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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

First, My Last Word

You know that I've written about gun control over and over again, making many points from history and from the present.  This will be my last.  I'm so profoundly tired that I'm declaring it a dead end for me and giving up the cause to others.  But first a couple of thoughts that need more thought.  I simply can't ignore two incidents in two days that killed 31 people and injured dozens more, some of whom doubtless will be incapacitated for the rest of their lives. 


I'll leave it to the many other writers to talk about the plethora of pistols and the "sic 'em" dog-whistling from the White House that encourages mass murder.  But first these facts:  Experts define "mass shooting" as four or more fatalities, and you may have seen the stats flooding the internet, telling us that the Dayton terrorism marked the 251 mass shooting THIS YEAR.  As of August 4, that is.  That's almost one mass shooting a day. 


And yes, this is indeed terrorism -- domestic terrorism by people whose primary purpose is to make themselves feel powerful, even if they die in the cause.  Yet a few months ago, our president proposed eliminating the division of the Department of Homeland Security that deals with domestic terrorism.  Not a problem, right?  No need for attention to hundreds of deaths at the hands of guns held by dozens of homegrown white men.


The "don't look, don't see" people in the Trump administration also revoked the Obama-era regulation that – very sensibly – provided that people who claim mental illness as the reason that they are entitled to money from SSI are axiomatically ineligible to buy guns.  Yet you haven't heard much about this revocation since his speechwriters switched the emphasis from guns to mental illness, have you?


Painful Questions


Lots of people are making those points, though, and I want to dig a little deeper.  Specifically, when are we going to recognize that this is a problem almost exclusively limited to men, usually white and young?  I remember Steve Otto -- a friend, former Trib columnist and all-around good guy -- being shocked when I said this to him a couple of decades ago.  It repeatedly has been proven true, yet almost no one talks in terms of gender and mass murder.  Policymakers rarely factor maleness into their equations, yet something seems to be seriously wrong with the way we are raising boys.  That needs attention from parents, teachers, and psychologists.  Please, let's have no more sweeping this reality under the rug.  Men kill much more than women; why is that?  That is THE question.


Certainly today's access to affordable weapons makes a huge and negative difference -- but we also need sociological and historical studies to try to determine if unreasoned violence has ever been typical with those who have surging testosterone, or if there's something new going on now.  It could be that we sent these guys off to war to work out their frustrations in the past, but today's professional army doesn't accept hotheads.  If you look closely at the profiles of these murderers, they all are proudly paramilitary, never leftists or peaceniks.  Despite their seeming commitment to the military, however, most lack the ability to accept the discipline that profession demands.  What could we do to instill a sense of discipline, as well as a sense of decency and empathy?  Can we return to the days when men sought to be known as gentlemen?


We especially need input from psychiatrists, who can add a medical and chemical point of view to the behavioral.  We are getting better and better at treating mental illness with chemicals that supply something the body lacks – but we have yet to identify the people who would benefit from treatment.  I know this is controversial, but I'm nonetheless going to say it again:  We have known for a long time that men with an extra Y chromosome are more likely to be in prison for violent crimes, but we steadfastly ignore that knowledge.  Let's be brave enough study it.


Final Word:  The Case of John Crawford


I've forgotten which of the "Daily Kos" bloggers retold this news from 2014, but I needed the reminder and you might, too.  John Crawford was a 22-year-old black man shopping at an Ohio Wal-Mart.  He was in the sports department, talking on his cellphone and simultaneously holding a BB gun.  Most consider this to be merely a toy (as in the classic movie, "The Christmas Story," when young Ralph wants one) but some fearful Wal-Mart shopper nonetheless called 911 -- and two policemen shot Crawford dead within seconds after their arrival.  He was still on his phone, and his girlfriend, who was shopping with him, believes he did not hear their order to drop the (unloaded) BB gun. 


Do you really believe the cops would have acted so quickly if John Crawford had been white?  Both incidents were in Ohio, but our recent Daytona murderer nonetheless shot nine people dead and injured more before police shot him.  The El Paso criminal who killed even more still is alive -- and he apparently this particular Wal-Mart because many Hispanics shopped there, which gave him a better chance of killing a lot of Mexicans.  That was his stated goal, the reason why he drove hundreds of miles from his Dallas home to El Paso.  Do you think he was uninfluenced by a president who denounces Mexicans as robbers, rapists, and worse?


Law enforcement is getting more professional, but the older I get, the more I realize that "police brutality" is not just a phrase ginned up by leftists.  I guess the first time I really noticed this was back in 1968, when Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's cops beat up protestors at the Democratic National Convention.  Most of the kids were white, as were the cops, so it took a while longer for me to read enough history and come to understand the profound reasons why ethnic minorities, especially African Americans, have sound reasons to mistrust policemen.  And yes, I am deliberately using "men" in "policemen." 


The Moral Life


I "know" David Brooks from many years of reading his New York Times editorials, and especially from his Friday night commentary on "PBS Newshour."  He appears for the conservative side, while Mark Shields is dubbed the liberal.  Hubby and I watch that program religiously, and over the recent years, we have said to each other that David is getting smarter and smarter.


My nephew-in-law recently gave me his largely unread copy of David's new book, saying that he just couldn't get into it.  I suspected that I wouldn't be able to either, but I have.  It's titled The Second Mountain:  The Quest for a Moral Life, which sounds rather self-righteous to me – and self-righteousness is a main trait of many who are proud to label themselves "conservative."  However, something has happened to dent to Brooks' previously self-confident pose that virtually screamed, "Wall Street conservatives always are right." 


I suspect that the main shake-up in his thinking came because of the end of his long-term marriage.  Although it's still hard for him to say it, he finally is beginning to realize that the world needs nourishers more than hedge-fund managers and that traditionally feminine empathizers are more valuable than masculine captains of industry.  Here's a long quote from his Introduction:


"I no longer believe that the cultural and moral structures of our society are fine, and all we have to do is fix ourselves...  I have become radicalized.  I now think that the rampant individualism of our current culture is a catastrophe… The whole paradigm has to shift from the mindset of hyper-individualism…


When I look back on the errors…of my life, they tend to be failures of omission, failures to truly show up for the people I should have been close to.  They tend to be the sins of withdrawal; evasion, workaholism, conflict avoidance, failure to empathize…


I had spent my adult life in the conservative movement, but my conservatism was no longer the prevailing conservatism, so I found myself intellectually and politically unattached, too.  Much of my social life had been spent in conservative circles, and those connections drifted away.  I realized I had a lot of friendships that didn't run deep."


Thus isolated, he apparently had a lot of time to read, and perhaps the best aspect of the book so far is that he quotes a lot of other books.  More re that later.



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