Thursday, February 22, 2018

Boys Will Be Boys

If I was to comprise a checklist of the qualities that defines boys what would those qualities be?\\

  • Likes sports
  • Likes Cars
  • Likes Sex
  • Likes War
  • Likes Guns
  • Likes Killing
  • Is Angry
  • Is Afraid 
  • Is a White Supremacist
  • Is a Black Panther
  • Is a Geek or Nerd
  • Is a Feminist 
  • Is a Lover
  • Is a Fighter
  • Is a good kid
  • Is a bad kid
  • Is Gay
  • Is Straight
  • Is Transgendered
  • Is Blue Collar
  • Is White Collar
  • Is Educated
  • Is Uneducated
  • Voted for Trump
  • Likes sports.. whoops said that
  • Are Doctors
  • Are Lawyers
  • Are Indian Chiefs
  • Rapes Women
  • Rapes Children
  • Exploits Power
  • Is the President
We could make endless lists in which to define boys.  So, in other words boys grow up to be men and then what?

We can make sweeping generalizations and in turn stereotypes and find many who fit into the archetype of a "typical male." In my day the prototype was John Wayne or a Clint Eastwood, maybe Andy Griffin, but we all have strong images of men that come from our own experiences and in turn the popular culture of the time that reflects and in turn teaches us some of that imagery. 

I have long said that in the panoply of crazy of late it is largely boys who are on the cusp of manhood, meaning under 30, usually white and are really really pissed off to the point they need to take a gun a shoot up malls, schools, workplaces, people on the street, in bars, at concerts, in their homes and  in cars, in Churches, Parks or anywhere they damn well feel like it.  What is accomplished? Well death, mayhem and mass injuries that comprise both physical and psychological for the survivors.  But are we not all survivors in some way?  With each story something inside of any rational normal person must exhibit compassion, empathy or sympathy, no? 

The other day I had The New York Times on my desk and a little girl asked me who the cover picture was. I explained to her that those were Syrian refugees in a camp in another country as they had to flee theirs as they were under a civil war.  She asked if it was blood on one of the child's faces.  I was not sure myself but I said it may well be as they running for their lives as bombs and bullets fall around them.  She thought they looked sad and said that she hoped God would take care of them. I agreed. 

This was the first and likely last time I will ever hear or have an exchange with a child in a Nashville Public School about something like that.  They are so traumatized themselves that few know how to express such an emotion and I was greatly impressed that this little girl had enough curiosity and kindness to exhibit such.  I suspect the kids may but are so afraid to show any emotion as that marks vulnerability and in turn weakness.  Ah yes sometimes even the old me pops out when it comes to children.

And when I read this op-ed by the comic, Michael Ian Black, I was not sure what the point was. Was it to reassure himself that his son will come out of this sane, happy and a productive member of the community or was it to remind himself that this life is a crapshoot.

To the families of Parkland who are the ones OF LATE who sent their children to school, without lunch money, with lunch money, with lunch or without, with saying I love you or not, without saying good bye or scolding them for something they failed to do or will need to do later they all will look back on those last moments asking what could they have done differently?  We all do when something happens so severely that time and life is changed and that moment before will be forever frozen in time.  

I do not spend one waking hour recalling the day or evening of the event that nearly killed me. Occasionally I do but I realize nothing would have changed the course of events as I had no control over them the minute I came into contact with my date of that night.  He took that away from me and walked away allowing me or willingly enabled me to die.  He failed but more importantly those who should have saved me failed to do so. They did their job in the most rudimentary of fashions but they made the decision about me the minute they found me, wheeled me into the hospital and let me walk out without ever so much as an apology or explanation.  We never get that from our perpetrators and we never will. And we can never predict how someone will choose to act when placed into a situation until that moment occurs.  But at times we have warnings and we choose to ignore them or not. 

Boys will be boys.  Angry, happy, sad, mad. I choose to see them how they choose to prevent themselves to me but just like the hospital staff at Harborview that night they made their decision about me,, about my character and that in turn affected how they treated me and mistreated me.  

Do you see boys as just being boys or do you see them as lost causes?  I am not sure but Mr. Black sees women as much more successful and on the right track in ways that even I am not sure. There is denial by omission and in turn I am sure we all look at life through our own glasses.  Like this essay the story is lacking facts and it is only one person's perspectives. Currently there are 867 comments that offer their perspectives on the NYT site.    But we all must hear all of them if we are ever to figure out a way to solve the problems our society faces when it comes to the acts of violence. But let's make it easy and start with guns.  One less tool to hammer with. 

The Boys Are Not All Right
FEB. 21, 2018

I used to have this one-liner: “If you want to emasculate a guy friend, when you’re at a restaurant, ask him everything that he’s going to order, and then when the waitress comes … order for him.” It’s funny because it shouldn’t be that easy to rob a man of his masculinity — but it is.

Last week, 17 people, most of them teenagers, were shot dead at a Florida school. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School now joins the ranks of Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine and too many other sites of American carnage. What do these shootings have in common? Guns, yes. But also, boys. Girls aren’t pulling the triggers. It’s boys. It’s almost always boys.

America’s boys are broken. And it’s killing us.

The brokenness of the country’s boys stands in contrast to its girls, who still face an abundance of obstacles but go into the world increasingly well equipped to take them on.

The past 50 years have redefined what it means to be female in America. Girls today are told that they can do anything, be anyone. They’ve absorbed the message: They’re outperforming boys in school at every level. But it isn’t just about performance. To be a girl today is to be the beneficiary of decades of conversation about the complexities of womanhood, its many forms and expressions.

Boys, though, have been left behind. No commensurate movement has emerged to help them navigate toward a full expression of their gender. It’s no longer enough to “be a man” — we no longer even know what that means.

Too many boys are trapped in the same suffocating, outdated model of masculinity, where manhood is measured in strength, where there is no way to be vulnerable without being emasculated, where manliness is about having power over others. They are trapped, and they don’t even have the language to talk about how they feel about being trapped, because the language that exists to discuss the full range of human emotion is still viewed as sensitive and feminine.

Men feel isolated, confused and conflicted about their natures. Many feel that the very qualities that used to define them — their strength, aggression and competitiveness — are no longer wanted or needed; many others never felt strong or aggressive or competitive to begin with. We don’t know how to be, and we’re terrified.

But to even admit our terror is to be reduced, because we don’t have a model of masculinity that allows for fear or grief or tenderness or the day-to-day sadness that sometimes overtakes us all.
Case in point: A few days ago, I posted a brief thread about these thoughts on Twitter, knowing I would receive hateful replies in response. I got dozens of messages impugning my manhood; the mildest of them called me a “soy boy” (a common insult among the alt-right that links soy intake to estrogen).

And so the man who feels lost but wishes to preserve his fully masculine self has only two choices: withdrawal or rage. We’ve seen what withdrawal and rage have the potential to do. School shootings are only the most public of tragedies. Others, on a smaller scale, take place across the country daily; another commonality among shooters is a history of abuse toward women.

To be clear, most men will never turn violent. Most men will turn out fine. Most will learn to navigate the deep waters of their feelings without ever engaging in any form of destruction. Most will grow up to be kind. But many will not.

We will probably never understand why any one young man decides to end the lives of others. But we can see at least one pattern and that pattern is glaringly obvious. It’s boys.

I believe in boys. I believe in my son. Sometimes, though, I see him, 16 years old, swallowing his frustration, burying his worry, stomping up the stairs without telling us what’s wrong, and I want to show him what it looks like to be vulnerable and open but I can’t. Because I was a boy once, too.
There has to be a way to expand what it means to be a man without losing our masculinity. I don’t know how we open ourselves to the rich complexity of our manhood. I think we would benefit from the same conversations girls and women have been having for these past 50 years.

I would like men to use feminism as an inspiration, in the same way that feminists used the civil rights movement as theirs. I’m not advocating a quick fix. There isn’t one. But we have to start the conversation. Boys are broken, and I want to help.

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