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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.

J.W.

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!


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Comments

JW,
I'm taking you up on the invitation for conversation.

Re: dieting, dodge ball and sexuality...

Nothing is worse than a conversation about dieting- except dieting itself.

Talking about sexuality, however, feels a little bit like playing dodgeball- You kind of put yourself out there- vulnerable and exposed for anything to be thrown back at you from any direction! Exciting, but unnerving.

Thanks, JW - for the opportunity to get some closure on that "other" blog, but as SB and you both point out, closure is not what we need, but rather more openness. Now, here I am conflicted. While it would be great to feel freer to talk about sex (not to mention having sex), how free is too free? Where is the privacy here and how do we keep it the sizzling topic it is if becomes as commonplace as dodge ball or dieting, etc? (Actually, I probably talk about sex more than I do about dodge ball.) Maybe the issue is about, in SB's words, "anxiety shame and hesitation." For me, it is OK to hesitate if the hesitation is about privacy and keeping personal things, personal. If the hesitation is about shame and anxiety- not so good. I think the objective may be conscious choice and freedom from inhibition about talking about these things. Sex and sexuality should be in one's repertoire of possible topics for discussion and exploration. Ideally, I would want to be able to put it out there and feel comfortable with doing that, but also be free to keep it in its unique place. Maybe it's about private vs. hidden. (Maybe I'm rationalizing repression. No need to respond to that.)

Re: Holler- Part II

I love the summary and the questions. A couple of thoughts- While we wait (and wait and wait) for society to change- or work towards that, what is it that makes individuals change? In American History X- what made that skinhead change? In the recent book (autobiography) on the bestseller list, (can't remember the name of the author) about the boy/teen/soldier? in Africa who, crazed on drugs and violence, killed so many people and then "changed"..how did that happen? What is that process and how do we harness that energy? How do we impact the individual? It feels like too long a wait - "waiting for the world to change"-(Isn't that a song? Or just the whining of one more "politically correct liberal." Hope not.)

Wow, so many questions, so little time, JW! I'll give you my " 'gut' reaction", as I read each one.

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?

== I have to strongly oppose the idea that our education systems, are in any way, teaching hate. I have yet to be in classrooms from K-12, or degree bearing AA, BA, and MA college classrooms, that promote hate of any kind. However, what I have witnessed and see more and more of, is a somewhat under-explained encouragement of "individualtity". Now, while in concept, it is considered a 'positive' to find oneself, and become an independent thinker, I think what has happened is confusion, over the difference between becoming an independent thinker and becoming a member of a group that isolates you, the individual, with others that feel, think, look, dress, etc.... like you. And, it is within THIS separation that group mentalities are formed, and 'hate', ignorance/intolerance of others, and a lack of accountability is born.

I think the educational system tries to teach our youth to think for themselves, see the world through tolerant eyes and question the status quo, but fails to realize that while it is important to teach independent thinking , they must also help teach the importance of understanding that with individuality comes a multitude of responsibilities. The responsiblity to follow law, care about others that don't "see it" as they do, and most importantly to have tolerance and compassion for all. Being an individual doesn't mean that its 'your way or the highway', but rather, "this is the road I have chosen to follow, and in doing so, I must respect that there are ways in which I must act on this road. Most importantly, I must respect that often I will meet people on my journey who have decided to take a different road. And to those people, I must be respectful, law abiding and sometimes yield the right-of-way. And I will be held accountable for doing so.


How do we hold the individual accountable while noting that the society which creates the context for the event, [perhaps] needs to change?”

By instilling values of human decency. By teaching the difference between right and wrong. And yes, there IS a difference. Sometimes, we can justify and rationalize slight variations to the rules, given certain circumstances (victims of abuse, reacting in self defense, sometimes hurt or kill their attackers; people struggling to care for their families sometimes take food or diapers without paying) .... but, I can think of no time that it is RIGHT for anyone to open gunfire on a group of people at a social function, regardless of how angry, repressed, depressed or high on drugs a person may be. Can you? Can anyone?

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?

Loving oneself is not an easy thing for anyone, JW.... whether they fall into one of the categories you've listed, or simply fit wonderfully into 'the norm'..whatever that may be (yea, I know, ever changing, and a topic for another blog {smile}). But, self respect comes from being able to think independently, form personal opinions, adopt a way of living ..... and being comfortable with the end result. The color of their skin, the size of their pants, or who they decide to go to bed with... are just tiny pieces of the puzzle of who they are as a whole. We all will dislike something about ourselves. But disliking something about ourselves ... as individuals or a society... is not permission to impose that "dislike" on others. Can we truly take on the onus of teaching someone to love themself? I prefer to think that we can try to instill in people the desire to think about what behaviors and qualities they feel are truly important, and to ADOPT those beliefs into the way they live their lives. In doing so, I believe more people could learn to love more about themselves.


In other words, if you are devalued is it easy to value others, or more consistent to give what you get?

Well, the answer to this question seems rather apparent, JW. Of course its easier to grow up thinking poorly of yourself, if that is all you've ever known....and in turn, be consistent in giving what you get. There lies one of the biggest problems we face in society today. I call it the "Its how its always been done in my family" syndrome. But there comes a time in everyone's life when they MUST begin to think for themself. I have known MANY who have come from severly abusive, horrible childhoods, who, when it was their turn to "think for themselves", decided NOT to do what they'd been shown....but to do it differently.... to make CHANGES.

I think its a little bit of a cop-out for us to say ... "its all they ever known, so is it fair for us to condemn them for it". Life is full of choices, and most are DAMNED HARD to make, especially those that require you to vary from "your" status quo ..... whatever that may be. But..... I simply won't buy into "they didn't know any better" or "Its how they think you act in those situations"..... given the violence you described in the original posting.

Sorry ..... but that simply doesn't wash for me. I don't care who you are, or what you've been through in your life, pulling out a gun and shooting randomly into a crowd is WRONG, and there are simply no excuses.

Perhaps there is a shade of intolerance in that last statement, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

I must now move on to my "routine" of washing dishes and grocery shopping, JW ..... but thanks for giving me time to "think" and share on some really insightful topics this morning.

Take Care!
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