On March 25th, Kylie Cheung wrote an article for Salem. It was titled:
The sexist, racist implications of the “Walk up, not out” movement: Walk Up demands nothing of the policymakers who are actually in positions to make change
Cheung’s righteous indignation resonated with Emma Gonzalez’s equally spirited dissatisfaction.
Cheung seems to be a magazine journalist who gravitates towards woman’s abuse issues. That’s fine, but mass shootings are a serious problem in America, deserve serious solutions, and serious contemplation.
So, in that spirit, here’s a serious thought. As impressive as the numbers were in the various marches around America, what’s changed? As moving as the various speeches were from many stages dedicated to the gun change cause, what’s changed? As common sensical as it is to make the changes that are being proposed, what changes have been implemented?
Before dealing with Cheung’s article directly, let’s look at what policies are being looked at and/or implemented. Let’s look at what those policymakers that are being asked and entrusted with these changes are actually doing. Let’s start at the top of the list. The banning of semi-automatic weapons, via the Guardian’s coverage:
The short answer to what’s being done about semi-automatic weapons is nothing.
How about raising the age limit? There’s a practical way to put the direct acquisition [via purchasing] of weapons beyond the age range of school kids.
The Florida governor, Rick Scott, last week proposed a rise in the minimum age – from 18 to 21 – for purchasing semi-automatic weapons such as the AR-15. Three Republican senators have signaled support for the idea. The proposal was seen as out of character for Scott, a Republican with a top rating from the NRA. He made no comparable call for gun control after the 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that killed 49 and wounded 58. But the NRA vehemently opposes changing the national minimum age for purchases of so-called long guns, and Cornyn, the Texas senator, recently dismissed the idea, making passage in the Senate anytime soon unlikely.
The short answer to what’s being done about changing the age limit seems more promising, but from a practical results-perspective, the status is the same. Nothing is happening.
What about background checks?
A strong majority of Americans support stricter background checks for gun purchases. And a piece of bipartisan legislation currently before Congress, the Fix Nics 2017 Act, could start to tighten the country’s background checks system. (Nics stands for the National Instant Background Checks System.) Trump has signaled his support for better background checks…
But as the Guardian’s correspondent on gun violence, Lois Beckett, has explained, the “Fix Nics” legislation, which has been endorsed by the powerful gun lobby group the National Rifle Association (NRA), is very far from universal background checks for gun buyers:
The bipartisan Fix Nics Act that Trump is now supporting does not change the categories of who is barred from buying a gun, or even require all gun buyers to pass a background check before they can purchase a firearm …
Instead, it simply provides federal agencies with a few more incentives to submit records to the background check system – something they are already required by law to do.
The short answer to what’s happening with regard to improving and implementing background checks appears to be very little or nothing.
What about bump stocks? Didn’t the president put his weight around getting rid of those?
A bill to ban bump stocks sponsored by the California senator Dianne Feinstein after the accessory was used in the country’s deadliest mass shooting, last year in Las Vegas, stalled out in Congress but could be revived.
In Chicago, recently, these bills were revived only to be shot down – vetoed – by the governor of Illinois. The short answer to whether bump stocks will be banned is not now.
With that perspective in mind, let’s come back to Cheung’s shallow rhetoric.
Walk Up demands nothing of the policymakers who are actually in positions to make change
Obviously Americans want to see policy change, but you have to be crazy to bang on the front door all day and not try the backdoor, the windows, or sneaking in through the doggy door. Cheung’s all or nothing approach feels good, feels right, but risks coming away with nothing, as was this case following Sandy Hook.
One must work smart, adapt and learn in order to make real progress. Sometimes, often, progress is measured in a number of small steps that add up. This is particularly true when one’s opponent is organized, well-connected and moneyed as the NRA lobby obviously is.
Given that immediate results in terms of gun control isn’t on the cards, what is? According to Cheung:
The “Walk Up, Not Out” movement is led by parents who believe more “kindness” among students, rather than gun control legislation, will end gun violence. Those at the helm of Walk Up have shared ideas such as increased school security measures that would effectively transform schools into prisons and could have negative consequences for students of color. They have also expressed support for mental health resources while ignoring how scapegoating the mentally ill fails to address the real problem. The real problem is guns and insufficient regulation of gun owners who have access to weapons that kill hundreds in minutes (the mentally ill are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of gun violence).
I’ve recently researched a 140 000 word book called slaughter, profiling 8 mass and school shooters and mass shooters. The book took several weeks to research and write, arguably far longer than Cheung’s 1200 stab at the issue. In sheer numerical terms, it’s about 140 times the size of Cheung’s diatribe. That puts me in a position, I dare say, to call bullshit on the idea that “the real problem is guns”. Guns are a problem, and taking them away and controlling them is necessary, but there’s a far bigger problem than guns. We see it in the lawmakers who refuse to change gun laws, and governors who oppose implementing them. These are symptoms of a society that is incentivized to be sick with avarice and self-interest.
But the malaise in society doesn’t end there. Cheung’s assessment is also way off. As part of her “assessment” she cites a Facebook post as part of her research into the motives [the psychology] of school shooters.
One viral Facebook post shared last Thursday by psychologist Rebecca Wald explores this in depth:
“The myth that school shooters are outcasts fighting back against bullies dates back to Columbine. At the time it was widely reported that Harris and Klebold were social rejects, and much was made of the meanness of popular kids. But the FBI concluded that . . . kids didn’t like the boys because they did creepy things like walking around giving the Nazi salute. ‘Walk Up, Not Out’ is a campaign of cowardice, promoted by adults who want there to be a solution to school shootings that asks literally nothing of us. No tough choices, no exercise of political will, no speaking out to power — just lecturing kids on how to do better.”
In the previous blog I provided unambiguous evidence that the Columbine killers were bullied. Books and articles on CNN and viral Facebook posts notwithstanding, the killers themselves said they were bullied and alienated, and so did their friends. Despite PR to the contrary, it turned out Columbine had a culture of exclusion, a jock culture, something that is true in many high schools in America.
In the above post the FBI, who also claim it’s not possible to profile school shooters, seemed to indicate the shooters were creepy and deserved to be ostracized. As such, the idea of having classmates approach creepy kids puts the “normal” kids in danger, and as Walkd says, requires nothing from “us”. I’m not sure who us is. Is it the policymakers? If so, nothing is happening anyway.
Wald seems to see it as cowardice to “lecture kids on how to do better”. I disagree. It’s cowardice not to. In all the school shooters I profiled in Slaughter [and I mean all, without a single exception], what was missing was one or both parental figures. Typically the father was out of the picture, or else both parents. These left the shooter-in-the-making more exposed than usual during the adolescent phase to ridicule.
It’s clear that warm, genuine parenting could have prevented all eight of the shootings profiled, and it’s likely that a community who could have rallied around the more vulnerable outcasts would have made a difference. Despite popular public opinion, shooters aren’t born overnight, their hatred and disaffection is a process spanning several years. Their disturbed fixations come about through years of systematic humiliation.
If we live in a sick society in terms of our political leaders, and if our media and social media is equally sick and distorted, then perhaps the last bastion of reliance is ourselves, and our communities. If we can’t ask things from our country, or if our demands go unanswered, isn’t it time to ask more from ourselves? Not Facebook communities, or five minute watercooler communities spawning around a hashtag, but real people engaging with one another in the real world, around real mutual interests.
Incredibly, we find ourselves in 2018 sniffing with contempt when someone suggests more kindness to one another. Somehow being kind is called sexism and racism. It was once know as the golden thread – treat others as you wish to be treated, be kind. Today such sentiment is seen as ridiculous. Well, is it any wonder that in such a cruel, heartless society, cruel and heartless players find their way to the stage?
The Walk Up movement is meaningful because it demands more from us, rather than shifting blame and requiring action from others. It’s that anal fixation on them versus us that’s the root of the problem. Why can’t society’s require more from themselves? What’s wrong with that?
The real cowardice at work here is a failure to think. The fact that the mainstream, the FBI and the media haven’t provided so much as a motive for the Vegas slaughter, for Sandy Hook or for Columbine tells you all you need to know about the ongoing incapacity of society to interrogate these shooters.
We have no idea who these people are or why they did their bloody deeds, and we don’t know because we don’t really care. We don’t even know ourselves any more. We think we do, because we think our reptilian responsiveness to social media illustrates our enlightenment. In fact, it illustrates our poisonous narcissism, nothing more.
Our incapacity to interrogate these unconscionable massacres mirrors our incapacity, of late, to interrogate ourselves. Slaughter pioneers the authentic thinking that’s required to heal our increasingly fractured tribalism. As such, it is both terrifying and extremely sad, who we are and where we are today. The first step on the journey to restoring our true and better selves is acknowledgement, isn’t it?
6 thoughts on ““‘Walk Up, Not Out’ is a campaign of cowardice, promoted by adults who want there to be a solution to school shootings that asks literally nothing of us””
Rampant gun violence by citizens, the like of which has no comparison in any other free nation, is a public health crisis. At this stage, EVERYthing needs to be done to remedy this crisis. But the one remedy that can easily be accomplished – if we had elected officials with a modicum of courage, and which would have immediate results – is serious, comprehensive federal gun control legislation. Teaching “kindness” is great. So is increased mental health funding. So is watchdogging the crap that the entertainment industry spews out. But no other Western nation has gun laws as lax as America’s, and our gun murder rate is 25 times higher. Yes, there IS a connection.
How do we get there when politicians (mainly Republican) won’t do the right thing? Kick the bums out! Elect politicians who WILL snub the NRA! And the way to do that is to get people registered, and encourage them to vote for politicians (who, in a democracy, emerge from the “community”) who are serious about serious gun control.
(Thanks for listening).
That’s my point though – the easiest thing is the hardest thing, so maybe one should try doing something different. Know what I mean?
Yes, I know what you mean. Let me put it this way, though: I don’t know your age, but I’m old enough to have lived through the ’60s. “Peace” and “love” are all wonderful concepts. But they’re meaningless without action. Real change begins in the voting booth. You can’t stop the war by electing people like Nixon. And you can’t reduce gun violence by electing NRA jellyfish like Mitch McConnell and Co.
Gun manufacturers and the NRA love to hear nebulous proposals like yours (“better mental health” is another favorite) because these well-meaning proposals absolve them of any responsibility.
I agree that it feels like it amounts to giving the NRA a free pass, and I’m sure the NRA high-five themselves whenever the discussion goes away from guns. Have you seen Bowling for Columbine?
Yes, I did see “Bowling for Columbine,” with my daughter in 2003 at the theatre. My biggest takeaway was how fear is so rampant in America, unlike many other Western nations, and it’s stoked by our exploitative news media. These fears, both valid and unfounded, drive a lot of people to a perceived protection and contentment from guns. But more guns beget more killings which beget more guns which beget more killings… on and on. Very sad.
I watched Bowling for Columbine again a few weeks ago, as part of the research I did for Slaughter. Your memory serves you well, fear is stoked by the media, more in American society it seems than elsewhere. What struck me though, was Michael Moore going across the border to Canada and finding the same levels of gun ownership, and no fear, folks not even locking their homes, and very little crime. This suggests the difference lies not in guns, but in the society. My argument isn’t to not try to do anything about guns, do your best and good luck. It is to say thus far, not much happens when the focus is entirely on changing gun laws, and not on American society looking at itself in the mirror. Taking away guns doesn’t take away murderous intent, and though it’s something worth doing, we see more and more school shooters and mass killers making bombs. If the bombs at Columbine had gone off, the casualties would have been in the hundreds. Society looking at itself in the mirror is difficult, and painful, which is why Slaughter was such a difficult book to write. It requires us, at the very least, to find out who these shooters were, and why they did what they did. The fact that 20 years later there’s no motive, or the motive for the Columbine Killers is wrong, tells you we don’t really care who people are, just what weapons they’re carrying. The same with Adam Lanza, and Stephen Paddock. Even the FBI can’t provide a motive for Paddock 6 months later.
That shows something is very wrong with the way law enforcement are able to look at these incidents.
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