It's perhaps no secret that a lot of us are conditioned to hear of yet another mass shooting in America. But when it hits pretty close to home, this time in Aurora, Illinois, just west of Chicago, something about it strikes a different kind of chord.
On February 16, 2019, a gunman murdered 5 people at a water valve assembly plant, apparently after getting fired at the same facility. The youngest victim was a Northern Illinois University student, whose first day as an intern there was that day.
This whole situation in Aurora, which is sharing the same media spotlight as Donald Trump's national emergency declaration at the border, has got me thinking about what truly are the crises facing our nation. And given the trend of mass shootings often being perpetrated by men with histories of unhinged violent behavior, I say to the President and those on the right:
Build a mirror, not a wall.
When I say build a mirror, I mean take a good look at what you say and how you act.
When your ego and/or masculinity is challenged, why are you likely to retaliate out of anger and fear? When she tells you no, is it really her fault that you react angrily? Why do you find strong women and men wearing makeup personally threatening?
The main punchline here is that most of these mass shootings are often triggered by the bruising of fragile egos brought about by a hyper-masculine society. Take the Aurora shooter: he was a man who lost his job, presumably shunned by his coworkers according to eyewitness accounts, and felt his honor as a hard-working man deteriorate before his eyes.
This connection can further be seen with the case of Elliot Rodger, who in 2014 went on a shooting spree targeting college students in Santa Barbara, California because he believed that he was entitled to sex. It can even be extended to Nicholas Cruz, the Parkland shooter, who claimed to have been ostracized by his peers at Stoneman Douglas.
What I'm prescribing here is that we need to do something that gun policy can fix: have a national conversation on the overtly toxic masculine and implicitly competitive society we live in.
Rodger, Cruz, and Gary Martin (the Aurora shooter) all didn't need to murder so many people in cold blood. But at the same time, none of their victims woke up that day thinking they were going to be murdered.
Had they have lived in a society that dismantled their motives and aggressions for shooting, we might have hundreds of people still breathing today.
It's time that we begin to change the toxic narratives in our society that bring us the same broken records we hear every day. While this isn't to discourage fighting for sensible gun control policies, it does encourage us to look at the systemic roots that create a Russian roulette of when and where America's next mass shooting will be.