“Be a Man”: A History of Violence

Another school shooting. More dead kids. More defensive posturing over the ownership of assault weapons. More grieving parents. More traumatized kids. And we all know next to nothing will be done about it.

My apologies for arriving late to this conversation.

I hate guns. I believe that I’ve beat that horse to death in this blog. If you feel the need to own one, I’m sorry that you have to live under such terrible conditions that you feel that you must possess something that will protect you. If you don’t live under life or death conditions and own a gun, then you’re just a paranoid lunatic that has a shitty hobby. Either way, guns are designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill. I don’t like killing. I don’t want people to get killed. I especially don’t want people to get killed by being shot with an assault rifle. So, it’s understandable as to why I hate guns.

By the way, I’ve been accused of “preaching” in this blog. This is the internet. If you feel like you’re being “preached” at, then that’s no one’s fault but your own. I’m not *making* you read this blog.

Besides, it’s not like anyone’s going to take your guns. You have the barrel of your rifle so far up the asses of politicians that they’re too afraid you might pull the trigger. You shouldn’t be terrified of the anti-gun crowd. They’re all terrified of you.

But I’m not here to talk about guns. I’m here to talk about the mentality of owning one.

Michael Ian Black’s response to the recent school shooting: “boys are broken.” Of course, this response received considerable backlash from conservative media that would rather see him just be a celebrity than have an opinion on anything. But with the attention he’s been getting, he must’ve hit on something.

After all, that is the root of the problem isn’t it?

I’m not a stats guy. I’m not going to bore you with research. If you want to verify my claims…again…this is the internet, feel free to research this yourself. But regarding mass shootings, the shooter is almost ALWAYS a male and (somewhere, I read) about 80% of all gun-related casualties are men.

I grew up white and middle class. I was never the toughest kid. But I ended up in fights where I usually got my ass kicked (once by a teacher). Even in the relatively calm realm of white middle-class, violence itself is something a male kid has to reckon with.

For one reason or another, I joined the Army before I graduated high school. The military embraces these bitter, hardened youths…and understandably so. The Army is an institution dedicated to protecting its nation through organized violence. Those that were pre-conditioned to know their way around a weapon and capable in hand-to-hand combat found their footing quite easily. Even in basic training, where such skills were to be instilled in fresh recruits, there was seemingly little patience for those not accustomed to these tactics by both fellow recruits and the cadre. Either the soldier began to fit in with other angry youths, or they were ostracized. The Army as a whole doesn’t operate like basic training, but basic training does get one prepared for the bitter, angry existence of military life.

When I joined, the Army was in the throes of the Iraq War. Soldiers were returning with PTSD and suicide rates were skyrocketing. While veterans were finding sympathy in the civilian world and from the chain of command, the life of the enlisted soldier that experienced depression and suicidal ideation seldom found sympathy from their peers. When taught courses on suicide prevention, the classes were widely mocked within the NCO class who felt such soldiers had no business wearing the uniform. Times change of course,  the US Army today might be unrecognizable from the one I was a member of.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for women in the armed services during that time.

Truth be told, never at any point did I fit in with this strictly military crowd. Although I stated previously that fumbling my military career was one of my biggest mistakes, upon reflection I don’t know if it would have been possible for me to succeed there. I was never strong, manly, or commanding enough (and a horrible shot) to ever be happy. So in actuality, my biggest mistake was not, upon graduation from high school, wondering America and discovering what I was good at. But the fact that I chose the military route created this awareness of a specific kind of person: the gun-toting, bitter, “alpha male” that expects everyone to kowtow to their demands.

I have lived in the South/Midwest nearly my entire life, which is the natural habitat for this kind of guy. But, I imagine he can be found almost anywhere in America. Being a weakly boy growing up that didn’t want to get his ass kicked, I learned that empathy is a good way of defusing a situation. During my brief tenure as a driver manager for a trucking company (another industry that attracts these guys), there was a difficult driver that would deliberately insult anyone that he talked to. Finally, after I gained control of the situation by insulting the shit out him (something I did not enjoy), I deployed empathy to gain understanding of him and we soon were on friendly terms. But then it occurred to me: this guy doesn’t want to be this way. He was just that way because he knew of no other way to be.

And therein lies the problem.

Growing up, on into adulthood…every man is conditioned to consider the possibility of violence, in some cases everyday, either committed by themselves or others. These gun-toting “alpha males” are taught (either by their family, lack of family, or proper support) that in order to survive in this world, you must prepare yourself for violence. Often that means being the one to strike first. The logic being that violence is the only guarantee in life, therefore we must ensure that we’re the victors. And when all we see is violence, it’s hard to imagine a world without it.

“But what about school shooters?”

The most recent one in Florida doesn’t really fit the definition of “alpha male”, but he was most certainly bitter and carrying guns probably allowed him to feel powerful…like he was an “alpha”. I didn’t know the kid personally, but I can certainly understand what it’s like to be 19 (and unsuccessful with women): fantasies of being powerful, of being capable of committing violence (which usually involved firearms), of being attractive to the opposite sex. How do you think I became such a fan of James Bond? But what if you actually had access to assault weapons? Suddenly your fantasies can become reality, especially if have “enemies” that did you wrong.

And this glorification of male violence is found everywhere. I’m especially guilty of this. My many mentions of James Bond is a testament to that. Our ideal man is calm, cool, and capable of overpowering his enemies. Many of us recoil at the idea of an emotional man. I recall guys like Dick Vermeil and John Boehner constantly being mocked for their crying in front of cameras. “Be a man” I heard, as if men shouldn’t have the ability to cry. “Don’t cry, don’t be a quitter”, I heard a mother yell at her boy on the beach. Although we resist the violence committed by men, we still want our men to be capable of doing it.

As we are going through an era where we re-evaluate our conceptions of women, it is long past due to re-evaluate our conceptions of men. In fact, many of the problems women face in the world….and indeed, many of the problems the WORLD faces in general…are due to men.

So please, because our politicians are too afraid to stand up to the assault weapons crowd (and understandably so, I might add), raise your boys better.

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