Profile of a Murderer

Profile of a Murderer June 13, 2016

Don’t get me wrong. I am not generally a fan of profiling. I find it appalling that people of color are so much more likely than white people to be stopped while driving or followed in stores. I am gunhorrified when an Arab-speaking scholar is presumed to be a terrorist for writing math equations on a plane. (Although, to be fair, I did really hate Algebra in school, and I’m pretty sure that Algebra is an Arab invention.) But when one group of people is responsible for the vast majority of not only all mass murders, but also the vast majority of all rapes, all assaults, ALL violent crime, then maybe it is time to ask what is going on.

I am talking, of course, about men. And yes, I know #notallmen. And yes, I know lots of kind, gentle, non-violent men. But. There are lots and lots of people who are more than ready to blame all of Islam for the actions of a radical minority. Even though, in the United States, a Muslim is far more likely to be the victim of a hate crime than a perpetrator. And there are plenty of folks who rush to attribute these horrific mass murders to mentally ill people, in spite of the fact that mentally ill folks are also much more likely to be victims of attack than perpetrators.

But according to data from the FBI, some 90% of murderers are male. So it seems pretty sensible that if you are going to focus the blame, that would be the place to put it. Now, maybe testosterone just makes men, particularly young men, violent and prone to fits of rage, in which case about the only thing we can do is to try to take weapons out of their hands. Maybe gun control needs to start by simply declaring that no man under the age of 40 can legally own or operate a firearm outside of a shooting range.

Or maybe male violence is learned from a society that teaches men that it is their right to have what they want, to be in charge, to blame or denigrate anyone who threatens their place at the top. Maybe we can blame a society that glorifies male violence in TV and movies and music, that depicts the “good guys” as the ones who are victorious in violent conflict. Maybe a history of institutionalized violence committed by white men against African-Americans, Native Americans and queer people is part of the toxic air we breathe. Maybe the violence is an outgrowth of the reality that so many men are convinced that they are right, and that anyone who doesn’t agree, or meet their expectations, is therefore wrong.

I wish I could offer a solution, but the problem is so pervasive it’s hard to even know where to start. The only entry point I see is with the men who are willing to own the problem, who understand that it isn’t enough just to not rape or murder anyone. Maybe they can model for their brothers how you go about admitting that you might not know, or might not need to be at the head of the table or the center of the conversation. Maybe they can choose to lay down arms and publicly declare that the ability to do harm does not define them.  Maybe they can hold their brothers accountable for violent speech as well as violent actions. Maybe they can start sentences with “I may be wrong, but it seems to me that….” Maybe they can practice naming their emotions without feeling that they need to act on them. Maybe they can practice listening—just listening to what the other person has to say without the need to impose their own opinion or knowledge.

The bad news is that the group that belongs to this profile of violence is so large. The good news is that there are so many who belong to the group that if the men who are offended by their association with violence step up, the world could be a radically different place.

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