What happens after you survive a mass shooting?

Forced silencing and reclamation

We pay a lot of attention to the perpetrators of ultraviolet crimes. The perpetrator is scandalous; he-and usually he is“It looks like something beyond.” He is grotesque when he speaks because he says so many violent things. But until he speaks, he can be anyone. Short haircut, normal t-shirt from normal chain stores. Mouth, cheeks, forehead. Maybe stuttering or a nervous tic. You could never pick it out of the crowd.

That’s what makes him so curious. He is everyone. He is someone’s brother or a man on the train. He is your neighbor. The impulse is to dissect it until it becomes something completely distant from us, from society. The impulse is to make him abnormal because his normalcy is appalling and it is disturbing to imagine that he can be anywhere. So he disintegrates until he becomes something far away from us: an anomaly, a lone wolf.

The Halle court focused a lot on the perpetrator’s motives: Why did he shoot? Did he have anything to do with his mother? With the Soviet Union? With the Berlin Wall? With his alienation? With his primary teacher, a frail eighty-year-old with a fading voice, who was brought in as a witness to testify to his character? Was there a connection with incel movement? With feminism? Or worse, the women who rejected it?

TOPSHOT - The mourners stand around a makeshift memorial with flowers and candles on October 10, 2019 in the market square in Halle and der Saale, East Germany, one day after the deadly anti-Semitic shooting.  - German Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised to have "zero tolerance" for hatred in Germany after the Yom Kippur Holy Day attack, with Jews pushing for action to protect the community from the growing threat of neo-Nazi violence.  Two people were shot dead in the East German city of Halle on Wednesday, October 9, 2019, the main target being a synagogue.  The 27-year-old German suspect filmed the attack and broadcast it online.  (Photo by Hendrik Schmidt / DPA / AFP) / Germany EXIT (Photo by Hendrik Schmidt / DPA / AFP via Getty Images)
Mourners stand around a makeshift memorial with flowers and candles on October 10, 2019 in the market square in Halle, East Germany, a day after the deadly anti-Semitic shooting.

Honestly, I don’t care about his motives. To me, the perpetrator is banal. If I met him at a bar, I would be bored to death. He thinks of one thing: the ideology that drives him. His pure determination, his steadfastness of thought, is, at best, pathetic and absolutely irritating. His hatred is clear and uncomplex. His motives must therefore take little account of our analysis, as they are only a symptom of institutionalized historical racism, anti-Semitism and anti-feminism. The analysis of his ideology is important and it is well documented. Read about it. But his personal motives remain uninteresting, and their illumination gives the perpetrator the fame he desperately longs for, but in no way deserves.

Then what interests me are exactly the ways in which the end of a woman’s life is tragic. I am interested in the life of Yana Lang. I wonder what made her stop and ask, “What are you doing there?” – when no one else has. I wonder where this power came from – a power so ingrained that it was impulsive.

I am also interested in how her death follows a historical trajectory and resonates in the places of small daily deaths for other women elsewhere. Doesn’t her death seem familiar – that she died speaking? Isn’t retaliation against women who choose to be visible a recognizable phenomenon – almost common? This happens in subtle ways, every day. Men speak for women. The men talk to each other in the office; women are not invited to such conversations. Men reject women’s good ideas. Men steal women’s good ideas and accept them as their own. IN Toilet Duchamp. IN DNA helix. Well, we can handle that and we do. These are the little things.

And yet women are killed for talking, and often. Jana Lang died speaking. Inzels start mass murders. Intersectional experiences of racism, classicism, misogyny and transphobia make the reality even darker for trans women, for whom 2021 was the “deadliest year” in history: At least 375 trans people were killed, and 96% of these victims were trans women or trans women. Women of all backgrounds have been killed by their domestic partners, although not all cases are treated equally before the law.

The guardian write:

For the first time in the UK, [Femicide UK] analyzes the shocking murders of women and girls aged 14 to 100 by men over a period of 10 years, 2009-2018. The census identifies “femicide” as “deadly violence by men against women” and reveals that on average one a woman was killed every three days – a horrific statistic that hasn’t changed in a decade.

The Femicide census in the United Kingdom recognizes that “men’s violence against women and girls will not be eradicated without focusing on gender inequality and the beliefs, attitudes and institutions that underpin it.” Similarly, the murder of Jeanne Lang did not happen in a vacuum. This has not happened outside of the crystallized concepts of misogyny. This happened in a world where women die because they are women. When Lang stopped, she essentially said, “No, I’m not going to pretend that’s not happening. I’m not going to look the other way.” Her unspoken “no” echoes a chorus of “no”, spoken and unspoken, “no” that threatens to kill us, even when they work to keep us alive.

In response to his own confrontation with death, Audrey Lord wrote in The transformation of silence into language and action:

As I forcibly and essentially realized my mortality and what I wanted and wanted for my life, no matter how short, my priorities and omissions became heavily engraved in a relentless light, and I regretted my silence the most. What have I ever been afraid of? Asking questions or speaking, as I believed, could mean pain or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and the pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the last silence. And it can happen fast, now, without considering whether I ever said what had to be said, or just cheated in small silences while planning to speak one day, or waited for someone else’s words. And I began to recognize a source of strength in myself, which comes from the knowledge that although it is most desirable not to be afraid, learning to put fear into perspective gave me great strength …

My silence had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every true word spoken, for every experience I have ever made to speak those truths that I am still searching for, I had made contact with other women as we studied the words to fit into a world we all believe in, overcoming our differences. And it was the concern and care of all these women who gave me strength and allowed me to look at the most important things in my life.

[emphasis added]

I learn from this power and that is why I speak. To speak means to take a place where you are not expected to be, and to oppose doubts about your own significance and power. To speak means to trust my community to protect me, to believe my version of events, to claim that I am needed to participate in the horrific and twisting process of justice.

Lord continues:

“And for you [women] we are socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and as we wait in silence for this last luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will suffocate us. ”

The weight of silence suffocates us collectively as it accumulates. Like the silence of passers-by when Halle’s perpetrator harasses a family in a supermarket for speaking Arabic – years before his violence escalated into a suicide.

Just like the other silences. There is self-suppression, because the reality is painful, complicated, annoying, because we want it not to be true: like the silence of my fellow Jews about the violent occupation of Palestine. As silence for the wars in Gaza, Ukraine and Syria. The climate catastrophe. Destruction of the Amazon and racist killings by the police. Audrey Lord promised that silence would not protect us, and I believe her. If the Halle trial taught me something, he taught me that if you don’t speak, your story will be written for you, your story will be told for you, and you will not agree with the way it is told.

Your story will no longer be yours.

Articulating Criticism of a German Court: Justice Beyond the Courtroom

We were in the courtroom. The building was warm, the room heavy. Armed guards were everywhere, dressed in black balaclavas, friends of no one on our side. Their suspicious eyes and matte submachine guns were imposing and tense as the cops leaned against walls and chatted with each other. Co-defendants, lawyers, scribbling reporters. The perpetrator, handcuffed, on the other side of the room. The judges in their benches wore black cloaks.

In a sense, articulating criticism of the German state before a German court seemed like a show trial. As we spoke, Frontex was participates in “Sea repulsion operations to expel refugees and migrants trying to enter the European Union through Greek waters. ” Racial discrimination was on the rise throughout Germany. And here we are, in a country that was trying to show its noble stance against bigotry by taking a seriously active armed man and bringing him to justice. I didn’t buy it.

The judge even asked us after our testimony, “How long will you stay in Germany?” Perhaps a well-meaning question, but one that reflects the perpetrator’s feelings more than the purpose of sharing our stories: to show over and over again that the perpetrator is not the lone wolf that white nationalism and the Pandora’s box of bigotry that reproduction is not isolated or abnormal.

Being in the German court meant seeing first hand who was not invited to speak. The Germans are fighting for change like the Americans, with similar results: no results at all. The people behind Oury Jalloh Initiative are still struggling to identify the murder of their friend in 2005 while he was in police custody in Dessau. Activists behind Initiative February 19 still fighting for clarification and justice, for investigations by the Hessen government and its subordinate bodies into the racist attack in Hanau in 2020and to identify the need for changes in the existing structures of the Hessen security authorities.

Justice outside the courtroom should look like the end of silence and stillness.

Justice outside the courtroom must look like an effort of solidarity.

Justice outside the courtroom looks like you reading this.

And this gives me hope: that even if nothing seems to change, we can be surrounded by violence and still draw from an endless well of sustainability, both in the community and as individuals.


This story was created by the Kos New Fellows Program (DKEF).. Read more about DKEF (and meet other new contributors) here.

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