Five students from Red Lake High School, along with four other innocent people, are dead in Minnesota thanks to the sick actions of a 16-year-old boy.
Sadly, in what is yet another school shooting to befall our society, teenager Jeff Weise went on a killing spree in his town and at his school March 21 before taking his own life.
In our grief and anger following these types of incidents, we ask ourselves what factors are to blame, and what led the gunman to commit such acts.
In Weise’s case, was the shooting instigated by his depression and mental instability? Did his inner anger escalate following teasing or ridicule by classmates? What role did his fascination with Hitler and death play?
But while all of these factors certainly played some type of contributing role in Weise’s act of violence, when examining the past decade’s slew of school shootings, ongoing sexual abuse and murder incidents like this month’s Jessica Lunsford tragedy, the epidemic of domestic violence in the home, and the gang wars that rage in our neighborhoods, we neglect to recognize the one most prominent trend that perpetuates in all of these cases.
The 2002 article “Movies’ seductive lie tells men that to be real, they must be tough,” cites a statistic that is commonly known to sociologists, but is brushed aside and not treated as a serious problem by society as a whole — that “men commit more than 90 percent of violence toward women, children and other men.”
This is hauntingly true when one considers the fact that although plenty of teenage females also suffer from depression, endure teasing, and so on, not one school shooting, from Jonesboro, Ark., to Littleton, Colo., to Red Lake High, was committed by a young woman. All the “gunmen” in these scenarios were just that: men.
As Jackson Katz, an anti-violence educator, says in his educational video “Tough Guise,” we are quick to talk about school shootings and similar acts of violence as instances of “kids killing kids.” But in reality, Katz says, the problem amounts to “boys killing kids.”
But citizens overlook this problem, and we too frequently make the mistake of thinking that the viewpoints put forth by analysts like Katz and in the above mentioned article are simply blaming our entertainment industry and popular culture alone for the violence we see taking place around us. But in doing so, we forget that our films and popular culture reflect the values and attitudes that characterize our society.
With these attitudes, we push young men toward chauvinistic tendencies and ultimately, toward violence, including but not limited to school shootings and sexual aggression.
This is a complex issue, and, as with most issues that are not clear-cut black and white, show us we are wrong, and/or do not have a quick and easy solution, we take the easy way out and simply refuse to acknowledge that there is even a problem or that a link does exist between our own attitudes and the violence we experience.
Instead, we simply accept boys’ interest in violent and rough behavior as being “normal” and acceptable, and refuse to allot more of our awareness and attention to how we socialize young men.
For example, in many school shooting instances, as occurred with Weise, it comes out after the fact that the shooter was fascinated with such things as watching violent films and videos featuring gory killing scenes.
According to an Associated Press article, Weise brought the 2003 film “Elephant,” which features a school-shooting scene, over to watch with a fellow student as recently as March 4. The student commented that although Weise fast-forwarded the video specifically to some of the most violent scenes and the two talked about the movie afterward, he did not mention his plan to stage such an act at his own school.
The article quotes the student as saying, “It all seemed normal.” But such a fascination with violence should be considered anything but normal. If a female student had shown such an interest in killing scenes or violent films, one can bet fellow students would have found it to be suspicious.
Another well-publicized example of the type of the misaligned reasoning we are subject to is that of three young Orange County men, one 19, and the other two 20, who were convicted March 23 of sexually assaulting an unconscious teenage girl with a juice bottle, pool cue and cigarette, all while videotaping the act back in July 2002.
Carrying out such actions is unquestionably sick, and what’s equally sick is that the defense (led by a male lawyer, of course) actually tried to argue that the young women attacked was “a willing participant in the encounter.”
To even make such a suggestion is disgustingly ludicrous and devoid of any last bit of common sense, as no woman alive would willingly subject herself to the pain of being raped with these types of foreign objects.
But tragically, our society still sidesteps the reality that young men like those have somehow been socialized into a mindset where it is OK to commit such acts against women. Instead, we still try to pin the blame on the woman.
And what type of excuse can possibly be made for young men who behaved sickly enough to begin with for even fathoming such a cruel activity as penetrating a woman with objects like a pool cue and cigarette?
But in this particular case, the jury actually deadlocked during the first trial last year, and the young woman, identified only as “Jane Doe,” has herself faced a great deal of public scorn for pressing forward with her case.
The bottom line is that while by no means do all men fall into this category or hold this type of attitude, we need to wake up and take responsibility for the violence in our culture and take action in our homes, schools and entertainment industry. As long as we continue to practice willing blindness and ignorance as to our own role in perpetuating such violence, we only set ourselves up for more tragedy, death and violence.