Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Outrage Over Gun Violence: ADDENDUM

Media discussion compelled me to more thoughts on the mass shooting at The Pulse in Orlando Florida:

Interestingly, the very highest statistical percentages of homicides fall into these two categories: white male on white male and black male on black male. This is about power and control; mostly about which alpha (or wannabe alpha) male has power over another. I would really like to see more specific research findings on this. A friend calls this alpha male aspect “toxic masculinity.”

The specious lie is that black men, "radical Muslims," or indeed members of any minority group, in possession of guns is “the greatest danger to our society.” This is completely incorrect and always has been.

White men with guns are the greatest danger to American society, by sheer demographic numbers, not to mention the stats on gun ownership. Research from 2014 found that while black men were more likely to be homicide victims, they are half as likely to have a gun in the home as non-Hispanic whites. (

In 2010, black members of our nation represented 13% of our total population; black men represented 55% of homicide by gun. Much can be inferred from this simple data.

Shockingly, 2004 national firearms survey ( reported 48% of individual gun owners have four or more guns, and suggested about two-thirds of all guns are owned by just 20% of all gun owners. Over 6 million Americans own 10 or more guns. (

Guess which demographic is most likely to own an arsenal? What a surprise: White men are more likely own guns, and also to amass an arsenal because of societal entitlements that allow greater access.

Does all this ownership of guns constitute a well-regulated militia? Only if the “enthusiasts” are members of the police, military or National Guard. A woman retired from active military service suggested that everyone who wants to own and operate an arsenal really just needs get over themselves, needs to enlist and serve. Like that will ever happen…


The greatest challenge to our world is finding an equitable balance in which all people can have a decent life, where they needn't fear others and where anger is a rare occurrence. The anger and rage that is allowed to billow like wildfire must be checked.

I believe capitalism is greatly responsible for all of this -- or, to say it in another way, I think this is a primary failing of capitalism. If you don't tend the garden of consumers wisely—providing jobs that enable them to live and buy another day—they’ll eventually morph into a raging mob you can't control unless you have a well-regulated militia. Of course, this is just precisely how the NRA likes it; the “garrison state” butters their bread.


One of my readers expressed this in response to my blog of ___ : “… the attack on the LGBTQI community, particularly at a Latinx drag night, is an attack on alternative genders as well as the right of Latinx, people of color and whites of all genders to live or express an alternative gender. Given the shooter was not white but was American it is unclear what the racial / political dynamics of this incident were. We may never know but based on the questionable coverage it seems like a massive conflict between internal struggle with sexual orientation and external machismo and militancy.”

By way of response, I must emphatically agree.

However, most to the point for me is that people of multiple race, ethnicity, gender (alt, queer, straight, trad) and even nationality are the likely to have been the complete demographic makeup of those celebrating in The Pulse on the night of the shootings.

PEOPLE were killed or critically injured: mothers, fathers, children were killed or critically injured. I think this mass shooting attack is best defined as a crime against humanity. Really, it was our entire collective, culturally diverse and ever-evolving, beautiful society that was attacked by this shooter, who ultimately did not know or care about the humanity of any of those individuals, having (for whatever reason) objectified them all—or at least having abandoned his own humanity.  

While we can and should continue lobby with and through our identity constituencies, we must also lobby as a united front of American Citizens. Identity politics is fractured politics; equal rights and justice must be for all, no matter the demographic. To quote the old left wing anthem (from the 1880s!): “The international ideal / Unites the human race.” We need all our fragments, all our identities and cultural perspectives  to come together for this to be true.

On the main, our politics has become overly fragmented and polarized, rather than holistic. Our party system is antiquated and does not serve the collective or even the constituent voice. Suffrage has been eroded by legal dirty tricks, state by state. Party conventions used to be a forum during which a policy and program platform was built from among the delegate voices representing all various constituencies (this is how we used to be represented*); now they are merely rah-rah rallies for the nominees. Votes and consensus are socially engineered by a political elite (using the divide and conquer method) and receive plebiscitary endorsement at the polls.

I firmly believe there can be no stronger coalition for freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association, equal rights, equal justice, equal protections (such as gun control) than a united movement of diverse citizens. I think our lobby will be strongest and most fully represented from that position.

© 2016 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

*See Walter F, Mondale’s essay: “Atlantic City Revisited; The Mississipi Freedom Democratic Party and the 1964 Democratic National Convention.” This is a very important read; you find out, first hand, the convention dynamics that contributed to the Civil Rights Act and LBJ’s reelection. I contend that the kinds of compromise toward political change that took place at the 1964 and 1968 conventions can no longer happen in the party conventions of today. This link leads you to a version that includes interesting commentary in italics:

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Outrage Over Gun Violence – Asking the Wrong Questions, Reacting to the Wrong Issues

In the very short time since the mass shooting at The Pulse in Orlando, Florida, there has been renewed outrage and heated debate about gun violence, much of it vicious and based on assumptions and clues that have yet to be properly sifted and sorted. The investigation is likely to be ongoing for some time.

And yet, there are people out there who have all the answers. “Terror!” “Hate!” “Let’s Wall Ourselves Off!” “Let’s Lock Them All Up!” “Bomb Them!”  “Round them Up!” There is a flowing river of fear, hatred, and nastiness that is infecting the entire nation. Our political leaders do nothing to ease the situation, because the common denominator is a sacred cow: “MY GUNS! MY RIGHT!”

While some say “Muslims! Militant Muslims!” Others bend over backwards with “Christians! Militant Christians!” These latter cries attempt to make the point that while in this particular instance, the alleged perpetrator was a seemingly devout Muslim, there have been many more cases in which the perpetrator was a declared Christian, perhaps in a fundamentalist sect.

These two discussion trends (“MY GUNS! MY RIGHT!” and “Religious Affiliation/Militant Radicalized Extremist posing Imminent Danger”) serve only as tools to divide people, not as tools toward societal healing and reconciliation, or safety.

You can’t tell me these discussions are not intended to be ugly. There are too many people invested in the chaos the ugly discussions fuel. Money and political power are at stake. Those who have will win, at all costs. The small amount of democracy our republic yet retains hangs in the balance.

However, programmed chaos is not what I intend to discuss here; such discussion is too deep to dive into for the purposes of this essay. What I want to suggest, in these few lines, is that we need to reframe the entire discussion. We are not digging toward the heart of the issue, but talking around it, by scapegoating specific groups of people.

Fundamentally, we are afraid of what we will have to face, if indeed we really want to find solutions.

“How many gun deaths were done by __(fill in the blank)__?!”
“How many gun deaths were done by people associated with __(fill in the blank)__?!”

I believe these are the wrong questions to be asking, if indeed we want to find solutions. If they are not the wrong questions, they certainly should not be the only questions we ask. The knee-jerk reaction is always skewed toward a particular brand of religion or race, but I'm afraid the truth goes much, much deeper than this.

Here are some other questions that need to be part of this discussion:

How many gun deaths were committed by men (against women and/or children or other men)?
How many were committed by disturbed/afflicted/medicated individuals undergoing treatment?
How many were committed by militant/radicalized individuals?
How many gun deaths ended a domestic dispute?

Gun violence is very closely related to domestic and/or workplace violence – raising the issue of anger management, respect for women and children, authority figures, power struggles. Here is one statistic:

Nationwide in 2013, out of the 1,615 female homicide victims, 1,086 were white, 453 were black, 36 were Asian or Pacific Islander, 21 were American Indian or Alaskan Native, and in 19 cases the race of the victim was not identified.

And here is another:

Considering mass shooting alone ([by legal definition, at least] four people shot dead in a public place), nearly all were male in 2015. About 67% are white, 16% black, and 9% Asian.

Even just these two sets of statistics could be indicative of a trend. These statistics show, far and away, that most murders are committed by white men. While these facts do not provide complete context, the implications should give everyone pause.

More to the point, these bits of information prove we must dig deeper for answers.

I may be out of line, but here’s the thing: Guns are primarily a white male symbol of privilege and control. The point has been made over and over again, for years, even as far back as the signing of the Declaration. When the local NRA folk came through my local 4th of July parade, riding horses and shooting blanks from their weapons (causing babies and dogs to howl all along the parade route), there were a couple of women (white), but was there a black person among them, or any ethnicity other than white? Have you ever seen a black person at an NRA rally, openly carrying? You know the answer to these rhetorical questions; I don’t have to spell it out.

This latest, most horrifying incident was committed by an AMERICAN. Period. His ethnic and religious heritage may be among the factors, but this person was born on our shores. He was likely profoundly disturbed and conflicted (Could it be over sexual identity? Could it be over religious doctrine? Could he have been radicalized? We don’t yet know – we may never really know), but the story is being spun into an international terrorist action, mostly in order to promote inflammatory, racist and politically manipulative rhetoric that obscures one of the biggest problems we face in modern society, and more so here than most anywhere else on the planet. The discussion needs to be reframed around issues even more basic than race and religion: Control issues (along with anger/aggression), often tied to mental illness combined with ready access to high-powered assault rifles and other types of guns.

In most cases, armed robbery aside, the issue is one of control – who has “control”, by what means “control” is exerted, and against whom, particularly when the "control" is directly related to possession of a deadly weapon (gun or other).

Reframed, here is a different description of what happened in Orlando: An angry and desperate American man killed and injured a lot of other American people (of various ethnic, gender and sexual identities, yes, but foremost, they were people, with families and friends and jobs and lives of worth in their community) because he didn’t know how to break through his mental anguish/anger, because he couldn’t connect with people in a meaningful/fulfilling way. Time may tell the tale, but it won’t bring back those American lives that were cut short.

How do we go about insuring such things don’t happen again? We certainly can’t do anything from the knee-jerk discussion angle. So, perhaps more pertinent questions to ask and discuss might include these:

How do we become more accepting of people, who, what and where they are?
How do we support, uplift and include people in all walks of life and work?
How does our society train/enable psyches to be angry, violent or murderous? How can we mitigate underlying causes?
How can we better identify, diagnose and treat people struggling with mental illness?
How can we come to terms with an archaic constitutional right with regard to weapons possession and legislate toward a safe society.
What all must we do to stem the tide of violence and anger, in ways that promote peace, health and justice in our communities?
How can we remove prejudice, judgment, labels and stigma from the picture, and just be people, living cooperatively in community?
Are there economic mitigations that could be brought into the picture?
How do we teach people to be good to one another?
How do we dispel ignorance?

Age old questions, these are. But we need to keep asking them, and commit to finding and working toward real solutions, all the while holding our elected officials accountable to We The People for codifying and instituting solutions that benefit the public good, not bowing to well heeled lobbyists and their masters.

We can take the moment of silence,
kneeling in sorrow or in prayer,
but then all bodies, all voices must rise up,
uniting for the sake of humanity, for sanity,
blending and weaving, moving and smoothing
our differences into loves and strengths,
our weaknesses into meaningful work,
uniting toward the only real song there is:
People, all people, together, one people.

© 2016 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen