A message for young men: Anger is OK, but violence isn't
By Jose Leonardo Santos
Jose Leonardo Santos is an anthropologist and assistant professor of social science at Metropolitan State University.
Our sons are tearing our country to pieces.
No metaphor here. Harsh reality. This summer, it's happened too many times. Angry men, acting like angry children. They get mad. Then they kill people.
Who's been killed? People at worship, pouring their hearts out to their maker. People going to watch a movie. A cop enforcing the law. A guy whose mistake was working with a killer. Every random person killed by every angry criminal in the United States. Innocents caught in whirlwinds of vindictive tantrums.
Why? The false answer, the cop-out, is that they're crazy, beyond reason. But crazy is random. These guys follow a pattern. They've become common, not abnormal.
They lose their jobs. Can't do well in school. Can't pay the rent. Can't handle how different their neighbors are. Their world is confusing. It's not the way it is supposed to be. These men cannot deal with the world. And they blame the world, not themselves.
That's only half the story. For the other half, read closely: It's time to blame ourselves.
Somewhere along the way, as boys, these men learned something. Our culture taught them a lesson. Something foul. When confused, when afraid, when you think the world has gone crazy — kill them all. If the world seems turned upside down, burn it to the ground.
The sociologist Michael Kimmel wrote about another sick American son. Timothy McVeigh bemoaned the death of the American Dream. Couldn't do well in school or work. His dream was dead. His solution was to set fire to the world.
These boys-turned-men learned to respond to fear and confusion with murder. None were starving. None were under mortal threat. They were just confused. Scared of a world they couldn't figure out.
Whom do we blame? Blame the TV. You'd be partly right. But it has an off button.
Blame parents. But kids spend more time at school than at home.
Blame schools. But kids have parents, too, don't they?
Blame communities. But kids learn about the rest of the world from TV.
Ask an anthropologist. Blame the thing responsible for all these others. Blame American culture. That's us. We teach our sons to murder.
Kimmel wrote about sons of other cultures, too. The 9/11 bombers also felt their world was turned upside down. Their solution? Watch the world burn.
The comparison leaves you queasy? That's O.K. It leaves me terrified.
What's the solution? Work on teaching lessons. We learn from everything around us, and the dominant message wins. Next time you see an angry boy, send a message. Anger is O.K. Hurting and killing are not. Go to your room and scream, Son. Punch the pillows. Channel your rage. Change the world if you must. Never destroy it.
We can make heroes, not monsters.