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Monday, December 17, 2012

The male of the species

No human male can rationally deny the widespread propensity of his gender to be violent. By "widespread" I don't mean that the majority of men are violent, but I suspect that if truth be told a significant percentage of men have committed at least two acts of violence at some point during their lives -- most often before the age of 21. Fistfights on the playground start early. Many such acts of violence, although regrettable in hindsight, turn out to be inconsequential because the other participants were of the same gender and age and propensity, and the violence was contained, and boys grow out of it.

But it doesn't always eventuate that way. Violence or the threat of it underlies much of what we call bullying today. We see violence in the forms of rape, gang shootings, and abuse of spouses and children. Violence in sports leads to a Marty McSorley. Violence in the military that isn't contained within standards of battlefield conduct escalates into a My Lai. And when a propensity for violence is combined with serious mental illness, we get a Sandy Hook.

There seems to be either a mass killing or a serial killer every two years or so. Between KKK killings in the South and Charles Whitman, this has been going on for as long as I remember. Those are two frightful sentences to write, but they're simply true. It's difficult to make sense of the nonsensical, and this is not my line of work. I don't know that it was any easier a topic for Stanley Kubrick.

Gun control will help, but it's not a sufficient answer. Ted Bundy and David Berkowitz didn't use assault rifles. Cross-matching the violent with those who have serious mental illness raises issues of human rights for both the ill and their potential victims, and it presumes an infrastructure that we're nowhere close to having -- we can't even help the large numbers of nonviolent mentally ill.

Where do we start?