“There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going’ down.”
Stephen Stills, “For What It’s Worth”
An armed gunman storms into a school, a church, a concert hall, just about anywhere. A steady burst of mechanized explosions sets the tempo for panic. People scream, run for cover – people strop and sink into a puddle of their own blood. Eventually, a deafening quiet settles over the scene as everyone left tries to figure out what just happened.
That’s about how shootings go down in real life, but also in the news cycle. A flurry of activity settles into silence as the world tries to absorb the scene and understand it. But not this time. This time, for some reason, it’s all different.
I was going to write about nearly anything else. The possibility of the UK leaving the European Union, some interesting economic news, just about anything. But the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando fills every space it can. News reports, conversations, thoughts and prayers all turn to this horrifying event.
Normally, the mantra “I don’t break news, I fix it” would compel me to wait a few days for an angle on a big story that adds to the context and perspective on this story, helping everyone make sense of it. There’s no point. This was a senseless act that stands on its own. But there is a need for context as one more outrageous act produces more outrage. It seems to be the only emotion we have.
The Rebel Flag still flies in front of the South Carolina Statehouse. I’ve been slow to comment on this despite being very passionate about the issue as a Son of the New South for one simple reason – this is playing out in a very complex and different way this time. Change may be coming, and Dixie may finally be gone with the wind.
When Dylann Roof opened fire in Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, he was hoping to start a new Civil War, according to his manifesto. It seems that in some ways he did, and like the last Civil War 150 years back the result appears to be the same – a society built on the twin pillars of oppression and privilege must fall. The victims’ families, like the truest of Christians, forgave his actions but around them a movement has grown to insure that what Jon Stewart called the “racist wallpaper” is taken down, encouraging no one to follow suit.
The Charlie Hebdo comics raise a lot of questions. Is it acceptable to deliberately offend people? Does free expression trump hurt feelings? Should there be an exemption for faith, a place where speech should be limited?
But there’s an even more immediate question: are the comics funny?
Not being French, I’ll never understand the French sense of humor. It tends to be deep, biting, satirical, and … well, not exactly laugh-out-loud. Good satire is often not really funny as much as painful, after all. Then again, bullets are even more painful.
Was that last comment satirical or just in bad taste?
“I get it now. I don’t get it. I’ve been trying to say that I understand how you feel, but, I’ll never understand.”
Stan, South Park Episode 1101 “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson”
In many ways, it was inevitable. The shooting spree of Eliot Rodger was bound to happen some day to a young man surrounded by wealth and a sense of entitlement. The rambling screed he left behind made it clear that this was a flip-side to the ridiculous standards of beauty foisted onto women. Misogyny is a poison that affects everyone.
But the reaction to the shooting was not as inevitable – yet long overdue. The first wave of social media comments included some horrific cheers for the shooter, later met with cries that “Not all men” are like this. No, we aren’t, but that doesn’t matter. Somewhere, deep inside millions of women, a rage bubbled out because the point was being missed. All women have to deal with misogyny and fear that any man, any time, any where they are vulnerable might be a threat. Yes, all women.