Things We Read About Newtown

These are some interesting things we read relating to the tragedy in Newtown. Their inclusion here represents not our endorsement of any or all the ideas contained within each story, but simply that these pieces contain ideas that are possibly worthy of discussion or thought — that part, of course, is up to you.

Gender, Family Life, and Gun-Fueled Mass Murder, by Ann M. Little for Historiann - “…what I’m proposing is that a large part of the toxic culture of white/privileged masculinity is fed by parental permissiveness, so that what privileged boys learn as they grow up is that there are no limits or boundaries which they must respect.  Little boys are permitted to be more destructive in their play and in their relationships with others than little girls are.” 

Why Most Mass Murderers Are Privileged White Men, by Hugo Schwyzer for Role/Reboot“It’s not that white men are guaranteed preferential treatment in every setting. It’s that white men are raised to expect to be welcomed wherever they go. When they find that that automatic welcome isn’t forthcoming, they tend to be indignant…. While each killer had a unique pathology that helped drive him to do the unthinkable, the fact that these white male mass murderers felt so confident choosing public spaces to commit their crimes reflects a powerful truth about the culture in which they were raised. Put simply, they did what they did because of an individual sickness—but they did it where they did it in part because of white privilege.”

I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother, by Liza Long for The Blue Review -“When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.”

You Are Not Adam Lanza’s Mother, via The Girl Who Was Thursday“By reducing ‘mental illness’ to ‘outward behaviour’ the article dehumanises the mentally ill and completely glosses over the inner mental life and experiences of those with mental illness.”

Guns, Parents, and Sandy Hook: Time To Take The Bullet, by Andrew Cohen for The Atlantic“Whatever else it means, Friday’s tragedy is just another awful reminder of the disconnect that exists in America between the lengths to which we as parents (and teachers and school administrators) are always willing to sacrifice for our children when the bullets are flying and what we all are always unwilling to sacrifice for our children when the guns go silent.”

Newtown, Drones, American Militarism, and Peace, by Robert Wolfe for Wolf & Eagle -  “If [Obama is] serious about taking ‘meaningful action’, I submit that he needs to begin by withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, staunchly advocating the dramatic reduction of the US military budget, and proposing to channel the surplus into public education, healthcare, renewable energy, and all the other services that could rebuild a fractured and alienated social fabric.”

Why Did Nancy Lanza Love Guns?, by Porochista Khakpour for Slate.com - “…even a sweet Connecticut housewife and mother, or a literary geek like me, can get swept up in the false power of guns. It’s time to realize what much of gun-loving actually is—a passion for destruction veiled as protection.”

Today, Enough, by Roxanne Gay for The Rumpus - “We are struggling to make sense. We are crying out for change, for a mental health care system that can truly help the people who soothe their inner torment by reaching for weapons of such destruction. We are crying out for gun control laws that, at the very least, make it more difficult for such tragedies to occur. We are sick with grief and smallness and fragility.”

The Gun Control That Works: No Guns, by Lexington for The Economist - “As for the National Rifle Association bumper stickers arguing that only an armed citizenry can prevent tyranny, I wonder if that isn’t a form of narcissism, involving the belief that lone, heroic individuals will have the ability to identify tyranny as it descends, recognise it for what it is, and fight back. There is also the small matter that I don’t think America is remotely close to becoming a tyranny, and to suggest that it is is both irrational and a bit offensive to people who actually do live under tyrannical rule.”

To The Media Covering Newtown, by Mama By the Bay for BlogHer“They will remember you. They will remember feeling violated by you. Their parents will regret that the veil of shock blurred their vision enough to allow you to interview their children.”

Battleground America: One Nation Under The Gun, by Jill Lepore for The New Yorker (from April 2012) – “The firearms used by a well-regulated militia, at the time the Second Amendment was written, were mostly long arms that, like a smaller stockpile of pistols, could discharge only once before they had to be reloaded. In size, speed, efficiency, capacity, and sleekness, the difference between an eighteenth-century musket and the gun that George Zimmerman was carrying is roughly the difference between the first laptop computer—which, not counting the external modem and the battery pack, weighed twenty-four pounds—and an iPhone.”

The National Conversation In The Wake of Littleton Is Missing the Mark, by Jackson Katz and Sut Jhally for The Boston Globe (May 1999) – “The issue is not just violence in the media but the construction of violent masculinity as a cultural norm. From rock and rap music and videos, Hollywood action films, professional and college sports, the culture produces a stream of images of violent, abusive men and promotes characteristics such as dominance, power, and control as means of establishing or maintaining manhood.”


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55 Comments

  1. Thumb up 5

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    Thank you for including a rebuttal to Liza Long’s article! I’ve been looking for one. No one seems to believe me when I say that hers is just… gross… not to mention, going through the rest of her blog, it really seems like she abuses her kids.

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    I love this comment from the Lexington article in The Economist:

    “There is also the small matter that I don’t think America is remotely close to becoming a tyranny, and to suggest that it is is both irrational and a bit offensive to people who actually do live under tyrannical rule.”

    As a Brit living in the US, I find it quite frightening how many people have guns, and ludicrous that the Second Amendment is still in place when the social and political climate has changed so drastically since the late 1700s when the Constitution was written. Could the US government suddenly turn into a tyranny when the law-making process here is so slow and drawn out? Would every state have to vote on whether or not to accept the tyrannical government? Please! I wasn’t born yesterday.

    I honestly do not see any reason why people would want to have guns, other than to commit acts of violence.

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      I resectfully disagree. I am appalled by this senseless act of violence and mourn for the loss of the families of the children and other victims but not every person with a gun is out to commit an act of violence. I was raised in a family that has always have guns around for hunting and sport. I have had a bb gun for as long as I remember and I got my first shotgun when I was twelve. My family taught me gun safety and responsibility. There is not a member of my family that would dream of acting violently on another human being. While I don’t think that we should all carry around guns by a long stretch, I do think it is unfair to group all gun owners together.

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          Believing that hunting is okay does not mean that you support cruelty to animals. There’s a difference between someone hurting a cat or dog for no reason and someone killing a deer that they plan to eat, especially when so many states like my home state of MI have an overpopulation of deer that mostly just serve to cause road accidents and spread Lyme disease and they need hunters to help control that population. Let’s not play this game.

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          Regardless of the justification or the spin you put on hunting, it is still committing an act of violence on an animal. Apart perhaps from the tiny minority who collect guns for historical purposes (e.g. for a museum), people have guns to shoot and kill things — hence my original statement.

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          I don’t think it’s fair to say that I’m “spinning” anything; what I’m trying to say is simply that this issue is a lot more complicated than “violence is bad and killing anything is violence so it should be bad to kill anything.” I appreciate the perspective that you bring as someone from a country with greater gun control and where it works (something a lot of pro-gun lobbyists in the U.S. would like us to forget), but I do think that a better understanding of the history of the gun control debate in the U.S. would be helpful here.

          I don’t hunt and I don’t see why I’d want to kill anything for sport. But I eat meat, most of which is killed much more inhumanely than the way that hunters kill deer. Is it really my place to condemn them? At least someone who kills and then prepares meat is engaging with how it happens directly, whereas I’m able to be blissfully spared the gory details of how that steak or chicken came onto my plate. Even if you don’t eat meat or use any animal products, you probably profit off of the slavelike labor of other humans in some other country with awful working conditions that makes consumer goods. You probably have killed a bug before.

          Anyway, I really think talking about weapons that are used to hunt is a moot point anyway. Those are not the types of weapons that were involved in these killings or in the similar ones that have been all over the U.S. recently. These were assault weapons. They are designed SPECIFICALLY to mow down a bunch of humans. I don’t know much about guns or hunting but I do know that is a lot harder to do what Adam Lanza did in Connecticut, or what happened in Aurora or Oregon or Wisconsin or Columbine or Virginia Tech, with a hunting rifle that’s only designed to kill one deer at a time.

          The problem with the U.S. gun control debate is that the pro-gun lobby has made it so that even the most basic, minimum for reasonable society types of restrictions of gun ownership are seen as a stepping stone to taking away everyone’s guns. I’ve had gun owners ignorantly lecture me about how it’s “silly” for me to vote based on abortion (even though it’s not the only issue I vote based on, but w/e) because “Roe v. Wade won’t be overturned” while they slavishly vote Republican every election cycle over fear that the Second Amendment will be completely overturned. An overturn of Roe is way, way more likely than that anyone is going to go after their hunting rifles, and the overturn isn’t the point because the fact is that it’s way way easier right now for legislators to restrict my abortion rights into oblivion and yet they won’t keep someone like Adam Lanza from getting his hands on a semi-automatic.

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        I agree with you somewhat. I was also raised in a culture of hunting, and I see nothing wrong with certain types of hunting weapons. But the types of weapons that are being used in tragedies like this? Why do we need them? A gun that holds 30 bullets in a clip? No hunter needs that many bullets.

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      I can sympathize. As an American who spent two years living in London, I still remember my first introduction to the culture of British gun violence. A few months after arriving, there was a shooting in London. It was on the national news for weeks. Not a massacre, not a horrific act of family violence, not a shoot out with multiple weapons, just one person shooting another. Having come from the DC area where shootings were reported almost daily (this was the late 90s/early 2000s, things are better now) and were mostly minor events mentioned at the end of the news rather than headliners I was astounded.

      I don’t mean to minimize the killing – it was horrible. But it was honestly the first time that it really dawned on me that shootings aren’t an inevitable part of life. It is possible to live without fear of gun violence. I still miss that feeling – no matter how rough the neighborhood I was in got, I knew, with near certainty, that I would not get shot. Mugged, maybe, there was still crime, but not with a gun.

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        wow it never occurred to me that people lived in a world without gun violence, i think i assumed that in places where they weren’t legal, there would always be lots of people getting them illegally

        • Thumb up 4

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          There is still gun violence. People are still shot. And primarily by illegally held weapons. I have had a gun pointed at me, that went click (I am still unsure if it was a misfire or not) and a security guard was shot in the leg.

          All that being said. The numbers of gun related deaths is much much lower here. Most violence is lower risk, e.g. knife crime. Shootings make national news.

          I do not walk the streets terrified of guns (although other things do scare me, lone female alone and all that).

          When I see police officers with guns (e.g. at airports, or when the armed police responded to the shooting I was at) it makes me feel scared rather than safe.

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          Wait really? That’s actually mind blowing from the opposite standpoint. I’ve never worried about getting a gun pulled on me. ever. Knives, maybe but never a gun ever.

          The worst I’ve got ever is projectile gingerbread man… May be different if i were from not-a-reasonably-small town…

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        The biggest gun-violence related story here I can remember was a bikie gang member firing a couple of shots into a cafe – no one was hurt but it was front page news for days. Its similar when a few shots are fired at a house or a car, and I’m in a decent sized capital city.

        I’ve never personally known a person in an urban area to own a gun. I find it completely unfathomable that there are people opposed to tighter control of guns (or at the military-style weapons at the very least). We aren’t a crime free town by any stretch, but worrying about being shot is one experience so far from my reality that I cant imagine it.

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      In the United States, there seems to be this hero-worship of the Founding Fathers, and since so much of this is done by conservatives with really warped ideas of who they were (for example, recasting them as devout fundamentalist Christians when, like most Enlightenment-era intellectuals, most of them were deists or at least skeptical of organized religion’s influence) that progressives often turn to debunking those myths rather than acting whether we should be lionizing these people from a totally different world 200 years ago at all. If anything, I would argue that the founders recognized that the 2012 world would not be the 1787 world and wanted our Constitution to change with the times, or else they wouldn’t have given us the power to amend things.

      Anyway, so that’s why there are still things in there that better reflect the world of 1787, like the Second Amendment. It was clearly designed for a time when weapons were way less powerful than they are now, and from what I see the point of it was to allow Americans to organize militias to defend their country against a possible British invasion – not to allow people to take arms up against a tyrannical government. Even if it was for the latter purpose, even the deadliest assault weapons are not going to stand a chance against the U.S. military, which, you know, has nukes, tanks, drones, and all number of other horrors that are (thankfully) completely inaccessible to civilians.

      But the Second Amendment isn’t the only thing in there that is accurate to 1787 but woefully inadequate for our modern world, that probably should be updated. I would say the idea that every state should have the same number of Senators and that the Electoral College is divvied up based on Senators + Representatives, is another thing that needs to be addressed, as it’s clearly designed for a world where the difference between the most and least populated states is much smaller than it is now. I’m sure if you peruse the Constitution there are others. Just because the First Amendment and the ones about rights of criminals have turned out to be pretty timeless doesn’t mean they all are. I would say that the Fourth Amendment could also due to be expanded with the advent of the Internet.

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    http://inthesetimes.com/duly-noted/entry/14322/on_being_or_not_being_adam_lanzas_mother

    This is the best response I’ve seen to the responses to the original article and I hope people just stop. And stop accusing the mother of child abuse (seriously, what the fuck, if parents aren’t allowed to use hyperbole when their children are being intensely annoying, then who gets to use hyperbole?) I think the abuse idea comes from the fact that she ranted about her children misbehaving in the car and said something like “I love you but I want to throttle you.” Not to the child, to her pseudonymous mommy blog. And also her child was in pain on the way DOWN A MOUNTAIN when they were hiking and people are mad she didn’t stop. You can’t turn around, you’re already heading back. Not going back is not an option. (Reading comprehension is horrific these days).

    Read the entire blog in depth if you really want the background. She sounds like a great mom who really cares about her kids and has had to deal with some really awful shit. And I think it’s so amazing that a bunch of NON-MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS get to decide that she’s abusing her child by…taking him to the doctor? Getting him medicated (remember, he’s threatened to kill her and pulled a knife on her)? Putting him in the hospital when he threatens to kill himself? Most likely, following their doctor’s advice?

    She’s a mom who is trying to get all her family to survive and when someone is going to kill you or themselves, you have to take action.

    Okay I really hope I never have to talk about this again.

    (I’m not saying I agree with everything she said and every point she made in her BLOG POST, not article. But stop accusing this woman of abuse/neglect/being the world’s shittiest parent).

    • Thumb up 1

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      THIS!!!!!! How about we try walking a mile in her shoes. Plus, at least she is trying to take action and trying to raise her kids. There are parents out there who are truly neglectful; she is not perfect but that’s not the point of being a parent.

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      I agree with you. People are very quick to judge, and to judge harshly. The parent often has very scarce resources to deal with a difficult, mentally ill child and after being failed by a broken healthcare system, lack of funds, and shoddy facilities, they are the first to be blamed for whatever goes wrong
      Unless you’ve personally experienced mental illness or what it is like to live with someone with mental illness, it is unlikely you have enough knowledge to make these quick judgements. The issue is often much more complex.

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        A lot of us who critizied the article currently live with mental illnesses, whether directly or through a family member – which is WHY we found the article so angry-making. She’s drawing loose correlations between various diagnoses and their potential for violence – when really those with mental illnesses are more likely to be *victims* of violent crime.

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      Yeah, I don’t agree with everything in the original post, but accusing her of being a bad mom is ridiculous. She’s clearly in a difficult situation and doing the best she can. And people looking to what SHE’S doing “wrong” are missing the point of that post – which is that, she’s getting next to no help from the “system.” She was even told by the system that her son essentially has to do something bad enough to get into jail first and THEN they’ll look into it. That’s a broken system, and that has nothing to do with her own parenting skills.

      I also get frustrated when people start talking about overmedicating when we’re talking about actual psychological medications. This may just be my experience, but from what I’ve seen psychiatrists are actually a bit hesitant to prescribe medications and prefer to see if problems can be worked out in therapy first (unless they’re so severe that it’s obvious they can’t). And when you think about it, that makes perfect sense; those medications have bad side effects and psychiatrists don’t want to put themselves at risk of a malpractice suit. I only went on anti-depressants at my own urging, and the first dose I got was too high and resulted in me not wanting to get my homework done or do anything except lay in bed and play computer games. I eventually got on a lower dose, but I had to deal with a ton of fall-out for those few weeks when I was on too much of the medication – and this was just a standard, common anti-depressant, I’m sure the stakes are even higher when it comes to the stuff that that author’s son is taking.

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        BY “actual psychological medications” I mean legit stuff that is prescribed, not the weird fake shit that the anti-vax, “indigo child” people use – I do think that people like Jenny McCarthy deserve all the scrutiny in the world for “overmedicating” but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

        What’s funny is that, for all the worries about that in the backlash, there were a million and one comments in the original article saying stuff like “I bet he just has a gluten allergy! Get him on a raw food diet!” or “Buy this miracle snake oil it improved my daughter’s life!” from people who apparently reserve so much “skepticism” for legitimate medications and their effects. Like “overmedicating” with that crap is really that much better…

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    As a non-American fascinated by US politics, the New Yorker article including the historical trajectory of interpretations of the Second Amendment was very interesting.

    I genuinely cannot imagine feeling like I have to carry a gun in order to feel safe, or to defend myself from any potential threat. It seems like a societal failure. Of course, my opinions come from living in a place where gun crime is almost non-existant, so I am somewhat biased.

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      “I genuinely cannot imagine feeling like I have to carry a gun in order to feel safe, or to defend myself from any potential threat. It seems like a societal failure. Of course, my opinions come from living in a place where gun crime is almost non-existant, so I am somewhat biased.”

      This is exactly how i feel. However many of our own problems we have in the UK, where i live, guns isn’t one of them. Maybe that’s the reason i find the idea of carrying one completely insane and terrifying. I understand people owning them in rural areas for hunting, but the concept of what seems to be a lot of average people having several guns and many rounds of ammunition in their possession just scares me. I’m not saying everyone has got them with the intent of ever even using them but it just mystifies me why anyone would want weapons used for killing in their home and the homes around them in the first place.

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      Yes, that New Yorker Article is great! I’m an American living abroad, and I’ve passed that article to many people to help them understand the American gun issue.
      It’s worth remembering that the majority of people in the US are NOT carrying guns with them in order to feel safe. I can’t think of a single person I know who carries a weapon for self defense. The people I know who own guns own them for hunting and sports shooting. In my experience, non-American’s ideas of who is carrying guns on the US and why are pretty far removed from reality.
      (Which is not to say that I don’t think we have a gun control problem in the US–we absolutely do).

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      You read my mind, Rose. I hope this does not bring negative awareness to the autism community as a whole. I would rather see more attention on mental health. The autism spectrum has it’s place in the mental health sphere, but it would be foolish to direct a laser-like focus on it as the cause of this tragedy when we need to look at the broader issue(s).

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        Yeah, I would like better mental health care, too, but I do think we need to be careful that it’s done in a way that doesn’t stigmatize or infringe on the freedoms of people with mental health issues, especially with issues that actually have no connection to increased violence, like Aspergers. Some of the rhetoric I’ve been hearing surrounding mental health the past few days is alarming.

        I heard that some hack psychologist last night was on Piers Morgan talking about how people with Aspergers lack empathy. That is not even remotely the case (people on the spectrum might have trouble EXPRESSING that empathy, but if anything, people on the spectrum tend to be more empathetic than the average – stories of Aspie/autistic kids weeping over a dead bug are common) but it troubles me that the media is quicker to give a platform to some asshole like that who is spouting popular but harmful myths, than a real expert or even better yet, someone who is actually on the spectrum themselves. That’s been a huge problem in the autism community for a while (groups like Autism Speaks being run by neurotypical parents and relatives and scaremongering about autism, and doing next to nothing for autistic adults or anyone who isn’t extremely “low-functioning”) but I’m really worried about how a high-profile negative association like this could make it worse.

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      At this point, I take anything claiming he had Aspergers or some mental illness with a massive grain of salt. It’s going to be a while before we really know anything and people making an armchair diagnosis really don’t help. So far all I’ve seen is people saying other people told them Lanza had Aspergers and that’s not very convincing to me especially in situations like this where it seems like people always jump to conclusions about what mental illnesses the person might have had.

      http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/adam-lanza-aspergers-and-a-misleading-connection-with-violence/

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          Something “official” would suggest that confidential patient information had been released, which would be a serious breach of medical protocol. I think all the diagnoses being tossed around in the media are speculation from armchair psychologists.

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    Idk what the best way of handling this is, but while I do find the Hugo Schwyzer article interesting and worth the read, I feel super hesitant re:giving that asshole more street cred and traffic. Thoughts?

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      I agree with you. Knowing his history and not really wanting him to be a voice for feminism, I still had a lot of difficulty finding a basic reading list from both male and female feminists to send to a male friend, and ended up sending him a link to an article by Schwyzer anyway. He does have make some good points with certain regularity, but he is not alone in pointing out that the vast majority of these attacks are committed by men and questioning what in the way our society treats men and boys has influenced that.

      For anyone not appraised of it: Schywzer had a string of manipulative relationships with some of his female students and attempted to murder his girlfriend as part of a suicide attempt. He had a big road to Damascus moment and reformed after that, but some bloggers have been concerned about a man with his history becoming a voice for feminism.

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      There are lots of people who have committed heinous acts, and lots of people that I personally don’t agree with. But when they say something interesting or important, I try to listen (as much as my prejudices will let me). Even if I don’t agree right off the bat, ignoring the conversation would only keep me out of the loop.

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        I agree with you that people can change, but I think part of the problem is the way he reported that change; I read the article, and it was pretty much all about HIS personal road to redemption and treated his victim and her family’s attempts to bring him to justice as just as an obstacle to his redemption arc. There’s also the larger question of should we be elevating the voices of a reformed abuser over the voices of actual abuse victims. Hugo Schwyzer has benefited a lot from the glass elevator and that’s particularly troubling in light of his history.

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          Yeah, let me try to see if I can find it. Hugo took it off his blog when he started getting flack for it, but I think it’s been re-posted elsewhere.

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          I wasn’t implying he changed- simply that it might be worth listening to some things he has to say (and by no means all of them.) And I’m a little confused as to which article you’re referring: I just read the one linked to in this post (“Why Most Mass Murderers are Privileged White Men”) and there’s nothing in there about his personal road to redemption.

          I know he’s published things about his own personal road to redemption in the past, but those weren’t the things I said were interesting, important, or that I would listen to- I was responding specifically to A.’s dilemma in wanting to see what he had to say on the topic but not wanting to give him more web traffic. That was the point I was making: that simply because he may be a voice not worth listening to on some topics doesn’t necessarily make him a voice not worth listening to on all topics.

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          http://blackfemlens.blogspot.com/

          this article is an interesting take on the topic, written by a woc.

          tim wise’s article is a good read as well.

          also, i’m under the impression that everything should be read with a critical eye. that doesn’t mean don’t read it if you’re interested. that just means do your research.

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          “also, i’m under the impression that everything should be read with a critical eye. that doesn’t mean don’t read it if you’re interested. that just means do your research.”

          yeah, pretty much this – that’s why one of my favorite quotes is this one from Aristotle: “The mark of an educated mind is the ability to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

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          I’m talking about the article where he admitted to attempting a murder-suicide of his ex-girlfriend back when he was a drug addict/alcoholic and hadn’t found feminism or Jesus yet.

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    A couple of slightly off topic thoughts:

    1. I feel like humor can help the healing process because it has a way of forcing us to shine a lot on the dark place we are afraid to tread and perhaps pull the curtain back on our own foibles we would rather ignore. The uncomfortable rub is what makes us laugh. Where does it fit in this context?

    2. I remember sitting in a restaurant Friday afternoon watching the coverage. This was the first time I heard about what happened. I was blissfully ignorant up until that point because I was walking dogs all day. Anyway, I was so disgusted by the media shoving their cameras in the faces of the parents and children and the helicopters flying overhead trying to get a shot of the action. And they went on and on and on and on. A totally lack of disrespect for the gravity of the situation. My friend called them vultures. I said that vultures have an important job and they only come when needed. I heart turkey vultures. The same cannot always be said about the media. Mosquitoes.

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    I’d like to add to the reading list this opinion piece written by a former Prime Minister of Australia, conservative John Howard. It shows that being Conservative does not have to mean being a gun nut. He showed how to make it a bipartisan issue. I think that he should go to America and talk to Obama.

    While the exact same approach wouldn’t work in America, I think Howard should talk to Obama about how he was able to get it through parliament and how he pulled all the states Premiers and Chief Ministers together at one meeting. Maybe the best plan is to get all the Governors together like John Howard did with the Premiers and Chief Ministers. Get them all together in a room. Obviously having 8 leaders is a lot less that 50, but I think it was a good approach.

    http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/brothers-in-arms-yes-but-the-us-needs-to-get-rid-of-its-guns-20120731-23ct7.html

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