President Joe Biden’s eulogy for the 13 people gunned down in Buffalo was heartfelt and eloquent. But it left us no wiser about what the hell is going on in America.
“As president of the United States, I travel the world all the time,” he told his listeners. “And other nations ask me, heads of state in other countries ask me, what’s going on? What in God’s name happened on January 6th? What happened in Buffalo? They’ll ask.” We’re all asking.
The President and the pundits put it down to an “ideology of hate” which preaches racism, white supremacy, and fear of “the great replacement”. “What happened here is simple and straightforward,” said Mr Biden, “terrorism. Terrorism. Domestic terrorism. Violence inflicted in the service of hate and the vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other group.”
The New York Times editorialized that all mass shooting are motivated by racism. What other reason could there be? “American life is punctuated by mass shootings that are routinely described as idiosyncratic. But these attacks are not random acts; they are part of the long American history of political violence perpetrated by white supremacists against Black people and other minority groups.”
It’s a fact that some of these shooters mouth foul racist rhetoric. As the Times noted, their crimes included the 2015 killing of nine black worshipers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina; the 2018 murder of 11 Jewish people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh; the 2019 murder of 51 Muslim worshippers in New Zealand; and the 2019 murder of 23 people in El Paso, Texas. Several of the shooters posted manifestoes on the internet documenting their hatred of blacks, Jews, and Muslims. These men – why are they nearly always men? – claimed to be champions of white supremacy.
But as a global explanation for this volcanic explosion of hatred, racism just doesn’t hold water.
Between 1982 and May 2022, 53 percent of the perpetrators of mass shootings in the US were white, 16 percent were black, and eight percent were Latino – more or less proportionate to the country’s racial mix. The man who drove a car into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in November last year, killing six people, was black and expressed racist sentiments towards whites and Jews. The man who shot dead 12 people in the Washington Naval Yard in 2013 was black.
President Biden is right to lament these demonic eruptions of hatred in American life, but wrong to attribute them solely to racism. The perpetrators are nearly always lonely, unbalanced men. Most of them did not leave behind a racist manifesto – they just wanted to kill people. Does racism explain why a 64-year-old man shot dead 60 people at a country music festival in Las Vegas in 2017? That was the worst mass shooting in American history. The perpetrator was filled with hatred – but towards what? No one knows.
American journalists and pundits and politicians are handing out flash-card answers to a complex and mysterious question: why do some men erupt in lethal rage and hatred?
I don’t pretend to have the answer. Perhaps it has something to do with male inadequacy. Between 1982 and 2018, according to a database compiled by Mother Jones magazine, only five of 127 mass shootings involved women. In the past MercatorNet has identified fatherlessness and divorce as possible answers. These still seem plausible to me. Both create deep voids in the hearts of young men.
Moments of deep sadness like this, when glib answers fail to satisfy, are opportunities to look further afield. Did Mother Teresa predict this terrible hatred? No one should ever forget her simple words in Washington DC in 1997: “if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?” After millions upon millions of deaths through abortion, shouldn’t we ask whether these shooters are somehow channelling pent-up rage at all that pain?
How disheartening, then, to read that one of the most prominent abortion activists in the United States, Rachel Carmona, president of Women’s March, has called for “a summer of rage” to protect Roe v. Wade:
“For the women of this country, this will be a summer of rage. We will be ungovernable until this government starts working for us, until the attacks on our bodies let up, until the right to an abortion is codified into law.”
How can anyone sane think that weaving more rage into the fabric of national life will ensure, as President Biden said, that “Hate can have no safe harbor in America.”