It's hard to pinpoint the precise origin - was it winning our freedom as a nation via bloody revolution? Reconstructing ourselves after an equally bloody civil war tore us at the seams?
Was it the ascension to superpower status that allowed the throes of a patriarchal past to thrive, unchallenged and unchecked, while countries abroad could re-examine themselves and at least start to change those structures? One could easily reattribute a similar cause to the 1980s, when we entered a seeming economic boom against the stalemate of the Cold War that had no lasting effects on us.
Perhaps that was when we collectively embraced shows of force as expression in this country, when domination became synonymous with power in place of empathy, sensitivity, work, or respect.
When so many atrocities spring up in such a short period of time - sexual harassment and assault, shootings, corruption, and other blunders - instinctively, I always ponder if they're linked. First, before I say anything else, let me state perfectly clearly that I do not wish to take away from the pain of those affected, nor diminish the overlying damage caused. I merely want to address a thematic concept that in no way is made to devalue those affected.
It may seem irreverent to try and trace multiple tragedies to a possible root cause, but then the foundation might remain rotten and in its place, give way to festering. Besides, it's difficult to watch sexual harassment cases perpetrated by higher authorities, mass shootings via the type of weapon many use as a symbol of manhood, a pathetic attempt to legalize trophy hunting of endangered animals, environmental damage in the form of big bulking pipelines, and not spot a common theme. A common theme which I believe is inherent in the way we raise our sons in this country, the way we operate politically, the way big and immense is linked to being powerful. We don't use words – we shout, our diplomacy reduced to pissing contests and empty bravado. Our leaders and heads of industry can't simply respect and coexist with their workers, but must interject their power fantasies upon them. One can attribute this to the fallacy of the patriarchy that's existed since time immemorial, of course, but that's only an ember in a larger fire.
While we can't solely blame these components for the big picture, it would be remiss to ignore them. It might seem that decades of going unchallenged by the world - a more global progression or a view of true diversity and acceptance - have instilled a deadly arrogance in multitudes of our men, supported by a mindset where men are top dogs and women are sex symbols or shrews - and those of the former keeping the latter alive are elected president, no doubt voted in by so many who live their lives that way. In my town perched in upstate New York, I see giant pickup trucks plastered with flags and skulls roaring down the road all the time. I see the heads of animals mounted by hunters who use conservation and primal respect as an excuse to kill, but their smirk, pride, and resources tell otherwise. I see men at bars hollering at women, pushing up against them with the pretense of charm yet with all the mannerisms of a predator in the field. This is not a trend - this was always here. And the more it is allowed to bloom, the less likely these couple of months will be the end of it.
So I wonder if it is built into our framework and soil. Of course such displays exist abroad - we're hardly the only ones guilty - but in a land that values super sized things and concepts, might our example be most damaging? America never does anything quietly. Our iconography is peppered with loudness: screeching eagles, indomitable rockets, and an economic system built upon structures catering to the very top. We hold guns - a weapon made to conquer - to an almost reverent position. Femininity and sensitivity are equated to weakness, and to be anything other than a bulking, stone cold golem is considered likewise. We aren't content to be top of the food chain, but to establish that fact repeatedly and repeatedly as we destroy the environment and hunt animals of dwindling all to quench the insecure masculinity of those at the summit. Why? That surge of "authority" has, in turn, put a simple sheath over boundless insecurity - and in return, these insecurities are never addressed, and so plainly transparent in the actions we see at hand.
I'm not claiming any of the dozen crises we've faced lately (it seems late September was the drop off point) can be explicitly linked, and to do so would harmfully remove the individual causes. All I am suggesting is a potential explanation. When you see the news and ruefully wonder why all of this is happening, realize it takes a village. And in this case, that village is swallowing us whole.
I'll be sure to address this issue more. It deserves examination, deconstruction, and a complete restructuring.