Friday, August 01, 2008

Public vs. private terror (by Suzie)

         People have discussed whether the shootings at the UU church in Knoxville should be considered terrorism since the shooter hated liberals. Joe Lauria writes:
Even if this man hopefully acted alone it is chilling to all progressive people and groups ... Are we free to express our views …?
          The possibility that the killer targeted this church because his ex-wife had been a member carries less cache because domestic violence is so common. In December, a member of the Clearwater, Fla., UU church killed his two young children, his ex-wife and her new partner before shooting himself. This crime did not attract the same publicity. But can’t we ask the same question Lauria did: Isn’t a crime like this chilling to all women who want to leave abusive men and start a new life?
          Merriam-Webster defines terrorism as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” It’s debatable whether the killings in Clearwater or Knoxville fit this definition. In regard to Clearwater, the killer appears to have systematically used fear and abuse to coerce his wife to do as he wanted, a pattern common to domestic violence. It’s quite likely that he did not think how his actions would affect others. But they do. A lot of women restrict their actions because of the threat of male violence. Why do I end up repeating this in post after post? Because a lot of people fail to see the political implications of what happens in private.
           Our culture ties masculinity to financial success. When some men fail at that, such as the unemployed and struggling killer in Knoxville, "they have to find a plausible scapegoat," says Brian Levin, professor of criminal justice and director of the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
"They will take that intense personal feeling of emasculation and failure and find some societal or political overlay that makes the failure seem not of their doing."
          Or, they may blame a woman. 
          Perhaps what happened in Knoxville disturbs men more than what happened in Clearwater because men were shot in Knoxville. Random killings may be scarier to both men and women because they feel powerless to protect themselves. With domestic violence, however, women can convince themselves that it would never happen to them, they would never get involved with a violent man, they would have done things differently. This may reassure some women. It does not console me.