August 9, 2009 § Leave a comment
I read Bob Herbert’s latest column, which is about the misogyny of American society, as exemplified in the shootings of women in an aerobics class by the pathologically lonely George Sodini, with mixed feelings. Herbert writes that we are inured to the violence against women; that if a mass murderer had gone into a public place and separated out blacks or Jews for killing it would spark more outrage.
I’m not sure this is particularly helpful. The most pressing problem is gun control, and I think young white women work as well as any other victim group to spur outrage, which is to say, not enough. The only thing that would be more effective is if wave after wave of psychopaths targeted politicians and their families (which, by the way, I am NOT recommending).
“Some people are happy, some are miserable. It is difficult to live almost continuously feeling an undercurrent of fear, worry, discontentment and helplessness. I can talk and joke around and sound happy but under it all is something different that seems unchangable and a permanent part of my being…
“I like to write and talk. Ironic because I haven’t met anybody recently (past 30 years) who I want to be close friends with OR who want to be close friends with me. I was always open to suggestions to what I am doing wrong, no brother or father (mine are useless) or close friend to nudge me and give it bluntly yet tactfully wtf I am doing wrong…
“I no longer have any expectations of myself. I have no options because I cannot work toward and achieve even the smallest goals. That is, ABOVE ALL, what bothers me the most. Not to be able to work towards what I want in my life.”
The feelings Sodini describes are very familiar, though the only time I felt that completely isolated was in junior high, and I didn’t have the weight of 30 years of failure behind me. But even now, after plenty of friends, lovers, marriage—what to Sodini’s mind would be a divine feast of sex and intimacy—I’m capable of feeling lonely and miserable, angry that I can’t seem to change, etc. When I imagine feeling this way continuously, being utterly unsuccessful at intimacy of any kind, I have to wonder: would I resort to shooting people? Probably not, but on the other hand, I would have broken a lot sooner than Sodini did.
Meanwhile, In The Observer, Barbara Ellen writes, “The dark paradox is that if Sodini felt his social status was demeaned by his lack of success with women, he probably wasn’t even shooting at the correct gender. It’s men who tend to torture other men about status, just as women tend to torture other women about body image. Therefore, it’s men, not women, who were responsible for Sodini’s misery.”
I don’t think either “men” or “women” were responsible for Sodini. He was responsible for himself. You can look at his family and background for clues to his mental illness if you want to. But have we gotten so far away from perennial human truths that it isn’t obvious that his ‘misogyny’ was the flip side of deep longing for a woman’s love? Not just sex or conquest or status. He wanted love from women (and was scared to go after it) and he wanted help from other men (and was scared to ask for it). That he was too frightened to seek help from professionals is hardly surprising: therapy is intimacy too.
He killed women to be noticed, to say I was here and I suffered. And he was noticed, and his blog was copied, posted and read, because his loneliness and anger strike a chord. THAT’S what causes all this flurry of denial. Either that or some people have no idea what loneliness tastes like.
I understand that people are afraid that paying attention to these killings encourages them. This is undoubtedly true. If none were ever reported, fewer would happen. But reacting with contempt and labels like ‘misogynist’ doesn’t make the next crazy guy any less likely to act out. After all, that sort of contempt is exactly what they’re used to.
As for outrage leading to gun control—sorry. Not enough dead yet. People would rather keep their guns and shoot anyone trying to give them “socialist” healthcare.
I murder hate by flood or field,
Tho’ glory’s name may screen us;
In wars at home I’ll spend my blood—
Life-giving wars of Venus.
The deities that I adore
Are social Peace and Plenty;
I’m better pleas’d to make one more,
Than be the death of twenty.
I would not die like Socrates,
For all the fuss of Plato;
Nor would I with Leonidas,
Nor yet would I with Cato:
The zealots of the Church and State
Shall ne’er my mortal foes be;
But let me have bold Zimri’s fate,
Within the arms of Cozbi!
Never attempt to murder a man who is committing suicide.