Thursday, May 29, 2014

What does the UCSB tragedy tell us?

Last Friday night, there was a horrible tragedy near the University of California, Santa Barbara. Lives were senselessly and tragically lost at the hands of one young man. I prefer not to use his name, because I'm tired of turning mass murderers into celebrities.

Another tragic mass murder in the United States of America.

Like many people, my first thoughts were of mental illness and gun control. If only we had better mental healthcare -- if only we had better gun control -- surely such tragedies couldn't happen. That's where my mind went first.

It's been pointed out, as the week has gone on and we've learned more, that the murderer in this case purchased his guns legally, and that he was getting lots of mental healthcare. The murderer came from a family with money, and he was getting more (and more expensive) mental healthcare than most citizens could hope for when struggling with mental illness. What does that mean?

And of course, we can ask (and should ask, I believe) if there were gun control provisions that stopped someone with mental illness from purchasing guns, would that have prevented this tragedy? In addition to shooting several people, resulting in three deaths and other injuries, the murderer also stabbed three people to death. Guns are not the only murder weapons, though undoubtedly they make mass killings more likely.

I'm in favor of better gun control laws -- meaning more strict ones. And of course I'm in favor of people having easier access to better healthcare, including mental healthcare. And while these two things (and maybe these two things together) could only help the situation, I can't honestly say that I believe it would prevent tragedies like the one that happened on Friday night.

I think the issues go much deeper.

One of my colleagues (Rev. Victoria Weinstein) wrote a post that this latest tragedy makes evident the rape culture in the United States. You can read her thought-provoking post here: "Rape Culture and the Myth of the Random Psycho".

Another colleague (Rev. Tom Schade) wrote a post about the narrative of the "mental disturbance" of misogyny being disrupted; perhaps it's not a mental disturbance but an "ideology". You can read his thought-provoking post here: "Re-Mapping the Ideological Landscape".

Rape culture and misogyny are a huge part of what's behind this tragedy. And it is completely appropriate, and even crucial, that this discussion continues and goes deeper.

I would also note, as some have pointed out, that in spite of the breath-taking misogyny of Friday's murderer, several of his victims were in fact young men. In fact, more men were murdered on Friday night than women. This isn't to minimize the misogyny of the murderer, nor to say that the rape culture isn't part of the tragedy; these were still central to the tragedy.

But I would also name the culture of violence in the United States. The rape culture is a part of that larger culture of violence, so it's not either/or. It's both. When are we going to get serious about naming and changing this? When will the United States of America say enough is enough? When will we get serious about addressing our culture of violence? I will write more on this later.