I read, write, think about the horrors of Santa Barbara, but what to say that hasn’t been said about a young “man” – oh, how that word is mutating like attention-deficit cancer cells – who so pathetically, so enragingly, so pitiably, so hatefully, and so narcissistically wore his grievances on his electronic sleeve.
Resentment of women, and deeply confused notions of manhood, should not be divorced from his evident mental illness – our society transmits these two viruses, and few of us are completely immune. This statement of Baha’u’llah isn’t exclusive to males, but as a declaration of purpose, it’s a great place for “masculinists” to start: “That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race.” (Gleanings CXVII) Okay. Service. Human race. Got it.
However, our anti-hero – I don’t name him – managed to find, what – not courage, for God’s sake – enough petulance-gone-mad, enough entitlement-gone-toxic, enough Internet-chutzpah-gone-fatally-virulent, to spew the tantrums of a deeply spoiled child with the sick can-do of an adult, and with the cold metal of “equalizers”, knives and guns and a BMW, that meant he wouldn’t have to face his victims as an equal. God help the innocent. God help us all to sleep, to keep finding hope and goodness between the headlines.
The numbers are hard to gather, let alone fathom. Just in the USA, some dedicated carnage-counters in the gun-addled States (Slate magazine, for one) throw out statistics that mainly seem to numb us: “35,000 gun deaths since Sandy Hook”; “A mass shooting every five days”; “90 American gun deaths per day”. And so on. More than half of these are suicides without the murder, it appears, since guns are the American way to take arms against a sea of troubles / And by opposing end them…
So yes, Hamlet, at a certain level of super-hero self-hatred and blockbuster confusion, offing yourself just isn’t cinematic enough anymore. But there’s more. I read one powerfully sarcastic tweet which said this: Well, at least we can obsess over guns and mental health issues and be sure there’s no wider and underlying societal illness! Now, isn’t that the coldest of ironic “comforts”?
Less sarcastically, Baha’u’llah wrote 150 years ago that
…the whole human race is encompassed with great, with incalculable afflictions. We see it languishing on its bed of sickness, sore-tried and disillusioned… [and] neither discover[ing] the cause of the disease, nor have they any knowledge of the remedy. They have conceived the straight to be crooked, and have imagined their friend an enemy… – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 213.
We all pull in different directions. We jump in our safe-house rhetorical bunkers (pro- and anti-gun) and we point fearful fingers. We don’t know what’s good for us. Michael Moore made Bowling for Columbine about the absurdities and horror of the American fascination for guns — it’s 12 years old now, if you can believe it — and he doesn’t know what to say anymore. I didn’t think I had anything new or useful to say, either, but better to write at 4 a.m. than lie in the dark pretending to sleep. I’m where I was in April 2007, when I bleakly wrote about the “self-loathing narcissism” of the Virginia Tech shooter. I had sickened myself by watching his video rant; I didn’t click on the Santa Barbara coward’s manifesto, but even off-line I can’t erase the image of that smug, damaged little person behind the wheel of his proxy manhood, trying so hard to Be Somebody.
Baha’u’llah also warned the world against the inevitable disunity that is caused by extremes of wealth and poverty, and it’s deeper than we think. Hasn’t sex become a potent kind of modern currency? The Isla Vista killer was tortured by his socio-sexual poverty, hating the men (less deserving!) who were “reaping” unconscionably high rates of return on their sexual investments, hating the women who “withheld” what he craved (it’s my right!). Cancerous resentment metastasized, apparently too fast for anyone to stop its spread.
So, one of the morally impoverished took action, and yes, I want to blame him. But when society’s moral infrastructure fails, and the sewers back up, and there is a rising tide of cultural waste (and wasted men and sometimes-willingly objectified women), there may not be enough hip waders to go around. The emotionally stunted can drown in this foul flood, and some will take down others as they madly flail for something solid to hold on to.
One just did, and Moore’s right about one thing: more will follow. “Its waywardness will long continue,” Baha’u’llah predicted (long ago, now) about the world, but he also urged us to see the end in this chaotic beginning. “These fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the most great Peace shall come” – to every theatre of our war against ourselves. Yes. Hopefulness. I remember. Where can I give?