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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Heterosexual Masculinity is a Robot Programmed for Destruction

The day after the apprehension of the second Boston bomber suspect more has evaporated than apprehension across twitter, social media, and cable news. It is as if everyone has deflated, the sudden dissipation of all that energetic noise and heat (no, not light) leaves us standing in place, and with the stunned realization that we were running in place all along. To those who cherished the dream that the bombers would be Muslims as well as to those who cherished the dream that the bombers would be quintessential Caucasians, both dreams are fulfilled at once in a combination that renders the wish perfectly unfulfilling it seems. Those who would cling to a nativity threatened by foreignness are confronted with a family of American immigrants in the neoliberal era, arriving, breaking apart and leaving again, one naturalized as a citizen, another failing. Those who would cling to Americanness prevailing over evil confront an unmistakably American teenaged male's twitter feed, copping contradictory attitudes, making lame jokes, declaring a commitment to parties and money-making, affecting affectlessness in the face of pressures too great to bear. But I cannot help but notice today repeated testimonies to the father's "toughness," indications of the failed efforts of the alienated elder son to reproduce the father's brutal boxing career in America, the report of his abused girlfriend, tales of loud battles of the soon to divorce parents that drew police repeatedly to the home, the retreat of a younger, sensitive child into an anesthetic high orbit party lifestyle… And all of this woven into an American historical moment of ubiquitous failures, absolute inequities, lowered expectations, foreclosed futures, still echoing with misplaced admonitions of a masculinity driven to toughness and action and hyper-individualized responsibility -- a masculinity available to latch on to any strong current, fantasies of re-invention, dreams of an assumption of agency in a world of impersonal historical forces, impulses to remain "cool" and relaxed in the face of impossible stresses. While the preferred narratives of terrorism of both left and right seem to fail in the face of the heartbreaking realities of the day, it seems to me that we confront as we did in Columbine the stark terror of the mutilating norms of heterosexual masculinity in a world absolutely uninterested in and unable to see its violence for what it is and what it still portends.

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