Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Another "Tragedy" and Cries of "Why?"

America’s latest mass murder unfolded in tiny Crandon, Wisconsin this past weekend and everyone is again asking, “Why?”

See “A Tiny Town, Suddenly Smaller by Seven, Mourns and Wonders, Why?” in the New York Times, or “Crandon Asks ‘Why?’” in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Why? . . . Why?

Because another jealous and angry man, with no impulse control and easy access to high-powered weaponry, decided to slaughter six unarmed individuals, that's why.

A friend, who the murderer sought out after the killings, said that Tyler Peterson was "very sorry" for what he had done. The conscience-stricken assassin then took a nap in the back of his pickup truck.

Since Peterson apparently took his own life, the media have dubbed the incident, as they so often do, a "tragedy." Despite a popular culture saturated with violence, cruelty and gore, we still seem to be surprised when real-life splatter-fests occur in our small towns, our workplaces, our homes, even our churches. And we seem to be able to handle them better if they fit a familiar tragic narrative, with no one really at fault, always neatly tucked away with “closure” and “healing.” A colleague suggested that this is the way human beings are able to make unacceptable things more bearable. That's true. But could it also be making unacceptable things more acceptable?

I believe that emphasizing the tragedy of mass murder-suicides obscures the criminal aspect of the behavior and implies the murder victims’ complicity in the act. This is especially true in cases where men kill their intimate partners, then themselves. In 1986-87, there was a series of murder-suicides in the Milwaukee area in which men killed their female partners, then killed themselves. Some of the Milwaukee Journal headlines related to these brutal murders were "Relationship ends tragically" (8/2/87); "Another tragic end to a romance" (8/14/87); and, worse yet, "Death from love" (1/29/86).

In this case, the lives of the Crandon victims should not be obscured or minimized by a “tragedy” of someone else’s criminal design.

The Crandon massacre is similar to so many, many others, virtually all perpetrated by armed men reacting to some perceived slight.

Male violence is ubiquitous. It destroys families and terrorizes communities. It is destroying the world.

Easy access to weapons of all kinds facilitate this reign of terror.

Anyone who raises these simple, obvious, empirical facts is marginalized as a nut or a "man-hater."

But until community leaders recognize these elementary facts and start discussing what can be done to curb male violence and to reduce access to lethal weapons, we will continue to be assaulted. We will continue to express “shock.” And we will continue to dither and wonder, “Why?”