On retirement from ministry I had two freedoms. One was the extra latitude given to religious leaders to go into dangerous and forbidden places as someone who could try to understand and risk being destroyed. The second freedom is not having to be accountable to a group of lay people who had not studied what they called religion or theology or ethics. (That IS also one of the main hedges against nutcase clergy.)
One must earn the freedoms, in my opinion, and the main way is by addressing difficult subjects that plague the larger society. These recent mass shootings certainly qualify. It is clear to me that guns and sex are mixed. The third element is economic, but rarely considered. These boys are economically downscale if employed at all, which means they are not marriage material, which means that their love life is crippled. The normal progression of settling is destroyed. They cannot start a family and home.
Ask China, where there is a huge problem because selective abortion made a certain generation into a male unisex throng, unsettled. They just don't have enough money to marry because of inflated bride prices and there's no one to marry anyway. With luck they can find a job, but why?
One of the ways Americans (and others) are controlled and kept blind is being forbidden to know or find out things. I discovered in the Fifties and Sixties that I was never going to find out anything about sex by looking in a dictionary. The problem of American boys whose families have thrown them out because of money or just fighting or because they offended the conscience by being gay is that they are told too much by all the wrong sources. They know falsehoods, twisted facts, and flammable opinions. And so they learn to keep a front, an illusion of knowing it all and not caring. They attach where they can.
In retirement I had been met by a mainstream society that was emptying dumpsters of information about sex, etc. Did I ask how many shades of gray there were? No, I did not. The problem was not being forbidden access but finding some kind of order, particularly since so much is just recently known -- either from technological research or by finally gaining the trust of other cultures. It all challenges belief and understanding even in middle America.
In addressing these recent incidents of gun violence, I need to tell things I barely know about myself: that boys are sex-workers, that babies can be raped, that much of what is considered sex is more truly torture, that grown men have a whole range of intense regard for boys from murder to self-sacrificing love, that there is no clear line between men and women anyway. People don't stay on their own side. Or any standard schedule. People respond to circumstances in loving attachment or sex and violence. Something similar happens in terms of age. People are forty before they attend junior college. Likewise, some are still childish when they reach menopause.
In short, I hardly knew anything and still have many questions, but I do see that bullets are a kind of "cum" and that denial, confinement, neglect, are gunpowder. At first I wasn't asking about guns, just about porn. I was bluntly told that at the first sign of judgement, patronizing, over-intellectualizing -- they were through. They had to knock all the narcissism out of me, the tendency to imagine what this or that would be like for ME instead of them. Because, they said, it wouldn't be the same for me.
Slowly I began to realize that porn or even the sex act was not some forbidden object, but rather a source of identity, a sort of password, with a high investment in secrecy among the initiated.
It was a while before they began to disclose how many of their tricks were not paying for sex but rather buying the right to hurt them. "I charge more for that," the boys said. "More than doin' it bareback." If they had control. These tricks were not necessarily degenerate sleazy men, but men fighting rage about themselves, about their sons, about the people they wanted to be but couldn't. Sometimes they paid a trick for the sex act right in a son's bed. I never heard a story about a man who wanted to be beaten himself, but I wouldn't be surprised. Maybe they just go to dominatrix women.
No reporter has ever talked about the sex lives of these lone mass shooters, whether they made money that way or whether they hurt sexworkers. I think it's highly relevant. Reporters check for "manifestos" to read as though they were still in the Cold War. Aren't any illiterate?
When I began to read about these things and to read porn directly, it turned out that one of the most obscene and scary writers was the one who originated the stories on one of my fav BBC mysteries: "Wire in the Blood," starring Robson Green, a civilized man. In general, the lesbian porn I stumbled onto was horrendous. No problem at all to imagine them shooting people, and yet they don't do mass murder with assault weapons. The boys who talked had no guns. If they did, they would sell them to buy food and meds.
At the other extreme was a complete gentleman who was friends with Gertrude Stein and her companion, Alice Toklas. His idea of violence was poking someone with an umbrella. I decided that porn is in the consumer, not the material. The material has to conform to the mind and emotions of the consumer. But mass shooting is in the larger culture. It suggests the act, provides the guns and the crowds, and the follow up of talktalktalk.
No one has talked about what books or magazines mass shooters read, or do they only read online? Or do they just watch vid? About shooting? (One sort or another?) Something that will let them pretend they are all-powerful?
When the boys who were the real life model for the "chapter" from "Prairie Gladiator," try to explain to me, what they express is not so much sex (though the unmanageability of desire came up-- sorry for the pun) as feeling that they were not being considered worth relationship, not even friendship. No one wanted to know anything about them. But I did. Some had close friends. They were not shooters.