Male Illness not Mental Illness

A better ImageAnother unarmed man shot for being black and having something in his hands.  Again, police feeling threatened and ending a life with no proof or cause.

#StephonClark #SayHisName

The problem is guns. It’s not about good guys or bad guys.  It’s not about “rights”.  It’s not about safety.  It’s not even completely about race. Human beings cannot be trusted with the power over life and death.  We don’t understand what we’re doing.  Yet we have this power.  We have the power through mechanical means to end each other’s lives in an instant and we have the power through biological means to begin life.  At both ends of this spectrum, we literally and figuratively f**k it up.

But the problem with guns is that they are the phalluses of the American mentality and frankly, no one (including many women) wants to give up their dick.  The more I have to process the issues of life and death as a religious professional in the United States, the more I’m convinced that the problem is and will always be male identity and the way men are socialized to believe that we are somehow the ones responsible for who lives and who dies.  The core of the sickness of toxic masculinity is the confusion we (primarily male cisgender beings) are taught about our power based on our physical strength and our sexual anatomy and potency.  We are taught by socialization and by the history we are shown, that it is desirable to be the “winner” at all costs; we must be dominant or project dominance in some way or we have lost.  Our history books are overwhelmingly about war and conflict (physical, geographical, political, financial and now technological) and those wars are usually named for the winners.  What is more shocking is that we are taught that unhindered access to sexual pleasure (including rape) is a natural consequence or “prize” of war. Sick.

If you “win” on Wall Street, you can pay for and pay off any sexual partner you desire.  If you “win” in terms of land ownership or turf conquest, you get all the sex partners that come with it.  If you “win” in technology, you can “get the girl” even though you are a complete nerd.  The president of the United States even said this in the Access Hollywood tape “when you’re a star [a winner] they let you do it. You can do anything*.”  And he “won” our election. 

*In truth, they don’t let you do anything, he just learned to ignore them resisting in horror and disgust.

Guns are the physical symbol of this brutal masculinity.  In our current equation, having a gun says that the person with that gun has more power because they can end your life.  So everyone should have a gun and by reasonable assessment, if everyone has a gun, no one will want to use it right?  Wrong. The playground rules of male identity say that everyone having a gun means that when one person in the toxic equation sees that yours is even a little bigger or more powerful or can shoot farther than theirs, they are probably going to try to get rid of you first so they can “win”.  “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” turns into our current reality of endless school shootings, relentless fatal drug related and gang violence, domestic abuse that belies any civilized society and Stephon Clark being shot dead in his grandmother’s yard by police because they felt threatened by a cellphone.  In the most twisted way, everyone is trying to come out on top in their mind.  If you wonder why so many of the mass shooters are young white men, if you wonder why the violent drug trade in this country is overwhelmingly male dominated, if you wonder why there can even be a Martin Shkreli or a Brock Turner or a Donald Trump for that matter, don’t interrogate their “mental illness” interrogate their male illness first.

The problem is guns, and the problem is guns because they represent weaponized masculinity. God help us that we learn a different way to embody maleness because we will not fix our gun problem until we fix our guy problem first.

Speaking Our Truth

Trump DACA Tweet

I encourage you to look at the replies to this tweet and then listen to my sermon from February 4.  One could say that Trump has opened the floodgates to uncivil discourse, or one could say that he has tapped into something that has been bubbling under the surface for a long time.  Regardless, the use of social media as a platform for angry, caustic bullying and self-righteous screeds is all of our responsibility.  Do we want to see change, or do we want to just shout into the wind.  It is clear to me as I watch not only responses to Trump Tweets (Twumps?) devolve into utter stupidity, but as I watch other issues in other settings become places of polarization and defensiveness.

A few years ago I wrote another blog post called Too Quick to Covenant.  I take the idea of “covenant” very seriously and I believe that for Unitarian Universalists how we use them can be a safeguard against abusing one another, particularly in media where we all have the ability to be faceless bullies.  I am convinced that if we want to see a return to a world where we can disagree and work toward productive ends without demeaning slogans and petty name calling, we can do it.  The goal isn’t one-upmanship, the goal is building a world in which we all feel safe and invested.

Trump is a champion of one way communication.  It doesn’t work.  We have to have the capacity to actually listen before we can really speak any kind of truth.

Speaking Our Truth – Text