The recent mass shooting at the University of California, Santa Barbara – like all the mass shootings before it – was a tragic event. With the misogynistic motives of the murderer, I really wanted to add my voice to the conversation.
To make sure I had my thoughts straight and something fresh to add, I started a few conversations and absorbed as many reactions as my heart could bear. Going in, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to say. Coming out, I’m just confused and mad.
Conventional wisdom says I should fall back on my original righteous indignation and male feminist fury but what’s the point? Sure, I’m mad as hell but I’m not mad at the deceased shooter, men in general or society; I’m just mad. Beneath the anger, though, there’s something I should share: my frustration.
Like many other people, I spend so much of my time and energy advocating and educating. Yet, no matter how hard we try, every couple weeks, we’re back in front of our various screens, mouth agape, watching more senseless violence.
This time, we had the crime scene photos, HD video and an entire digital memoir from the spoiled, racist, sexist, unabashedly hateful, homicidal-yet-completely-sane murderer. We got to listen to him complain about how unfair his life was because he couldn’t find a skinny, blonde supermodel to ride in the passenger seat of his gifted BMW. Even just thinking about it makes me buzz with frustration.
Usually, I’m a calm and collected guy who takes these events and digests them for what they are. Right now, though, I’m one with many other well-intentioned people who just feel weak and tired. All I want to do is reach out and help. All that I can actually do is scream, “what the fuck” at the top of my lungs, until I feel better.
After I’ve exhausted my vocal chords, I’m still left to ponder a solution, a way I can help. Unfortunately, all I can come up with is exactly what I’ve been doing all along. Since I’m almost certain some piece of shit is currently or soon will be raping, killing, harassing, terrorizing, kidnapping and/or torturing another woman, it starts to feel like a fool’s errand.
Why care so much, try so hard and spend so much time if it’s just not going to stop? While centuries and millennia of this ridiculousness would suggest there’s no point in trying, I simply must.
I knew when I signed up to fight for positive social change that I’d probably be fighting for the rest of my life. I can’t stop simply because I’m exhausted. The six people who didn’t get to see Memorial Day 2014 don’t have the luxury of being exhausted. The three women who had to flee for their lives after rejecting a man who subsequently opened fire don’t – a couple hours after the shooting at UCSB. All those women who have and will suffer at the hands of centuries of violent, entitled socialization don’t either.
Fact is, if I stop fighting because the fight isn’t going my way, I’m cosigning on the atrocities I swore to help end. I’m no better than the rapists, murderers and every other person who believe social problems are too big to fix. So, while I’m frustrated and angry, I have to keep going.
Social change doesn’t come over night. As a gay black atheist guy in a very pale beige world, I know this very well. With every struggle that has affected me, some of the staunchest and most resilient support came from people who had no direct benefit from the fight. Yet, through all the setbacks and turmoil, they stayed with us. Even after the fighting was done and it was just a debate, they stayed and shouted just as loud.
While I could slink away and live with a clear-ish conscious because #notallmen are like that, I won’t. Because, as long as #toomanymen are like that, I have to shout and throw punches, no matter how futile it seems.