While some of the recent shooters have indeed been Muslim, so have many of the victims and many of the first responders who came to support those victims. Banning Muslims may weed out a small number of future terrorists. But it would certainly weed out hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters who share our values and aspirations.
What makes Trump’s proposal even more ridiculous is that while these perpetrators of violence in general are very often not Muslim, they are almost always men.
Physical violence is almost entirely a masculine phenomenon. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, between 1980 and 2008, 90% of homicide offenders in the United States were men.
If Trump is really serious about eliminating terrorist attacks, why not propose banning men? Is it not the masculine need to resolve conflict through dominance and violence that is responsible here? Does anyone doubt that if we eliminated all men from entering the country, these disgusting acts of violence would disappear overnight?
Looking For Someone To Blame
Of course, this would never happen and should never happen.
It makes you think though. It seems like when tragedies like the Orlando shooting happen, we all look for who to blame. As an atheist deeply critical of religion, I think of how unhelpful it is that so many of us use centuries-old books to feel justified – and indeed holy – in killing or homophobia. How can we expect compassion when dogma is valued over reason?
I also look to the Republicans whose allegiance to the gun lobby is greater than their allegiance to the American people. I look to those who believe our right to own a gun is more important than our right to not be killed. How can we make progress when we don’t agree that preventing needless deaths is a top priority?
I look at Western economic and military “intervention” in the Middle East, and how it creates enemies where there is an opportunity to make allies. How can we ask for peace from others as we make war on them?
I think all of these questions and explanations have their own truth to them.
But is it possible our core problem is not in any of these things, but actually in our expectations of men and masculinity?
What Men Are Taught
In our society, men are not taught how to understand and process their emotions. We learn that being “tough” is more valuable than being compassionate. We learn that fear, anger, sadness, and even joy are things to be ashamed of and to repress. We learn that putting down others makes us bigger. We are told that we are the ones who have to keep it together – never show vulnerability. We don’t have the tools to integrate the incredible cultural changes happening right now – ones that make some of us feel as if our position in society is under attack.
In short, we learn that when we disagree with someone, we win the argument by dominating them – verbally, emotionally, and if that doesn’t work, physically.
The first step is to see men as both perpetrators and victims of toxic masculinity.
It is easy to blame men for the violence we are seeing in our world today. And we men must take responsibility for our role in it.
But did any of us choose these expectations of masculinity we find ourselves in? If we could do away with them, would we?
What if men now gave each other permission to feel scared, to not know the answer, to express our whole selves, and to be vulnerable?