“What made him do that?” That is the stupid question being asked all over the news this morning after the elaborately planned and horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas. A mass shooting like this is at its heart the ultimate act of domination by a man. I say man because these shootings are all by men, virtually all by white men.
This question is one also asked after a man with a history of domestic violence murders his estranged wife and eight of her friends and family as happened recently in both Texas and Mississippi. Domestic violence is terror, plain and simple. It is domination. We don’t yet know if there is a history of domestic violence in the Las Vegas mass shooting case.
The current explanation seems to be that some sweet random 64- year- old white Western music and gambling fan, and multi-millionare real estate investor, must have had a reason to slaughter more than 58 people and wound hundreds more, in the dark of night, with automatic weapons from a sniper’s perch inside a luxury hotel room. His target was thousands of people 32 stories below and across the street enjoying a concert and unable to defend themselves or hide from his rage. The term “domestic terrorism,” though obviously applicable, is never used in these cases, not even the Las Vegas massacre. Something special about this kind of violence? There is a resistance to using that term for white men, whether it’s an admitted white supremacist killing nine black people at Bible study in an iconic black church, or an admitted perpetrator of domestic violence, or the cunning mass killer of more than 58 people.
Violence, and threats of violence, happens to be a feature of the Trump administration where even tweeted threats of nuclear annihilation are not off limits. This follows Trump’s campaign against the first woman to run for president which prominently featured the language of domestic violence, spewed in rabid rallies and onto t- shirts, including: “ Lock her up.” “Hit her hard.” “We’re going to get rid of that crooked woman.” Hillary was “schlonged by Obama.” “Take the bitch down.” “Kill the bitch.” Trump that bitch.” Trump boasted about sexually assaulting women saying, “ You can do anything when you’re a star, you can grab ‘em by the pussy.” And, “Women, you have to treat them like shit.”He constantly screamed invective to his riled up rallies, going so far as to suggest to certain of his followers, “You Second Amendment people,” that they might have to do something if Hillary won and “gets to pick her judges,” a blatant reference to assassination. To flaunt his presumed male dominance, he took it further.
We watched in horror as he stalked Hillary around on the debate stage, “breathing down my neck” as she has since described it in her book, What Happened.” Many women who had survived domestic violence were so triggered by watching this that they required professional treatment. And yet, millions of Americans, including a majority of white women, voted for this misogynist to become President of the United States. This isn’t a glitch. It’s a feature. Trump’s personal misogyny is now determining public policy.
Trump has set policy to hurt and dominate women, from dismantling laws that guarantee them equal pay, to thwarting minimum wage laws, to reinstating the global gag rule, virtually guaranteeing that thousands of poor women in third world countries who are unable to get reproductive health care will die. To top it all off, in true Handmaids’ Tale -style, Trump has repealed the ACA rule requiring employer provided health insurance policies to include birth control coverage, if an employer has any moral objection to birth control, because access to birth control ” encourages risky behavior.” There is no longer any pretense that all the anti-abortion,” Right to Life” legislation has an ultimate goal of eliminating birth control as a woman’s right.
Trump appointed Betsy de Vos, an unqualified religious ideologue, as Secretary of Education and she made it a priority to dismantle the regulations promulgated by the Obama administration to protect victims of on campus sexual assault. The standard of proof in a sexual assault discipline case is now “beyond a reasonable doubt” the same as the criminal standard in a court of law. This standard is not applied to any other on campus disciplinary matters. Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has proposed changing the rules of evidence in criminal sexual assault cases as well to allow the victim’s sexual past to be admitted as evidence of consent. The message is clear. Women had better know their place and women who complain will be punished. And, boy, does he mean it.
After Hurricane Irma destroyed Puerto Rico,the Mayor of San Juan , Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulin Cruz, told the world that PR was “dying” and the federal response wasn’t enough, and begged Trump for help. His enraged response was to call her “nasty,” as he had called HRC “nasty,” and accuse her of lying and incompetence. Regardless of the life and death circumstances, he insists on being seen as dominant. And that might be the answer to the question “What made him do it?” .