Why is it when a male member of the tea party set gets angry there always seems half a chance he'll head home, arm-up and go ballistic? This is the question I was confronted with last Sunday morning as I barreled through my news sites. The Wall Street mess was still plastered on every page -- Jamie Dimon's smarmy grin, Lloyd Blankfein's toad-eyed glare -- all of it a series of slaps to the face, stunning psychological blows littered with dollar signs and zeros into infinity.
Naturally enough my incredulousness led to anger. Blankfein's recent quote "I know I could slit my wrists and people would cheer," didn't help. In light of the remark I can remember thinking "Well yeah, Lloyd, that's a great idea, the wrists I mean" -- but that's as far as it went. Sure, it wasn't very nice and Lloyd would undoubtedly take umbrage at my sentiments, but I knew in my heart of hearts I could only pity him -- and feel badly for his family in the bargain -- were he to be so foolish. And my friends and associates seem to be operating in a similar manner; Flash of anger, brooding resentment, still probably help the SOB if he had a flat somewhere along the side of the highway. End of story, right?
Not hardly. Though both conservatives and liberals have both been operating in a less than rational manner for some time now there exist even blacker shadows on the dark fringes of both camps, far forward outposts staffed by Grim Reaper wannabes with orders to waste anything that blinks. And lately more than a few of them have been taking that injunction quite literally.
It's striking how many of these "literalists" are on the right. Not that those on the left aren't capable of violence. The Weathermen -- a radical left faction of Students For A Democratic Society (SDS) -- were making explosives back in the 60s. But it's telling that some of they're most explosive violence occurred when one of their own bombs went off in embryo in a New York City brownstone, killing four of them and effectively ending such endeavors. The 21st Century American Left, perhaps as an indirect result, often lacks the militant resolve that propels change in smaller venues. It's near impossible to see a "Leftist" hero like Che Guevera noshing on brie and up-market crackers at some gallery opening tittering about Sarah Palin and the latest Republican sex scandal. Sure, Chile's Salvador Allende was rumored to rise (as it were) to such pretensions when demanded, but look what happened to him. And no, American Liberals don't own guns, either.
The right however own guns, and God only knows what else, and are more that happy to use them as the situation demands. When cowboys flash their hardware I'm always reminded of the clown here in Austin with the concealed carry license who shot some street miscreant -- in the back no less -- who'd grabbed his lady friend's purse. Though earning himself a well-deserved stint in state prison (rumored to be no picnic in Texas) his behavior is illustrative of a mindset. Having survived a flirtation courtesy of my redder buddies here in the Lone Star State I know for fact a gun gave me a visceral feeling of power, of invincibility, an almost physical rush of testosterone coursing through the extremities -- and that was before I even fired the thing. Now I'm not sure how girls handle the phenomena but I know how this boy felt. And it scared the hell out of me.
Perhaps the biggest difference between left and right is that liberals understand abstraction
and can comprehend the common good based on empirical evidence. The right,
while capable of collectivism, tends to be more emotional. Granted, I'm not Bob
Coolie and this isn't a stretch class but the concept of "gut"
personality types is an apt metaphor here. The emotional personalization of an
issue works to encourage a kind of "privatization" of feeling, the
idea that "This is mine."
Needless to say, this privatization, according to Buzzflash editor Mark Karlin, "... leaves a huge opening for the manipulators of emotional frustration on the right (along with the racists) to channel the anger that should be directed at Wall Street and global corporations that have off shored America's production capacity, to channel that grassroots anger at Obama, Democrats, liberals and progressives." Fox News anyone?
This is where the oft-cited "left brain/right brain
(conservative left, liberal right)" argument comes to fore. While
universally reviled in the medical community (University Of Texas' George
Deutsh's remark "... differences within a hemisphere account for more than
differences between them," is typical) pop psychology embraces the
concept, perhaps unintentionally re-enforcing an almost impossible
sociopolitical right/left divide where extermination seems a perfectly logical
-- if obscene -- response on
both sides of the aisle.
Former UCLA medical school neurologist Dr. John Mazziotta perhaps summed up the official line most succinctly: "Even on the most trivial tasks our studies showed that everything in the brain was in flux -- both sides, the top and the bottom. It was tremendously complicated. To think that you could reduce this to a simple left-right dichotomy would be misleading and oversimplified."
No, there's more to it, and less as well. In fact a quick overview of recent massacres reveals similarities in the psychological profiles of event specific perpetrators that are inescapable. Therefore the bracketing of George Soldini's 2007 Pittsburgh heath club slaughter with Richard Poplawski's 2009 last stand (also in Pittsburgh) and James Van Brunn's Holocaust Museum assault (again 2009) exposes a core motivation explicit in the causal factors of all three actions. And that motivation is literally below the belt.
George Soldini was convinced women didn't like him. He claimed he hadn't been laid in 19 years so he did have something of a point but it went deeper than that. He was so lonely he couldn't think straight -- rejected over and over and over again, symbolically castrated by the objects of his affections with their purported mass refusal to lay with him. His own diaries detail his alienation and growing hatred of women in general as a result. So one fine day George armed-up and invaded a health club he'd recently joined, striding into the tragically titled "Latin Impact" women's fitness class and opening fire. He managed to kill three female participants before turning the gun on himself. If this was political act then it was sexual in nature.
On the other side of town Richard Poplawski was worried about losing his freedom, specifically his freedom to own guns. A regular enough guy who'd probably been laid the month before his demise old Rich was of the Levi Johnson ("I'm a fuckin redneck") school of delayed post-adolescence. He loved his weapons -- though he may well have had size issues with one of them -- and his significantly right of center political beliefs (Barack Obama was going to take his guns thus his freedoms thus his manhood). No fan of immigrants either he felt the traditionally patriarchal white male role in this country was slipping away faster than sand in an hourglass. So one fine day he armed-up and invited Pittsburgh's Finest over for a shoot-out, killing three of them before being finally taken down himself -- a symbolic castration if I've ever heard of one.
James Von Brunn was the the walking, taking epitome of that old political joke "How can you recognize a Ron Paul supporter?" The answer, "Oh, they'll tell you about it," fit Van Brunn to a tee. Not that he was a Paul fan however. No, his sympathies seemed to hew closer to National Socialism. He absolutely hated Jews and had pored over The Protocols of the Elders of Zion like an evangelical with a King James Bible. An unmarried loner, James liked talking about pet peeves (gun control, Jews) with anyone who'd listen. Finally everyone in earshot was sick of the discussion. So one fine day Jimmy armed-up and decided to take some action to prevent his metaphorical castration. Scrawling "You want my weapons? This is how you'll get them," in a notebook he left in his car Van Brunn entered Washington's Holocaust Museum and killed the first person he saw -- a guard who wasn't even Jewish. Wounded in the assault, Van Brunn currently awaits trail, and what could turn out to be his own sex change as well.
Okay, so let's be blunt here: "You mean it's all about their peckers?" Well, kinda.
It's pretty much universally accepted that guns are phallic symbols; symbols of power, of manhood, of awe. It's been that way with every generation's weapon of choice since the days of tree branches and jagged rocks. It's also pretty much universally accepted that homo sapiens are almost hard-wired for war, for conflict, for self-expression in the most linear fashion imaginable. For males this results in a cult of both masculinity and masochism, a sort of constant voice in their heads whispering that the powerful weapon they're carrying between their legs could be severed at any time, thus draining them of potency and rendering them castrati in the most disconcerting of ways.
Of course this harkens back to Freud (as does much else so it would seem) and his over-used Oedipus Complex, specifically its' castration anxiety phase. But inclusion in this particular argument fits like a puzzle piece. The gist of this conceptual byproduct is that when little boys are first exposed to female genitalia prior to puberty (though some might take exception to early parenting that includes such detail) the first question the kids has is "Gee, where's her thingy?" This, naturally enough -- in addition to all the other bizarre sexual themes going through the poor brat's head -- leads to each kid fearing for his own thingy which, according to Freud at any rate, results in the testosterone infused male persona and the penis as a weapon of both offense (so to speak) and defense; a weapon dripping with sex and womb-love and a sort of animal drive nobody really seems in the mood to admit. Thus remove the weapon, remove the persona.