by: Chris Warren
Violent crime has become so common that it barely rates a mention on the news unless it’s something horrifically over the top. The politicians, mental health professionals, law enforcement, television pundits, and pretty much everyone else will weigh in. Only a few of the ideas offered are legitimate. Most of the “experts” are merely grandstanding, or have ulterior motives. The tragedy ultimately fades into the news cycle. Repeat as needed. Given that violent crime is the almost exclusive franchise of young males, there are two hypotheses that override every other explanation.
Too many, and according to what study you believe, most, boys grow up to be men with no positive male role models in their life. Call it a cliché if it pleases you; it does not negate what will certainly be the perpetuation of destroyed lives. Lack of male leadership is like an otherwise correct algebraic expression with one element removed: Without it, the entire equation is wrong, even if the individual parts are true.
The dangerous constant in the expression is that if a kid gets mixed up with people who value crime and sociopathic behavior, he will almost certainly go along and end up in trouble. Young guys are very impressionable. They seek approval, and thugs are just as capable of giving approval as anyone. Wherever there is a vacuum of positive influence, gangs are ready and very eager to fill the void.
One of the few things that will keep a boy in line is the fear of being called out by a superior, usually older male the younger one respects. In a perfect world, that would be the father, but we aren’t in a perfect world and the kids who need a dad the most seldom have one. A coach, scout leader, uncle, or church pastor can also fill the role if they aren’t already worn out from trying to mitigate the damage done by the baby daddy messes dumped on them. Many guys are launched into adulthood having absolutely no idea how to be a man of honor because they’ve never met one they could emulate. This is why so many young men have a felony record before they reach voting age.
My dad is a US Marine (note: There is no past tense in regard to membership in the Marines), and as kind and devoted as he was and still is, while I was growing up the message was unequivocally clear: “Son, I love you. But step out of line, and I’ll put your ass into orbit.” Dad held me accountable. I cared about what he thought of me, and being dressed down by him was something to be avoided at any cost. The “cost” was good grades and gentlemanly behavior. Skipping to the present, me and my siblings are now decent, productive adult citizens with solid jobs and no criminal record. Even now, the guy still has the capability to intimidate the hell out of me. There’s no deep psychology here. Males respond to threats & consequences.
The second barrier boys must face is more controversial, but nonetheless just as simple: The world hates them. They are conditioned early into thinking their normal instincts are deviant. They aren’t allowed to play aggressive games such as dodgeball. They can’t play “cops and robbers”. They can’t keep score. There can’t be any winners because that means there would also be losers, and we can’t hurt anyone’s delicate feelings by letting them lose. They are kicked out of school over drawings of guns. They are drugged into sitting still. Natural, healthy male competitiveness is not only discouraged, it’s forbidden except under a few very controlled conditions. Boys are punished simply for being…boys.
Boys need less prescription drugs and counseling and long lists of do’s and don’ts that go against everything they feel is inherent to who they are, and more freedom to figure out among themselves who can run the fastest or jump the highest or be the strongest. They need to invite some buddies over and take turns kicking the shit out of a punching bag in the basement. They need to fart loudly, make goofy noises, take stuff apart, and occasionally crack a tasteless joke. They need to feel what it’s like to win, and to lose. And most importantly, they need assurance that there is at least one guiding male in their life who completes the equation; someone who will teach them what it’s like to be a principled, responsible man. When the games are over and the injuries have been treated, boys need to know there is an older, respected male who loves and cares about them, is watching their every move, and will send their ass into orbit if they drift off course.