The American Lone Wolf Problem
The deep polarization that is American culture seems to be drifting further apart with no hope of reconciliation. It never ceases to amaze me how after something as tragic as the Orlando massacre, people begin quickly pointing fingers at the other and blame them in oversimplified terms. One can't help but wonder if the volume of these mass shootings in the United States has started to become so normal, they have become less a tragedy and more a vehicle for political persuasion.
I realize that as a Canadian I am an outsider, but it seems as though people are talking at each other and not with each other, and I think like most arguments that digress into such black and white thinking, it becomes impossible to be rational. The internal vision of the American psyche is truly unique, but I hope they are asking the question: "Why is this an American problem?"
I would hardly claim to be an expert on the subject of mass murderers, but I do feel as though I understand the human condition well enough to say it leads us all into the cavern of human depravity, if not skirts along the edge of it. The Orlando shooter was a person of intense hate, but hate resides under all our skins. If there is one key difference between our culture and American culture, it is an identity of collectivism vs. individualism. For example, the thought of arming myself and taking a life to protect my property or family from my neighbour or my government simply is not something I consider. I will the make the bold claim that these hate motivated acts of mass murder are not only just being influenced by radical Islamic ideology but by the ballooning us vs. them American psyche. So it's simple for them to advocate more gun control or blame religion, instead of looking into the mirror as a nation and taking responsibility. Taking responsibility however requires listening instead of talking, and right now, with a political climate of unbridled rhetoric, no one there seems to be listening. Taking responsibility also involves submitting to the needs of and inviting in the marginalized, lonely and vulnerable and trying to ensure no one is able to act as a dangerous lone wolf.
Unfortunately, I believe lone wolves will always thrive where individualism is held as an absolute. Now is not the time for division and blame, which often times leads to xenophobia and violence, but rather more love and more inclusion. Right now there is a LGBTQ community that is deeply grieving, a community that has for generations lived in the shadows which no doubt will need love and support. Right now there are likely many Muslim Americans and Canadians listening to talk radio, reading Twitter and hearing political leaders talk, feeling more isolated than they ever have before. I don't want to give the impression that Canada is some perfect society - we have tons of social problems, but it is simply a matter of fact that Canadians do not have a gun violence problem like the United States. We have far fewer guns and far stricter gun laws and I think there is something to be learned from our firearms legislation, but the United States is not Canada, and there is no guarantee that similar legislation would curb the staggering amount of gun violence in the United States. Americans need to have a legitimate debate on the Second Amendment and ask the tough question if it has anything to do with their culture of violence - mass shootings have been happening within the United States for quite some time. Nonetheless, I believe unless they have a radical cultural shift, the mass shootings are only going to continue. I also am deeply concerned, and I say this without hyperbole, the wrong attempt at that change may plunge the United States into civil war.
So how does that radical culture shift occur? Well that is certainly something that must come from within the United States. Mass shootings are a complicated issue which require a great deal of reflection - my perspective, if true, is merely one part of a large puzzle. If there is anything that is true however, it is that the United States is more than capable of developing new ideas and establishing a new identity - if they could only stop talking at each other and commit to solving the problem. I sense a great political and social collapse may be on the horizon for the United States - one surely must wonder with the confusing presidential nominees, but I hope if that collapse does happen, out of the ashes they will once again live up to the motherly compassion engraved on their great Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!