The poison we swim in

Two Indian men were shot yesterday in a sports bar in Kansas by a white man who thought they were middle eastern. One of them- Srinivas Kuchibhotla- died, and the other man, Alok Madasani, was injured along with another patron, Ian Grillot, who tried to help.

The shooter then went to a bar at an Applebee’s and told the bartender “that he needed a place to hide out because he had just killed two Middle Eastern men.”

This thread succinctly lays out the consequences of the burgeoning, poisonous culture of hate we’re soaking in right now and how it spreads as it begins to take legislative form and secure a presence in the White House.

Alexandra Erin writes: “This man told a bartender at the Applebee’s that he needed a place to hide out after killing “two Mideastern men”. That made sense to him. I just… I want everyone to meditate on that for a while. This man thought another random (MERICAN!) man would help him escape justice…because he’d killed two men who, he believed, did not belong here and did not deserve to live. Ask: where’d he get this idea from?”

More about the crime here.

For my own thoughts, to those who will say “mental illness” I say what I always say: sure, maybe the white guy who shot up the mosque in Quebec was mentally ill. Sure, maybe so was the white guy who shot up the movie theater in Aurora, and the church in Charleston, and the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, and the beauty salon in Seal Beach, and at the female college students in Santa Barbara, and at the congresswoman at her outdoor constituents meeting in Tuscon, and the school at Sandy Hook, and Santa Monica college, and the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the Amish school in Pennsylvania, who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City, and so heartbreakingly many places. It’s certainly aberrant behavior that you hope is not the act of healthy, sane people.

But who among the mentally ill is moved to violence, and how do they pick their targets? It’s the poison the culture puts out that they absorb and act on. It’s the misogyny, it’s the xenophobia, it’s the racism, it’s our national obsession with guns, it’s the toxic idea that masculinity and agression are inextricably linked, and that men have a right to sex, the idea that if you feel like a deserving have-not, someone else has what you do not and does not deserve it.

If Muslims are held to account for their fringe violent actors, so must other demographics be. Yet as is often pointed out, a white shooter is described in the media as a mentally ill lone wolf, not a terrorist. Mother Jones has a great database and analysis of mass shootings in America where they note that “since 1982, there have been at least 70 mass shootings across the country… Forty four of the killers were white males. Only one of them was a woman.” White men- 31% of the population- have been responsible for about 63% of mass shootings in that span. (And because we also have a skewed perception of who terrorism affects- it’s worth noting that the majority of the victims of terrorism worldwide are Muslim.) So when I think about what really chills my blood, it’s the white man who seems to feel his supremacy fading, quick to anger, quick on the trigger, and still, despite perceived disenfranchisement (what is that quote?- “to the privileged, equality feels like oppression”)- blessed by the system. But we don’t call it terrorism, and that has consequences for our safety. And we stubbornly break the link between these “lone wolves” and the bayings of the pack, conducted so well by Donald Trump.