's.  I think countless children have been safer as a result. I like it when I get the third degree when I pick up my granddaughter at Head Start. I think that will eventually happen out of the Newtown tragedy too, in some way we can't yet foresee.  I also know I've never really gotten over the Brendel family murders, that I kind of carry it with me, like I do the San Diego murders I referenced in my blog in December.  We all have our seminal events good and bad events that shape our psyche.  These are some of mine, the rough stuff, and now Newtown and Boston.

from the Boston Marathon site
But while the push from Newtown has been for limits on high-capacity gun clips, background checks, mental health services and school security, the reaction in Boston has been far more oriented towards pride (this is the link to the David Ortiz comments before Sunday's game). bravery, and resilience, and appreciation for the law enforcement and medical personnel, and good samaritans, who worked together to save lives. The President was downright defiant, saying we refuse to be terrorized, a far cry from his grief-stricken reaction to Newtown, which he has described as the worst day of his Presidency.

from New York Daily News
Because while Newtown was over in five minutes, the Boston manhunt went on for four full days. People pulled together. The bad guys were ultimately defeated. And they came from another country, so the analysis is focusing on national security (this week, in regards to the immigration bill) rather than our internal means of identifying and helping young American men with violent fantasy lives that might spill over into reality.

I hope it helps.

Love, Lisa


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