NOTE: This blog addresses male violence from a male perspective. Some of the content is difficult. It would be wise for me to state ahead of time what I am NOT trying to do here: I am not absolving men of the role they play in violent acts. I am not trying to claim that every man who commits violence is a victim himself. I am not trying to compare men’s issues with Women’s issues. I am not trying to play armchair psychologist. What I am bringing, I hope, is a particular perspective that will bring some insight into helping men and women address violence in our society in a helpful way.
Like all people I know have spent the majority of my life trying to change for the better. Some who know me might be quick to try to point out that I still have a ways to go. Certainly, they are right.
Try as I might, there are some things I will never be able to change.
I am white. I am male. I come from a privileged middle class. I am heterosexual. I am Christian (and in all seriousness, for me being Christian is no more a choice for me than the colour of my skin). And here is something else that I can’t seem to change – I come from a statistical demographic that is responsible for a large portion of violent acts in North America.
Two young men have been very much on my mind recently. A young man who cannot be identified because of his age and Alexandre Bissonnette.
Both young men recently committed crimes that were hateful, fueled by darkness and that ended up striking fear in many people and, in the case of Alexandre Bissonnette, causing death. It was tragic. For those of you who are wondering what I am talking about, the young offender in question is the young man arrested in Ottawa for having defaced the house of a rabbi, a mosque, a church and a synagogue last fall with hate speech. Andre Bissonnette is the man arrested in Quebec city for killing six men in a mosque while they were praying.
I think back to a moment somewhere in the midst of this where one of my white male colleagues posted statistics about how many white men commit these kinds of crimes. He commented about how painful it was to face this truth. I echo that feeling. I am not saying that white males are the only ones who commit crimes. I am saying that as someone who comes from this demographic, I feel angst. It is hard to face. I am sure many men, allowed the time to breathe, would agree.
So where am I going with this? The first thing I would like to point out is that the victims of these men come in many shapes and sizes. What makes it difficult is that while it is easy for us to understand the shock and hurt we feel when one of these tragic incidents takes place, we seem at a loss to know what to do about it, we don’t seem to know who our strongest ally is in facing it. I think that for this reason conversations about how to advance our society forward devolve quickly into passionate emotional and sometimes angry discussions about who is to blame. I don’t know who is to blame any more than you do but for every tragedy it would be easy to agree that there would be at least a dozen factors in the mix.
So instead of talking about causes, I would like to talk about remedies. Jesus said that Satan could not drive out Satan. And while I am not advocating a “bleeding heart” approach, I am advocating for a healthy dose of compassion. The question for me isn’t about whether or not we should be compassionate, the question for me is from where does the the first step of compassion need to take place? I think in the face of crimes committed by white heterosexual Christian men, that step of compassion needs to take place in large part by white, heterosexual, Christian men.
I think it is safe to say that when we consider how many of these crimes are committed by men (and let’s broaden the scope now to include all forms of abusive behaviour, violence, sexual aggression, and emotional abuse) we forget so easily that so many of the victims of these abusers are themselves men. Who better, then, to harness the power of compassion to undo the damage caused by the spiritual pollution created by men who commit crimes of this nature. And who better to create a healthy environment that resists the cycle repeating itself.
The last few weeks have been a real learning experience for me, as I have reached out to my male friends across the country by email and Facebook, not to call them out when I see angry things that have been posted, but to ask them how they are doing and what is going on in their lives. To ask them simply, if they are okay and to remind them that they are not alone in the world to face the problems of the world. Without exception the conversations that I have had with these men have been intimate, loving, and positive. There is no simple one size fits all solution, but the next time that you see someone who fits “that profile” acting out I would encourage you not to respond with fear or anger but to reach out with compassion. Not to justify angry behaviour, but to diffuse it.
God is said to be our loving father, and while assigning a gender to God has its problems, stick with me for a second. It is a call I think for each of us to treat each other as the loving father that holds the goodness of our hearts in his hand. I don’t know how much of a difference it would make if we could embrace this more fully. My faith tells me two things: I will never know the answer, and because of this I cannot give up trying.
– Rev. Eric Lukacs