I think before we get started this time around I should mention, for the benefit of folks sensitive to it, that there is discussion of domestic violence and some vague descriptions pointing to a gruesome crime. Think of where you are emotionally before proceeding, please.
Back in July the owners of the subdivision I live in sent out a series of letters "reminding" those of us who live here that our leases require a certain level of upkeep, green lawns (drought and all), etc. The letters were mildly threatening. They promised Inspections. I don't know how much of what they angled at even happened. My (somewhat unruly) outside living situation wasn't inspected, at least to my knowledge, which was disappointing because I was ready to be indignant over the area’s shabbily-painted street signs that were largely illegible when we moved in here seven-and-a-half years ago and are even worse now. Mostly, I think these letters were just a stick-jabbing at certain homes in the area where things were getting a little rough around the edges. And it worked. Sprinklers clicked and clattered at all hours (drought and all), yards were cleaned up, grass was mowed. As a psychological ploy, it was pretty crafty.
There is one house that I pass every day that Julia and I had been joking were the winners for "most improved" during this process. It was never particularly bad there just seemed to be a lot going on in the space. They have an above-ground swimming pool and a trampoline. Two sheds and a chicken coop. A deck and a porch recently rebuilt. Lawn furniture scattered a bit higgledy piggledy. Then they got it pretty squared away and their yard looked great. A man, a woman, and two children—daughters—lived there. During the winter I recall them hosting several bonfires, with a decent number of people gathered around. Our street addresses are just a few numbers apart, but the way the roads out here twist and turn they were hardly neighbors and I can't say I knew them at all. Still, on evenings I would be out walking to the main road and back, we might wave at one another.
Last Thursday night the man killed the woman. The news reports, quoting police (I don't intend to link to it from here), describe not so much a murder as an execution. The daughters, ages nine and eleven, witnessed the attack. The eleven-year-old called 9-1-1, and tipped off the arriving officers that the story the man was telling wasn't true. He is in jail now with a $1M bond. He isn't going anywhere. I don't know where the children are.
What a horrific situation to imagine. Not just the crime itself, but what life in that household must have been like. The abuse that certainly preceded this final, murderous act. The terror of living there. And I have to wonder if friends knew, even vaguely, what was happening. If family knew. If guests to those bonfires had any inkling. Was there ever any intervention on behalf of this murdered woman and her children? Why did she stay? Was there nowhere for her to turn? It is an all-too-familiar series of questions regularly asked on a day-to-day basis in this awful country we exist in. This country where we don't care about women and children. Or brown people. Or people who need our compassion and kindness.
All of this is happening in the wake of the cowardly support the SCOTUS offered to Texas and their medieval abortion ban. This abortion fight is one that seems to go on forever, and it all boils down to male control over women. It's just one of many fronts in that battle, several of which have been spotlighted during our unrelenting pandemic, where the expectations of women to handle household, career, and childcare almost exclusively is painfully apparent. We know that under these conditions domestic violence has surged ... or do we? The media barely reports on it, if at all. Yet right now people, almost exclusively women and children, are suffering and fearing for their lives every moment of every day.
What are we going to do about this? What are we going to do about men? Because these horrors are delivered pretty much entirely by men. It is men who have controlled the politics of patriarchal white supremacy for the lifetime of our country, and now, 200+ years in, they are only tightening the screws. It is men in Texas, men in Montana, men in Washington, D.C. Equally sickening are the staggering number of white women who support them. One need only review the support of this demographic for Trump in both elections to understand that a good many of these women aren't our friends or allies. They aren't even friends or allies to themselves.
I should also point out that last week a local Missoula high school was locked down because of a report of an intended shooting. The halls crawled with cops with rifles at the ready, children cowering in classrooms. My son graduated from there years ago and it is terrifying. I have friends with children there. Friends who are teachers. As if COVID isn't enough, there is the constant, unaddressed issue of school shootings that our actions, our inactions, prove we really don't care about. Think about the bravery of the folks in the civil rights movements who faced down cops and dogs and violence. Now let us think about our own actions, our inactions, and be ashamed. We aren't doing enough. Not even close. We will never binge watch our way to a better society.
Every one of these incidents are connected via the web of toxic masculinity that permeates our culture. Sure, there are other contributing factors, but it's pretty much all about dudes. Dudes that we enable not just through our inaction, but also our actions. There are few men more toxic than billionaires like Jeff Bezos, yet how many of us relentlessly continue to fuel his empire via the convenience of buying from Amazon, a company that is toxic to communities, toxic to the changing requirements of the people who deliver us our convenience, and extremely toxic to the people working in their warehouses. How many young white guys want to be Jeff Bezos? Not surprising considering how much we celebrate the ilk. I'd also suggest our support of big time sports is another one, which are always about dudes, and are exceedingly toxic both as an industry and in the way they exploit the very men who participate.
We are a culture who regularly allows young black men to be gunned down in the streets, yet we allow those same streets to be overrun with white guys armed and armored, cosplaying as freedom fighters. It is ludicrous and dangerous and sickening.
That murderer down my street didn't just happen. Somewhere along the line something broke him, some element of this toxic culture caught him up, chewed him into pieces, and then spit him out into whatever the situation was that erupted in that home the other night. It is heartbreaking to see the way our society failed that household. What will happen to the children? Do we trust the machinery of the State to take care of them if there isn't family to take them in? Do we trust the State to see to the therapy they will need to get through this nightmare that they will carry the rest of their lives? At this point, I don't trust the State to rise to any occasion. Particularly the state of Montana, which is controlled by the most toxic of (white) men and their (white) women supporters, who are likely looking at the situation in Texas and gleefully rubbing their evil little hands together. Nor is there any sign of it getting better. Frankly, I don't even want to live here anymore.
Everyone has a failure story related to these institutions, especially when it comes to health care. Is it any surprise that there are so many people who don't trust what the State tells them regarding COVID, then? When the State fails you at every turn, when the State actively promotes and celebrates a culture of toxicity, when the State does engage in conspiracy and lies to its people, is it any wonder that so many responses to it are toxic too? I'm not surprised by anything bad that happens these days. I'm only surprised there isn't more carnage.
Do we want a society that cares about people? Do we want a society where women and children are safe at home, at school, out walking or jogging on the street? That everyone has equal opportunities to live happy lives? That supports our teachers and caregivers and mental health professionals and all these underpaid, underfunded, absolutely necessary elements of our culture that are regularly cut from municipal, state, and federal budgets? Friends, we are failing each other. We can't wait for elections to solve our problems because that clearly isn't working very well. We all have to engage in small acts, and those of us who can engage in bigger ones need to do so. Acts of kindness. Acts of defiance. I know some of us are already struggling just to get through the day, especially women. So much of the burden needs to fall on men to solve this problem with men. We have to hold each other accountable at every turn. At every turn. I don't know what any of this looks like and I am wrestling with it. And I won't stop rattling the cage either. Because no one is going to fix things for us. We have to fix it ourselves.