On NPR, they had one commentator discuss the Tucson shooting. Her first reaction, as she described it, when the shooter was identified: a sigh of relief that the shooter was not Latino like her, but a Gringo.
I’ll cheerfully join her in that sigh, for a very different reason. When the initial reports came out, I jumped to a conclusion: it was a Mexican drug cartel hit. The initial information was very limited: it happened at an event for a member of Congress who is a hawk on border security, there were so many people wounded that automatic weapons were the likely culprit, there was talk of at least two gunmen, and it all happened very near the US-Mexican border. That all adds up, to me, to the Mexican drug cartels. And that would have been very bad news; it would have drawn the US directly into Mexico’s de facto civil war. So I, too, was very relieved when it was a single white guy who’d had a handgun with a very big magazine who’d done the shooting.
Her reason, though:
It’s safe to say there was a collective sigh of brown relief when the
Tucson killer turned out to be a gringo. Had the shooter been Latino,
media pundits wouldn’t be discussing the impact of nasty politics on a
young man this week — they’d be demanding an even more stringent
anti-immigrant policy. The new members of the House would be stepping
over each other to propose new legislation for more guns on the border,
more mothers to be deported, and more employers to be penalized for
hiring brown people. Obama would be attending funerals and telling the
nation tonight that he was going to increase security just about
In short, the only reason the
nation is taking a few days to reflect on the animosity in politics
today is precisely that the shooter was not Latino.
In brief, “I’m glad someone else will be the scapegoat for this one.”
In other forums, I saw relief that the shooter wasn’t a Muslim, and I think we all can see what that means. Although it might have been better if it had; as we saw in the DC sniper and Fort Hoot shooting cases, that immediately triggers the Discretion Reflex in the media that says “we can’t be certain what drove a man to go on a killing spree while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar.'” That might have forestalled the rush to judgment.
No, the shooter wasn’t Latino or Muslim. He was a gringo, a kaffir, a honky, a cracker. He was a white guy.
But that’s OK. We’re the ethnic group that’s not allowed to have pride in our ethnicity and our heritage. We’ve been conditioned to be unaware of those things, unless we’re expressing shame.
I’m OK with that. I know my general ethnic heritage — English, Scandanavian, and a bit of (shudder) French. And I couldn’t care less. I take neither pride nor shame in the accomplishments of my ancestors, and feel no great kinship with others based on that. I’ve taken Mr. King’s dream most literally, and don’t judge others on the color of their skin, but the content of their character — and ask for the same.
For me, it gets worse. I’m not just a white guy. I’m single, in my 40’s, live alone, am pretty much a loner, and spend way too much time online. Plus, earlier this year I said “screw it” to my fading hair and started shaving my head in a style I call “resignation.” I not only fit most of the Tucson shooter’s profile, but that of most serial killers. So I got that going for me, too.
So, to those who obsess on racial or ethnic identity: go ahead and sigh your sighs of relief that the shooter wasn’t Latino, wasn’t Muslim, wasn’t black, wasn’t gay, or whatever. Feel relief that it was just another white guy who flipped his lid. Your own pet issues and causes won’t get the extra scrutiny that comes hand in hand with identity politics, because he was of the group that isn’t allowed to embrace and celebrate its own identity.
Which is something I not only do not resent, but embrace. And I long for the day when everyone else can get the hell over such meaningless things as identity politics, and learn to stand — and fail — on your own merits. To recognize that the accomplishments of people who looked like you or made some minor contribution to your gene pool is nothing for you to bear with either pride or shame.
Yes, the Tucson shooter was one of “mine–” in a sense that is literally skin deep. I consider that among the least of my attributes.
Would that others shared my apathy.