I think Stuart uncovered the deeper issues underlying the American man’s propensity towards anger, aggression, and violence. I’m copying his comment (and the follow-up comments) here in order to think about and digest his assessment more fully.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
There’s a gender component, a racial component, but also a cultural component to this, in my view. These things do happen in other countries, but nowhere near as regularly. It’s hard to pinpoint, and I can’t claim to have an answer, but as someone from a different culture (the UK) I often notice a strong vindictive streak in some people from the US. It seems to correlate more with right wing, authoritarian types, often from religious backgrounds. It’s like a love of killing. You must see it yourself all the time, like when the police shoot someone there’s a whole barrage of people saying “but he didn’t do what he was told”, as if that’s some kind of justification. Do as you’re told, or you deserve death.
I hear this from women as well as men, even if it doesn’t spill over into mass killings perpetrated by women, there’s still an underlying issue that affects attitudes across the board. If someone commits a real crime, an horrific crime, there’s more of a clamour for vengeance than justice. People relishing the idea of prison rape as a punishment, people wishing they could themselves commit horrific acts against the criminal, seemingly oblivious to how similar this makes them to the person who they’re wanting to hurt. The difference, in their minds, is that they feel justified, as if being a criminal makes you fair game for them to unleash the beast inside themselves that’s just waiting for the moment to strike. They don’t seemingly even consider that the criminal, for whatever twisted reasons of their own, might have felt justified too, and that feeling justified therefore is not a good metric for murderous or vicious acts.
I had a discussion just the other week with a few people after that cop shot a black man who she (allegedly) thought was in her apartment, and killed him, in what turned out to be his own apartment. Several apparently “normal” people thought it was perfectly fine that if you walk into your house and find someone you don’t know sitting on your sofa, who you believe shouldn’t be there, to kill them. Why? Because you don’t know their intentions… and you shouldn’t have to wait to find out. Just shoot them.
To me, this looks like a psychosis. Be they incels, Nazis, cops, or just regular Joe’s walking down the street, there are millions, maybe tens of millions of people walking around with a bubbling anger inside of them, just waiting for a “justifiable” situation to happen so they can strike and take a life.
Could it be entitlement… I don’t know, I think it goes deeper than that. History teaches us that whenever people feel most superior they become capable of extreme cruelty. Certainly, the history of the US shows it is a country built on genocide, colonialism and slavery, justified at the time with the idea of white supremacy. Despite its recent resurgence, fewer people today espouse such views explicitly. Yet, American exceptionalism remains part of everyday discourse. The idea that, despite mountains of factual data to the contrary, the USA is the “best” country in the world, and that “God” made it so.
If the wealth (some portion of) the US enjoys is a blessing from God, rather than the result of years of neoliberal, neocolonialist exploitation and interference in the affairs of other nations, then it follows that those “less fortunate” are somehow deserving and to blame for their plight.
This pious indifference to the needs of other human beings creates compassionless, shallow and bigoted people. It’s the root of fascism, or at the very least it creates an environment in which fascism can flourish. Combine this with the rampant cult of individualism, which pours scorn on viewing humanity as a collective, a society, a community, and you have what seems to me to be the right conditions for this perfect storm of hatred and murder, which yes, finds its expression easiest in the minds of white men.
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I followed up with this comment:
Stuart Round – Your assessment of the situation here in the US rings true to me and I am grateful to have come across it since it is something I’ve been struggling to identify for many years myself.
I think you’ve successfully uncovered the deeper issues that are unique to American men, particularly to those who have a proclivity towards anger, resentment, and violent acts of revenge (even if those acts are expressed verbally, but thankfully, not acted upon).
As I see it, one of the major problems for many non-immigrant people in the US, is a fundamental lack of connection to family, tradition, and our own forgotten cultural roots lost in the drive to pursue happiness and to create a government of, by, and for the people that we still call Democracy, even in its current abysmal state.
By prioritizing one’s individuality and personal success over cultivating shared values and strong community ties, the pain of disconnection takes its toll in countless ways, often resulting in hate and violence towards others.
I appreciate your point that in other societies where many of the same problems are present, there does not exist a similar epidemic of violence, even where lax gun laws exist.
Our efforts to uncover the deeper cultural differences are critical to solving the problem, and I agree, gun control would clearly go a long way towards making these acts harder to commit.
However, while there are far too many aggressive, self-righteous, angry people in the US who choose to live by principles of entitlement, there are also loads of US citizens who do not desire to own weapons or to use them in rampages of violence, but rather wish to put gun control in place, and find ways to build a country based on kindness and unity.
Again, I am grateful to have come across your words today. May I share your excellent comment/assessment with friends, colleagues and change-makers to discuss? It brings important observations to the table.
May your day be bright. GS