Saturday, October 17, 2015

SWAT team

I visited the college where I teach – well, taught until this semester – for a student recital. Most of them had been in my classes last year, with a couple new faces. While there I had about 10 minutes to talk to the department chair. She said the college finances are not doing well, so at least for the semester starting in January there is a restriction on the use of adjunct professors – such as me. So I won't be teaching my usual class to the one student who didn't get a high enough grade last year. Will that restriction still be in place next fall? The department chair thinks that's likely. Time to take the job search seriously.

Though I don't have students at the moment I still consider myself as a professor. So a post by Aphra Behn, professor of history, caught my attention. She is responding to renewed calls for instructors to be armed, to protect their students in case of an incident similar to the recent shooting at Umpqua Community College. Behn's response is similar to what mine would be. She and I are professionals at instructing students. We have been well trained know our subject well. We do research in our chosen field (I compose music). We work to keep our classes current and figure out how to keep our students engaged.

We are not on the SWAT team.

That is a completely different skill set. I have not been trained in how to use a gun (and would loudly refuse to do so). I have not been trained, nor am I being paid, to be alert to danger, handle hostage situations, or take down a shooter.

A SWAT team member cannot do my job. I cannot do theirs. Suggesting I should is a ridiculous idea. Suggesting I must for my own safety and the safety of others means there is something else in our society that is really messed up. Let's fix that. And for those who say they respect law enforcement officers, suggesting I can do their job is insulting to them.

Still think arming the general populace is a good idea? A few incidents...

* A young man tried to rob a Waffle House in North Charleston, SC. A customer decided that wasn't right and shot the robber, who later died of his injuries. The customer had a permit for a pistol. Lots of people were praising the shooter. Except … I'm pretty sure the penalty for robbery isn't the death sentence.

* A shoplifter was fleeing a Home Depot in Auburn Hills, Michigan. He was being chased by store security. He jumped into a waiting SUV. As the vehicle began to pull away a woman began firing at it. The only damage was a possible flat tire. Which is pretty good, considering this was a busy parking lot in the middle of the afternoon. And shoplifting isn't punishable by death. Do police want this kind of help?

* A pickup driver in Houston was jumped by two men as they tried to carjack the truck. A passerby pulled out his gun and fired it several times. He missed the thieves – and hit the truck owner in the head. Last I heard the owner survived, though probably has a long recovery ahead. Do I really want a passing vigilante to save me? Would I be a better shot if I had to face down a shooter?

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville responded to Trump's call to make assault weapons legal. As part of her takedown she notes that people with guns in active shooter situations don't pull them because they don't want to be mistaken by law enforcement for the shooter.

So if arming the general populace is a bad idea, what's the solution? Why don't we try limiting the number of guns?

Now back to that mass shooting at Umpqua Community College. Melissa McEwen has a few things to say about that too. The shooter, Christopher Harper-Mercer, complained about not having a girlfriend. That little phrase put the whole thing into focus for McEwen and she rages that the media refuses to see the obvious.

Beyond Harper-Mercer McEwen names eight other mass shooters, and assures us there are many more, who are beta males, or "unwilling virgins." These are men who can't seem to get women to have sex with them, and they believe they are entitled to that sex. This is toxic masculinity in which men believe the purpose of women around them is to have sex on demand. And when this sex doesn't happen these men become frustrated and vengeful.

Having trouble accepting McEwen's premise? Some of the shooters and some would-be shooters have said as much. But the media, supporting male privilege, refuse to talk about it, giving all kinds of other reasons. I've been learning from McEwen how toxic and deadly privilege and the associated sense of entitlement is. If a guy is entitled to women's bodies and can't have access he sees himself as a loser. How to demonstrate masculinity and shed loser status? Many of these men see two options – demand submission of the women around them or mass murder.

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