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What is Wrong With American Men?

Leonard Pitts Jr., Tribune Content Agency on

He couldn’t get a date.

Or he hated Black people.

Or he was bullied in school.

If any of that sounds familiar, it should. Every time there’s a mass shooting in this country -- which, as a functional matter, pretty much means every day -- those are the kinds of explanations routinely offered in the aftermath. A simple trip to the store, seeing a movie, going to school -- or, as was the case last week in Highland Park, north of Chicago, going to a parade -- ends up in carnage and reporters dutifully waylay the shooter’s parents, teachers and friends to ask how this could have happened. And the portrait emerges.

He hated Jews.

Or he was depressed.

 

Or he was a loner.

But curiously enough, no one ever seems to consider, much less interrogate, the neon thread woven through it all. Meaning that pronoun, “he.” Always, “he.” We take it for granted. It hardly even registers. But maybe it should. In a government-funded study of 172 mass shootings since 1966 -- defined as a shooting in a public place where four or more people were killed -- The Violence Project, a nonpartisan and nonprofit anti-violence think tank, found that just four of the shooters were female. That’s a little more than 2 percent.

So, while we debate mass shootings as a bigotry problem, a mental health problem, an access to guns problem -- and make no mistake, we should -- it seems past time we also began debating it as a men problem. Especially since the numbers suggest it is more a men problem than any other kind. That we seldom broach it as such speaks to the fish-don’t-know-they’re-wet myopia of most of those framing the discussion. Meaning, of course: men themselves.

When you are considered the implicit norm, self-reflection doesn’t come naturally. But self-reflection is long overdue. And here, a riposte from the old sitcom “Living Single” suggests itself.

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