Not Just a Can of Paint

I will keep this short…

There is a global pandemic…Covid-19
…also anti-black racism
…also violence against women
…also fear and isolation of disabilities.

…and more.

The United States faces its own unique epidemic…gun entitlement
…also militarized (hyper-masculinized) concepts of policing
…also health and wellness that is the national equivalent of cotton in the early 1800s.
…also an economy that relies on poverty
…and a distrust of knowledge and information.

…and more.

Together, these make for a powerfully toxic stew.  We cannot fix one, without fixing the others.  We cannot have a response for one, without a response for the others.  More police will not fix the spike in gun violence.  Fewer guns will not de-militarize policing.  Ending violence against women will not un-enslave millions from health care that wants to keep them sick and without access.  Fixing healthcare alone will not end the assault that men and the government wage physically and culturally on women’s bodies.  We have to be willing to look holistically at strategies to untangle the whole knot.

…the solutions to social discord and sickness and violence and fear is not as simple as a can of paint or choosing not to wear a mask out of self determination.

Watching a woman attempt to paint over the Black Lives Matter mural in Martinez, CA (a city I know well from my time in the Bay Area) it became crystal clear to me that we have become a culture of people who believe that we can act as solo agents with a can of paint and erase things we don’t like or don’t understand. We are both lazy while being resentful of being told what to do.  This is also why wearing a mask to prevent the spread of covid-19 is political. This is the real challenge we face in this time; the solutions to social discord and sickness and violence and fear is not as simple as a can of paint or choosing not to wear a mask out of self determination.  What is required is more intimate, more interconnected and much more time and energy consuming. What is more, the solutions cannot come from a place of rage.  The solutions we seek, have to come from a sense of shared humanity that honors difference and different perspectives, because we collectively and individually value the way our own difference is mutually respected by others.

Human beings have incredible capacity, to learn, to understand, to grow, to evolve.  It is time for us to reclaim these capabilities before we forget that we have them altogether.


…a can of paint. (Martinez, CA)


Please also read this important information from Everytown for Gun Safety about the connection between gun sales, gun violence, our response to covid-19 and public health: Gun Violence and COVID-19

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.