Let's Talk: Regarding America's Obsessive Gun Culture, Toxic Masculinity, and White Supremacy in 2018

I'm not sure where to begin, so I guess it's probably best to get my biases out of the way.

I am not a gun owner. I have shot firearms only a couple of times. I am in firm support of many new gun regulations. I believe we need to have a discussion about the 2nd Amendment being repealed.

I am very liberal in my politics. I believe my political views are founded on compassion and not ideology. 

I firmly believe that gun violence in America, and that includes mass shootings, is a product of an obsessive gun culture, toxic masculinity, and systematic white supremacy infrastructure. I believe many of the issues afflicting this country are nuanced and overlap quite a bit. 

My opinions are fluid. They have changed quite a bit over the years and continue to change. They are informed by my predisposition as a scientist; I use Bayesian reasoning to inform my opinions. I think it's okay for opinions to change as new evidence is presented and that's how mine change. 

My opinions, especially regarding white supremacy and toxic masculinity, are informed by many women, LGBTQIA+, and people of color writers. I have found writers of different stripes organically and seeing how they view their experiences in America has forced me to realize that my experience here is unlike millions of others.

My opinions regarding my politics are also hugely affected by my life with CF. Life with CF means that I am chronically ill, which is a community of people that are often demonized and commodified in America. Capitalist structures are ableist and perpetuate issues against chronically ill people as well. The party in power has many leaders that believe that people with more medical issues are burdens on the system and their issues are results of their own doing. My life is more expensive because I was born with a genetic quirk that forces me to require many medications and medical devices. Trust me, if it were up to me, I wouldn't have this disease. I'd much rather not have egregiously expensive healthcare costs. But that's a conversation for another day.

I'll even offer a bit of a consolation prize to the other side: because of certain circumstances, I have considered purchasing a firearm. I have considered becoming more trained with them. I understand how they can provide a veil of security. But, based on all available evidence that I will present, I was far more likely to die by my own firearm than I was to ever be provided with security.

I'll also admit I never want to come off self-righteous. I have thought about and studied these issues quite a bit so I have come to my opinion through much reasoning. I go back and forth on if I should offer my commentary on issues like this all the time, so here we are.

And finally: I believe the lives of humans are worth more than any firearm.

Now, let's get to the topic at hand.

I posted this status on Facebook yesterday:

It was...provocative, to say the least. I figured it would be. But it ignited a conversation that needs to happen. Unfortunately, to progress on any issue in this country, some people will be offended and sometimes those conversations can become confrontational. I tried my best to remain civil, though at times terse, in response to many comments. I suggest reading it to see the points I made in reference to some of the rebuttals I received. 

Let me define what I mean when I say obsessive gun culture, toxic masculinity, and white supremacy.

America's Obsessive Gun Culture

The 2nd Amendment is considered inalienable by many people. This leads to people justifying any sort of gun-related issue and conversation being drawn away from how the guns are a part of the issue. I believe firearms are tools intended for two purposes: to maim or kill. Whether they're used in war, or to hunt, or in self-defense, they are intended to maim or kill anybody or anything that is in front of a bullet's trajectory. Any other purpose of firearms has been created to justify the pleasure people get out of the firing a gun (I've shot a gun; hitting a target is fun. I can admit that. Still. We need to change. I have never hunted. I don't want to kill animals for sport or for food. I am actually generally okay with hunting if it's done for food. We do need to find better ways of ethically sourcing meat for nourishment, so killing an animal through hunting – for food –is likely more ethical than slaughterhouses.)

(Let me go ahead and rebut a couple classic, illogical rebuttals to this. 

"Well if guns kill people, spoons make people fat, and pencils make errors." This one is so insanely disingenuous. Spoons are used to eat food. Guns are intended to kill. Yeah, the tool is used for whatever purpose the operator wants to use it for, but arguing that spoons and guns are the same types of tools is just rhetorically weak.

"If we ban guns, then people will just kill with knives, or cars, or whatever else." That may be true, but at least those devices have purposes that the vast majority of people use for their actual purpose: to drive or to cut their food up. If you only use your gun for targets, then buy a paintball gun or airsoft gun. If you're using it for self-defense or protection, then, well, we're back to the purpose of maiming or killing.

"It is our 2nd Amendment right to protect ourselves against a tyrannical government." Cool, this was written during an era where revolutions were common and weapons were far weaker. And also, governments didn't have nuclear weapons, or America didn't have a massive military-industrial complex that we would have zero chance against anyhow. This argument is weak for me, sorry. Until somebody can justify how a militia would have a shot, I just don't understand this as an inalienable right.)

There are 3.61 gun murders per 100,000 people in America. The next closest: Canada at 0.50. There are different ways to look at these statistics. You can find statistics for anything, to be honest, but this is alarming no matter how you spin it.

Scroll through Facebook. People call their guns toys all the time. That's scary as hell to me. They aren't toys. They are instruments capable of murder. They are built to make death quick and gruesome. 

My final point: the response to my Facebook post only supported my claim that people are obsessed with firearms. Most people will say they're fine with tighter gun regulations, but if you propose gun buyback programs or just banning all firearms, it is received about as well as proposing communism.

Take the time to read this article. It is data-rich and presents the evidence that guns do not provide additional safety. (The author himself did the research. He explains. Take the time to read it. I am not going to go out of my way to cite dozens of articles confirming this evidence. I have read plenty; I put that onus on the reader to find the amount of research they themselves need to change their viewpoint.)

toxic masculinity in america

Men commit suicide at a clip nearly 4 times higher than women.

Here are two articles and a video that discuss toxic masculinity and its relationship to suicide.

Toxic masculinity doesn’t just target women: The viciousness and vacuity of modern American manhood is also harmful to the self

Toxic Masculinity and the Negative Effects on Men

This one is a video of Terry Crews discussing his sexual assault. It illustrates a unique blend of how toxic masculinity teaches men to be violent, but also how systematic white supremacy has made it so that, if a black man messes up, he is less likely to be forgiven. (I'll get to that white supremacy conversation in just a bit.)

I have written about my struggles with depression and suicidal ideation several times now. I am so thankful I did not have easier access to a firearm. I never wanted to purchase one, but I do not know if I would be here right now if my dad had one. The allure and the simplicity with which a firearm can end life would have made my suicidal ideation come to fruition quicker than any other method. As somebody that prides himself on attempting to overcome toxic masculinity, I admit, I still feel very weak in admitting this. Toxic masculinity runs very, very deep.

Since I posted that status yesterday, new evidence has surfaced regarding the shooter that committed the massacre at Capital Gazette (I will not post his name here). It appears that he has harassed the Capital Gazette for years since they reported on his harassment case several years ago. (Also he obtained his pump action shotgun legally.) In 2011, the newspaper reported on his alleged harassment of a woman. This apparently incited his anger for years.

This is a by-product of toxic masculinity and male entitlement. 

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

This quote sums up why toxic masculinity and white supremacy lead white men to become violent. There are active progressive movements in this country. The two last Democratic nominees for President have been a woman and a black man. 

Take the time to read this article. It is written by a woman and more eloquently states toxic masculinity than I probably could

We need to teach men it is okay to talk about their feelings. It is okay to be emotional and to be there for people. It is okay to care about your significant others and your friends. It is okay to be depressed and it is okay to reach out for help. We need to stop telling boys to "act like a man," as if men don't express their feelings. We need to be better by first teaching boys to be better. It is the responsibility of men to teach other men and boys to view women as equitable, not because they are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, but because they are equitable humans that must be viewed as such with no qualifier as to why we must view them as equitable.

The country swings on a pendulum, though. After seeming to make some progress with a black man as president for 8 years, we reverted to Donald Trump. A fear-mongering strongman that preaches bigoted policies and plainly states racist dogwhistles on his twitter. 

white supremacy in 2018 america

This is our president: Trump is still reportedly pushing his racist “birther” conspiracy theory about Obama. This article was written in November of 2017.

The "birther" conspiracy theory is not "racially-loaded." It is blatantly racist. It is founded on zero evidence. When we have a president whose political career essentially began by spewing out how Obama wasn't born in the US, and he still won't shut up about it, that is white supremacy in America in 2018.

Many of our founding fathers had slaves. Black people were counted as 3/5ths of a person at one point. Black people didn't have the right to vote for a large portion of our history. When you're not a part of your democracy, then naturally, the democratic process will not represent you. It's for these reasons that systematic (and blatant) oppression exists in America in 2018. Sure, it's not as bad as it used to be, but we have immense progress to make.

White supremacy in America in 2018 is praising Muhammad Ali but condemning Colin Kaepernick.

It is using Martin Luther King Jr.'s words to preach civility and whitewashing his legacy to ignore who he truly was and how controversial a figure he once was. 

It is the President of the United States claiming that there were "Some Very Fine People on Both Sides" when one of those sides were literal white-nationalist protesters.

It is defending Confederate statues as monuments of "history" instead of recognizing that they were staunch defenders of enslaving black people and admitting we need to move forward.

We have to be honest about our history to be progressive in our future. We can't say we "don't see race" and that the way to beat racism to is to "stop talking about it." No. We, as white people that have benefitted from white supremacy (I am trying to use my privilege to encourage some reconciliation for others. I have progress to make), must admit that we have benefitted and try to take control of how we can make this country better for everybody.

The fact that America is progressing while also taking steps back is causing white men to feel oppressed because it is making them realize that they must be exceptional to compete against those that must overcome more adversity. That is how white supremacy is correlated to mass shootings. Read this article to further understand the connection. 

All of these issues do not run counter to one another. They run parallel. They are likely correlated. They must be solved together, but firearms are probably the easiest. Solving toxic masculinity and white supremacy will take massive infrastructural overhaul, which I do believe will come. We have a ton of progress to make. I hope people can do some self-reconciliation to recognize how their own experiences do not correlate with every other Americans'.

We have no more excuses. We must treat everybody equitably. We must stop demonizing immigrants. We must reconcile with how our country's long-time issues still permeate today's legal system and political infrastructure, further allowing oppression of minority communities.

Find it in your heart to see every human being as one with as vibrant life as yourself. 

That is why I believe we can and must be better.