The Orlando shooter, mad men and the literature of rejection

John Wilkes Booth by Alexander Gardner, circa 1865

John Wilkes Booth by Alexander Gardner, circa 1865

When tragedy occurs, it’s always best to think before acting or speaking. (Right, Donald Trump?)

And yet, you knew what the profile of Omar Mateen would turn out to be, and I’m not talking about his religious and ethnic profile. He was a man. He was a young man. He had anger management issues. He demonized others – particularly women. And despite all the conspiracy theories, he appears to have acted alone. 

In other words, he was a loner and a loser. Sound familiar? Plug in the names of the Charleston/Newtown/Columbine/Boston shooters/bombers, throw in Lee Harvey Oswald, Timothy McVeigh and John Wilkes Booth, now add Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler and it’s always the same narrative – someone with a disproportionate rage at rejection who focuses it on some group or groups in a lethal way. Whether they act alone or in groups or even as the heads of nations, they have an aggrandized sense of themselves that they see as aggrieved. They are so profoundly disturbed that they must explode else they’ll implode.

And they will always exist, unfortunately. No amount of sealing the borders or getting neighbors to inform on supposedly suspicious people will change this.

Neither, you might say, will gun control. But we must create a climate and a culture that mitigates the influence of these mad men. Gun control is part of it. You have to make it harder for these people to acquire the vehicles of destruction. Education, as I have written, is a big part of this, too. The more we understand one another, the less likely we are to be afraid of or to hate one another.

And we need a new definition of masculinity, particularly for white men – some of whom have gone from “Mad Men” to madmen. They need to understand that the rise of women and minorities does not diminish them. Rather, we all rise when anyone or any one group succeeds. But to understand this, we need secure egos. And, instead, what we have seen in the Orlando shooting and some of the responses to it is just how devastating damaged egos can be.