The Sunday Magazine·The Sunday Edition

Rebecca Solnit and Andrew Solomon on America's culture of violence

Rebecca Solnit and Andrew Solomon talk to Michael Enright about Orlando, homophobia, domestic violence and U.S. gun culture.
Names of victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting are stitched into an American flag at a makeshift memorial at the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts, June 15, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The massacre in Orlando has raised a number of uncomfortable speculations about violence in the United States. 

In this wide-ranging panel discussion, Michael Enright speaks with Andrew Solomon and Rebecca Solnit about the culture of violence in the U.S., the link between domestic violence and mass shootings, the backlash against LGBTQ rights, the gendered dynamics of mass shootings and why the cultural attachment to guns in the U.S. is so unshakeable. 

Solnit argues that while many Americans seek to blame marginalized communities for violence, violence has become a distinctly American — and mainstream — form of self-expression. 

I've been interested in how much people want violence to emerge from the margins. 'Oh, it's poor people, mentally ill people, Muslim people, immigrant people.' But of course, you can...look at the colossal scale of quotidian violence to realize that violence is not marginal, it's mainstream. - Rebecca Solnit

Solomon says the shooting reflects a backlash against LGBTQ rights that has been normalized by conversations that frame homophobia as a religious freedom. 

In an era in which gay people have won marriage, and have won somewhat more of a right of public display of affection...there is always going to be a backlash, and the country as a whole has been disturbingly tolerant of the notion that the backlash is somehow a matter of religious freedom. - Andrew Solomon 

Solomon is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, the New York Times and many other publications.His literary field of vision ranges widely over the arts, politics and psychology, and he is a long-time advocate for LGBT rights. His most recent book is Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change

Solnit is an essayist, author, environmental and political activist whose work and energies run the gamut from climate change to women's rights, especially violence against women. She is the author of more than 17 books, and her journalism has appeared in numerous publications, in the U.S. and internationally.

Click the button above to hear Michael's conversation with Rebecca Solnit and Andrew Solomon. 


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