It seems like every other week I read (or hear) about some horrific tragedy involving violence caused by a single person.. To be honest, after years of witnessing these crimes I became desensitized to the tragedy of mass shootings. It sickens me to say it, but, I am no longer shocked to see the murder of innocent people.
In the last few weeks, we have seen the tragedies unfold in Isla Vista and in Seattle with shootings on college campuses and now in Portland, Oregon at Reynolds High School. And it has been in the wake of these horrific tragedies that I began to feel an honest emotional response. I began to feel pure anger. Outrage that I can live in a world where violence (on all levels) is very much a part of our culture.
You can’t go 48 hours without seeing mass murder (or at least an attempt.) I can only ask the question – what the hell is going on in our society that this type of behavior is now commonplace?!?!
We blame gun laws. We blame media. We blame the internet. We blame the deeply flawed and inadequate state of our mental health care system. We blame anything we can to keep the blame off of ourselves.
But it is not just guns, or just mental health issues that cause these crimes, at least not on their own.
One fact remains true: the overwhelming majority of crime in the United States is by men. I know for a fact that men are not inherently violent. We are not born with a desire to harm others. We are not born killers or rapists. Violent men are created. It is the society of hyper-masculinity in which these boys are raised that creates these violent monsters. A society that teaches boys that a man is always strong, always powerful, and when you aren’t seen a strong, or in power or in control, you must take that “right” of power back…by whatever means necessary.
We, as men don’t all buy into this culture, and I don’t mean we are all raised in this extreme, and violent fringe of hyper-masculinty. But we are all raised with elements of this culture. We, like all people, experience emotion, fear or sadness. When we experience these emotions, as young boys we are told to stop feeling these feelings. Not directly, but with phrases like, “Be a man”…“Stop being such a girl”…”Don’t be a pussy”… “Grow some balls”…. “Don’t be a fag.”
These comments teach us as young boys that our natural feelings are inherently “feminine” or “homosexual” and, what is even worse, we are taught that these gender and sexual identities are inherently bad!
So when I look at what the hell is goin on with us, men and why are we committing such violence in the world…I don’t blame the guns or media…
I blame two words: Man. Up.
It is being raised in the culture of “Man Up”, armed with a gun and combined with a lack of mental health care that results in murder and suicide. It is the culture of “Man Up” armed with roofies that leads to sexual assault and rape. It is the culture of “Man Up” armed with alcohol that leads to substance abuse and violence. It is the culture of “man up” the leads to hate crimes against gay men.
“Man Up” teaches us, as young boys, that the parts of ourselves that do not fit into the hyper-masculine norm must be feminine and in turn must be repressed. Over time, these repressed elements of our self, our real self that actually make us unique, become insecurities. It is these insecurities that build and we grow to hate the things we are most insecure about. It is the insecurities that cause men to attack others, to commit suicide, to sexually assault women, men, girls and boys. It is the insecurities that lead to this perverse culture of violence.
The solution is not simple. It seems impossible to counteract hundreds of years of masculinity, but we must begin to try. You are not less of a man to seek therapy or mental health care. You are not less of a man because of your emotions. You are not less of a man if your sexual identity is not the same as the man sitting next to you. You are not less of a man if you do not have multiple sexual partners. You are not less of a man if you are not the traditional “alpha male”.
If you try to live in the culture of “man up” and fit yourself into the construct of masculinity, you are limiting your true self and are in turn, stopping yourself from being a complete man. The only thing that can make you less of a man is attempting to be a man you are not.