Tag Archives: control

Don’t Call the Shooter “Crazy”: Toxic Masculinity, Mental Illness Stigma, and the Red-Herring’s of Mass Shootings

Our country has a serious gun epidemic.

We’re all aware of it, and it seems that almost weekly now we’re presented with yet another account of a mass shooter wreaking havoc among innocent civilians. We talk about gun control. We talk about mental illness. We talk about religious extremism. But we always seem to skirt around the underlying issue. By doing so we often cause harm to more innocent lives.

There’re so many “red herring” distractions to mass shootings, but the real issue lies much deeper in our society. Through our language, the media, our laws, and our acceptance of gendered norms, we manage to allow these massacres to continue and instead place undue pressure on mental illness. Sufferers of mental illness are often the target, although statistics show they are rarely violent people. The issue lies elsewhere: within toxic masculinity and the need to seek control.

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Another Mass Shooting, Always One Group to Blame

Mental illness is commonly brought up after a mass shooting. News anchors will emphasize the importance of mental illness awareness, and will suggest laws to evaluate the mental stability of gun owners. It’s an easy target to paint: those that kill others must be crazy.

The word “crazy” is used so loosely in our society, but it’s with this type of language that we perpetuate the stigma around mental illness. Entertainment and television were large perpetrators of spreading harmful stereotypes for a long time, but that is slowly changing in fictional media. News-centered media is still behind the times, however.

It’s taken us a long time to get where we are today in mental illness treatment and care. According to Bradley University’s research about 18% of the American population admits to suffering from some sort of mental illness. Of those 43.6 million people, only 6.7 million sought and received treatment for their varying ailments. Those who did seek treatment found that it was extremely beneficial, but still only a fraction of those suffering seek out the help they need.

Language and negative connotation are one of the main reasons people avoid seeking help. Despite that fact that only 3-5% of violent acts are committed by sufferers of mental illness, the issue is always brought up around cases of murder and shootings. The mental health of the shooter is put into question, and the media is quick to jump on the blame train; to distance themselves from the “crazy” or “unstable” population.

“We aren’t responsible for this, because we’re not insane.” Continue reading

Bigotry, Borders, and Beyond

Let’s try a little exercise here-

What’s the first image that pops into your head when I say the word “refugee”?

For many, it will be that of displaced African villagers, perhaps with stomachs bloated from hunger, listlessly waiting in line for water in some desecrated wasteland.

For others, it might be more recent images: those of shivering, terrified Syrians, crammed into boats as they prepare to make a perilous voyage across the Mediterranean.

But how many would think of scenes like this?

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No, that’s not the Balkans or Turkey or Darfour. That’s the Congregational Church of Austin in Texas, barely over a thousand miles from where I’m writing these very words.

The “American Immigration Crisis” has been quietly brewing since 2014, when a sudden surge of migrants- most of them young children– attempted to cross into the US from countries in Central America.

The response by many, as you can probably guess, was less than welcoming-

Across the Southwest (and the country at large), outrage was expressed over these “illegals”, the town of Murietta, CA perhaps serving as the best example. In July of 2014  buses carrying migrant families were protested in a manner that can only be described as repulsive- but I’ll let you watch for yourself and decide:

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3 Reasons Why the Paris Attack Feels like 9/11 and 1 Reason Why It Demands A Different Response

Since the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, I encountered several articles that criticize the way the Western world responded to the tragic loss of life in Paris. While each of these articles bemoans the loss of 132 innocent lives, they also highlight similar atrocities that happened before the Paris attack and were almost completely overlooked.

In a lot of ways this event, and its media response, reminded me of the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. While the media response to this tragedy has been a little more self-aware, our international reaction has been similar to how it was last time this kind of tragedy affected a Western nation. Rather than discuss the way we responded to these attacks, I wanted to examine why we reacted the way we did.

1) It felt close to home

I remember waking up the morning of 9/11, walking into the living room to see my mom crying. My dad turned to me and told me the world had changed overnight. Hearing about the attacks on Paris gave me the same shiver of fear that I felt that day. I don’t think it’s hard to dissect what motivates that feeling. These particular attacks were frightening because they happened to Western nations, and we in the West are very accustomed to feeling in control. We took control over much of the world during an age of imperialism, colonization, and slavery. Today we continue to control much of the world through unfair aid practices and political manipulation. These kind of attacks are terrifying because they make us feel like we don’t have as much control as we think we do.

Even though last Thursday 45 innocent victims lost their lives to a terrorist attack in Beirut and, 6 months ago a similar attack in Kenya killed 147 innocent people, many of us heard little to nothing about those attacks until their news coverage was compared to what occurred in Paris. In our effort to show solidarity with Paris, the Western world made it apparent that certain tragedies frighten us more than others.

As Elie Fares explained in his blog comparing the media response to the Paris and Beirut attack,

“When my people died, they did not send the world in mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.”

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3 Life Lessons I Learned in Church (Or, the Hilariously-Sad Realization that I Grew Up in a Cult)

“Here’s an easy way to figure out if you’re in a cult: If you’re wondering whether you’re in a cult, the answer is yes.” ― Stephen Colbert, I Am America

They say hindsight is 20/20. Never has this cultural idiom been so true to me as the moment that  I realized I grew up in a cult. After conducting some personal and academic research about the characteristics of a cult, the scales fell from my eyes and, hallelujah, I could see.

It wasn’t as earth-shattering as I would have expected, in some ways, it was like I always knew. I just had to step out of the cult closet and see for myself.

A few characteristics of a cult include financial mismanagement, abusive behaviour, and attempts to control members through manipulation. During my time in my childhood church I experienced and/or witnessed each of these concerning behaviours. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t the kind of horror movie cult that was sacrificing babies, or drinking poisoned Kool-Aid. Generally, it wasn’t even all that bad. But on the spectrum of church to cult, we had more in common with a cult than the typical church.

I learned a lot from my recent revelation, and I wanted to share what I learned with you. Below, I’ve included three life lessons I learned in church, or, as I like to say, the hilariously-sad realization I grew up in a cult.

Life Lesson #1: Your Time is Valuable

“If God is up at five in the morning for prayer… (dramatic pause)… Then you should be, too!”

Time is arguably our most valuable commodity, and it’s your time that a cult will take the most of. For most cults, controlling your time is almost as good as controlling your money. Since I was quite young I didn’t donate a lot of money, but let me give you a breakdown of how I spent my time:

There are 168 hours in a week. We sleep about 56 hours, and work about 40 hours each of the five workdays. That leaves about 72 hours left to do what we like. In our cult, we were told that our time was spiritual money in our spiritual bank account. If we had free time we weren’t doing enough for the Lord.

In a given week we would spend 19 hours in prayer (both communal and private), 6 hours in service, 4 hours doing street ministry (aka knocking on people’s doors and handing out pamphlets), 10.5 hours of driving ministry (picking up families for church programs), 3 hours youth ministry, 4 hours outreach ministry, and 5 hours in worker meetings or music practice. That left 19.5 hours of free time for 7 days, or approximately 2.7 hours of free time per day. To put it another way: if our free time had been money we would have barely made enough to support a child in a third world country.

When I finally committed to not go to church (cult) anymore, I suddenly had time to do what I wanted. It was as if I had discovered my belly button for the first time as an adult, which would be mind-blowing, to say the least.

Life Lesson #2: Question Everything

“When you come in here, turn off your brain.”

Ignorance is bliss, but cult ignorance? That shit is magical.

The first thing a cult takes away is your ability to question. You are not allowed to question leadership, the lack of faith healings, or the way money is being managed. You are discouraged from receiving a secular education and told to “turn off your brain” so the spirit could lead. Asking certain questions could get you ex-communicated. This meant that the Leaders would restrict any communication/contact between the ex-communicated person and the rest of the church congregation. This delicate practice was meant to somehow force the individual into repentance and to return once again to their (dysfunctional) church family.

In order to demonstrate your “true faith” you were required to leave your logic at the door and take everything on faith, no matter how absurd some of the services would get (running around the building and shouting at the top of your lungs was a frequently occurring event). While this kind ignorance was truly blissful, it quickly got out of hand.

Growing up in a cult was a lot like growing up in a tiny magical bubbleMy tiny bubble consisted of a small intimate group of people that saw each other every day. Like most charismatic churches we believed in faith healing, prosperity, and gifts of the spirit (speaking in tongues).

However, we also believed we could:

  • change the weather
  • drive cars without gas
  • teleport
  • pray back a woman’s hymen so she could re-lose her virginity on her wedding night (honest truth)
  • pray away the gay
  • chase demons out of the church (this actually involved physically running around)
  • pray over adult video stores to close them down (it actually did close down two weeks later, BTW)
  • repel bullets through prayer (when the persecution came)
  • pray people out of the grave.

It was a strange, wonderful, magical bubble, to say the least. But it was also a bubble that needed to burst.

For me, the pin that burst the bubble came the day we were asked to pray for a specific group of people to die.

We prayed, and they died, further justifying our beliefs in our magical powers.

It was scary, scary to be in a group of people you love and have grown to know over decades, then, one day, to see them all pray in mindless fervour for someone to die.

This is when the magic ended, I no longer viewed the world through the foggy haze of my magic bubble. I suddenly realized this was all crazy and I had no choice but to leave.

Life Lesson #3: Know When to Walk Away, And Know When to Run

“I don’t trust people with an education, they think too much with their head.”

As cliche as it sounds, things aren’t always meant to last forever. Leaving the safety and security of the community was hard. It was like a divorce; a divorce where you had to separate yourself from every single member of your family one by one. Although I came out relatively unscathed, there were people who I cared about who lost everything: family, money, and community.

The loss of community was the most heartbreaking. It left many bewildered and asking themselves a multitude of questions: What had been the point of all that hard work and time? Why did we pray so much? Why did I give away so much money? And why did I needlessly hate myself for natural body functions? Masturbation jokes aside, after leaving, or rather running, from the cult that I grew up in I learned that I don’t need their edification in my life to have purpose. I could live and make my own choices, without fear that God or church will disapprove. In my cult-free life I have found joy and purpose. Plus, there’s no one trying to steal my money anymore.


The writer of this post has chosen to remain ANONYMOUS.

America and the Middle Class

On Saturday, I attended the inaugural caucus of the Clark County chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America.

For work purposes only, people, keep your shirts on. Gordon’s still as red-and-black as ever.

All in all it wasn’t terrible- I actually got an opportunity to talk to the keynote speaker, a local congressman, about the impending vote on military action against my adopted homeland of Syria (for the record, I said if we had money to bomb Syria, we have money to spend giving refugees the medicine, food, and housing they so desperately need).

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

I’m here to talk about what was said (over and over), before the congressman started taking questions from the crowd. Continue reading