Tag Archives: Power Over

On Raising Male Children in Gun Culture

Reading about first-graders being murdered is difficult for me. My beloved G/Son is in first grade and I simply can’t begin to consider what it would mean to me, to his parents, to the future, if my little, elf-eared, Leggo-lover were shot while learning to sing songs for the holiday concert, or painting color wheels in art, or working on two-digit addition. How would I ever go on with The Secret Garden only half-read, with so many books still to share, with nature centers unvisited, and no one to ask me for a snack of apples and cheese?

We live in the Patriarchy — a social system based, at its very core, on the notion of Power Over, what Riane Eisler called a “dominator culture,” a culture based upon rankings that require, in particular, women to be subservient to men. A culture where men’s power is enforced by fear and force, if necessary. We swim in the Patriarchy, often as unaware of it as fish are of water — who notices it? It’s always there, the background of our lives, so unremarkable as to become invisible. It’s “just the way things are.”

America’s gun culture is both an artifact of Patriarchy and one of Patriarchy’s strongest supports. Men who feel that their power is slipping or insufficiently acknowledged can always find a semi-automatic gun and reassert themselves by shooting up women and children. Politicians are afraid to challenge the gun lobby. There is apparently no limit to the number of horrific deaths that Americans are willing to endure simply to ensure that no man is ever inconvenienced in his desire to own as many guns — even guns that can kill dozens of innocents in a few moments — as possible. Americans who suggest that some gun safety provisions should be put in place are told that the answer is yet more guns: why, if everyone walked around all the time with loaded guns, everything would be fine! The insanity behind that statement doesn’t stop its proponents from repeating it like a mantra — anything to keep even the most common-sense regulations from ever coming to the floor.

The part of me that is a Nonna isn’t separate from the part of me that is a lawyer. And no one — and that includes SCOTUS — has ever successfully explained why the Second Amendment to our Constitution, which allows citizens to “keep and bear Arms,” because a “well regulated militia” is “necessary to the security of a free State,” (an arguably highly outmoded idea — otherwise, we need to start allowing citizens to keep weapons-grade uranium, and chemical weapons, and the ability to perform cyber-sabatoge of power systems) requires the regular and predictable deaths of first-graders simply in order to allow every angry man in America to assert his Power Over.

What happened in Connecticut — and in every other one of these pointless disasters — had nothing to do with ensuring the security of our country. Nothing. None of us is safe or secure when every mentally-ill, misguided, angry man can grab a gun and shoot up a school-full of our children. By definition, any policy that renders our children insecure in their very schoolrooms is antithetical to the security of a free State. And only an insane devotion to Patriarchy, to power over, to the desire for death over life, can cause anyone to pretend otherwise.

If we aren’t ready to repeal the Second Amendment (as we once gathered the courage to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment when we realized that that amendment was destroying our society), then we need to adopt sane gun safety laws that implement the Founders’ notion that keeping and bearing arms must be consistent with the security of a free State. Almost every other developed country — including Australia, which also fancies itself a wild frontier — has done so. And far, far fewer of their schoolchildren die every year due to gun violence.

And, at the same time, we need to undermine Patriarchy every chance that we get. And we get a lot of chances. Not enough, but a lot.

I raised a son in this culture and I’m trying v hard to be an involved grandparent in it and I’ve never figured out how to do either of those tasks in a way that doesn’t, far too often, allow Patriarchy to win. All that I’ve managed to do, I think, is to chip away at the edges, to try and model and instill the belief that a new world — a world based upon Power With, upon respect for women and the natural world, upon interconnection — is possible.

And, again, like Mary Oliver, too often I fail as a witness. We go to the RenFaire and buy wooden swords and shields and watch the jousting and it’s all good family fun. I read another bedtime chapter of The Secret Garden and don’t discuss the evils of colonialism or aristocracy. I buy the latest “ninja” Leggos and don’t ask enough questions about why there is only one “girl” ninja or about why fighting is the only way to solve problems.

I was thinking about this problem today as I was chopping celery and onions for crab mold for a friend’s party and rolling the sugarplums that I make for G/Son to eat on Christmas eve. (I never do this kind of cooking without magical intent; today, my intent was pretty strong.) And I remembered Derrick Jensen‘s statement that our responsibility for global warming is not, having been born in car culture, for driving a car; our responsibility is for not shutting down car culture as a whole, which is much more serious.

I don’t know how to shut down Patriarchy as a whole. But I am going to begin working much harder to find ways to talk directly about these issues with G/Son. I’m going to do magic and divination around these issues and I’m going to work more diligently to model Power With.

I shan’t be gone long, you come, too.