Makes me wanna holler, throw up both my hands!! - Part II
Sometimes certain conversations should be elevated or highlighted because of the significance that they may bring to those engaged in the discussion, be they active or passive participants. Many of you who read the blog “Make me wanna holler…” don’t necessarily comment publicly, but privately are having conversations amongst your friends, or within your own minds, agreeing or disagreeing. So, this is for those of you who have been following the last blog posting and perhaps could benefit from having more of a take on the subject. (The length of this blog is not for the feint at heart!)
When last we looked EDR suggested that it might be advantageous to “examine the offenders and their backgrounds” in a situation where youth crash an inner city dance, indiscriminately shooting up the attendees. I agree with this sound advice! What might there be in their backgrounds that explains their anger or angry reaction?
EDR also ask some poignant questions, like “Were they taught (brainwashed) to resent and hate by their parents and/or peers? Were they themselves targets of violence…? Is it a reach to say that in America, because of our inadequate educational systems that don’t “truly” teach our students to appreciate difference, or at least respect that difference, we may be teaching hate or at least further promoting intolerance?
EDR also stated “I do believe that some individuals have the inner strength and inborn qualities to overcome their environmental factors and achieve great things while others seem helplessly impaired.” What might be some of the “inborn qualities” that assist some in overcoming environmental factors? Why do others seem “helplessly impaired?
Our buddy Card Buddy says that no one is “more responsible for what those people did than they are.” On a first take, it is hard to not agree with his assertion, but upon a closer look would that assertion still be applicable? Those of you that might agree that the broken promises and manipulative moves by the government are what placed the Native Americans on reservations and contributed to their huge substance abuse problem within this country might find it difficult to agree with Card Buddy. If a government systematically bastardizes the social and economic reality of any group of its people, are they not responsible for at least some aspect of that groups subsequent actions? If that is the case, then what type of a reaction to Jim Crow laws and the need for a Civil Rights Act amongst black folk could be predicted? Is it too far a reach to say that black people may hate black people because they have been taught to hate black people more than black people have been taught to love black people? Who would argue that overweight people struggle to love themselves in a country that doesn’t make an effort to teach them to love themselves? Are gay people taught to love themselves in our beloved America? I would argue with Card Buddy, as others have (EDR on a subtle level, and AMW and Steve on a more overt level) that there may be others who are as responsible, if not more responsible than the misguided, dare I say, criminal youth who committed the heinous acts at that park.
Card Buddy also asserted that “One's own choices play a larger role in one's own life than anything else.” While I agree with this wholeheartedly, it is an oversimplified argument deeply seated in a privileged perspective. In the film Sophie’s Choice, Sophie is forced to choose the lesser of two evils (which of her children will she save). While her choice did “play a larger role” in her life, there were extenuating circumstances that mitigated her actions (choices). The easiest thing to do is second guess Sophie’s choice of her son over her daughter. The fact that Sophie was situated to even make such a choice is the epitome of absurdity. The fact that these young men don’t fathom other choices available to them isn’t only their fault, is it? Card Buddy, my buddy, you didn’t even answer my question. I asked whether socio-economic class may have been a factor in the decision of the young men to invade the dance with malice aforethought. I still hold the position that upper middle class males would not have indiscriminately crashed a park dance just because they were denied admission. First, they probably wouldn’t have been denied entrance to a dance because their social status would have made them more attractive to the party planners. Also, they probably would have had more options within their neighborhood(s), in terms of things to do any given evening.
Card Buddy, when you say that you “believe some of us have an overwhelming sense of entitlement combined with no social or personal conscience” are you still speaking of the youth, or people who are incapable of seeing society’s impact on members of the underclass? People who are incapable of seeing their “overwhelming sense of entitlement” often get married and yet don’t think gays and lesbians should have that right, or don’t hesitate to start a war but wouldn’t start that same war if their children were destined to be on the front of that war. Am I missing something here?
Your own words summarize this type of person’s attitude “The person feels they are owed and everyone else be damned.” What is it that heterosexuals are owed in terms of marriage that allows them to adopt the attitude of “everyone else be damned?”
Card Buddy, were you serious when you said that “Perhaps the youths in your story were born with less capacity for empathy than most of us. If you combine that with poor parenting and an environment that celebrates violence, perhaps you have a recipe for the disaster you describe.” First, it would be too much of a coincidence that everyone of the youth who crashed and wrought havoc at that dance was “born with less capacity for empathy than most of us.” Some may be, but not the whole crew. So, what does it say about the typical American’s ability to empathize when they rush to judgment about the violent behavior of our youth without considering the role we play in it as adults both in and out of our homes? Are we “born with less capacity” when we do this?
I can appreciate AMW’s terror of realizing that gunshots make some people have to transition from “anticipation of pleasure to strategy for survival.” I also like the fact that AMW associated herself with Card Buddy as a “law and order liberal,” wanting “people to take responsibility for their actions and to act in a civilized way--to value human life and to contain their own rage and frustration in such a way that others don't have to be victimized—expect[ing] reasonable laws to be followed and unreasonable ones to be fought and changed--to feel safe—and be safe for others--to attend a dance and not get shot at.
AMW says that “All of the psychological and sociological aspects of what may have motivated the violence (poor or absent parenting, chronic exposure to violence, influence of drugs, anger and frustration at an unfair, classist and racist system, etc) do need to be considered.” AMW further asks “to what extent is the individual responsible for what he/she does--How do we hold the individual accountable while noting that the society which creates the context for the event, [perhaps] needs to change?” Does the society actually need to change, or is AMW, JW, EDR and Steve all under the influence of drugs themselves in even thinking such a thing?
AMW asked a wonderful question when asking of the shooters, “What were you thinking?" What might their answers have been to this question?
I don’t agree with SB in his assertion that “we aren't born unique, but blank, with the ability to create our uniqueness.” The “tabula rasa” phenomenon of a blank slate reality doesn’t work for me when you consider that our slate is being imprinted upon while our reality is still embryonic. So, it is possible that we are being imprinted with hate and hate vernacular while in the womb. It is also possible that we are learning problematic privileges that will serve to make us as irrational about our privilege as youth that commit black on black crime. In both cases, neither person(s) has fully unpacked their baggage.
SB said that people who believe “we are all able to choose our path with ease, as if it's merely a matter of snapping our fingers and saying, "I know longer want to be a 'crack whore' 'gang banger,' or 'abuser and victimizer,'" border on naivety. SB admonishingly encourages us to consider that “Babies don't burst onto the scene and think, "I wanna rob and shoot people, I wanna die young, I wanna suppress and oppress others." SB says "The environment they're trapped in molds that meanness, and breaking the mold isn't as easy as saying, "enough is enough." Not only are years of conditioning difficult to overcome, but there's also the matter of the controls put in place by those who helped create such a chaotic and corrupt system, from which they benefit by not truly attempting to fix it.”" Wow! Does SB actually have something here, or does his voice represent the many so-called liberals whining because they don’t like the hand they've been dealt; or liberals who have bought into the political correctness of so-called underrepresented and minority people and feel as if they can change the world?
Perhaps SB’s greatest assertion was that “America's youth wouldn't snuff out life so casually if they had not been raised in a system that treated them as if they were expendable and inconsequential.” In other words, if you are devalued is it easy to value others, or more consistent to give what you get? If you have thoughts on this, in support or against of any takes framed here, please join the conversation.
P.S. Am I the only one who noticed how difficult it was for both AMW and SB to move away from the Ways of Seeing Sexuality blog. Help me give them some closure on the subject, or point them both to the same room to indulge the conversation.
AMW said “I realized that what I was feeling was relief about the fact that this blog was not about sex…There is tension in talking - and writing publicly about sex, way more so, I think, than writing about race and even class.” Is this true for others?
It feels somehow more personal to put my views about sex out there than my views on race or class. Or else it is simply a matter of being more comfortable with those other aspects of my identity vs. my sexuality.” Why do we struggle with talking about sex?
SB says that “The only reason there is such anxiety, shame and hesitation to discuss sex openly is because we allow there to be. If we choose, conversations about sexuality could be constructed and communicated the same as discussions about dieting, [and] dodge ball.” I personally find conversations about sexuality easier than discussing dieting and dodge ball, but then that is just me!