Before we knew anything about the driver of the car that careered down a New York city bike path, before we knew any of the details about the shooting in Las Vegas, before we had more than snippets of information about the massacre of half of the congregation at a small Texas church, we all instinctively knew one thing about the assailant: it was a man.
Think about it: as shocked as you were when you first heard the news, how much more shocked would you have been to find out that the perpetrator was a woman? That’s because, in nearly 100% of seemingly “random” acts of violence, the perpetrator is a man. An angry, violent, man. And this—this, is what scares me the most about all of these attacks. It scares me because this is the part of the equation that I actually have the ability to do something about, and I’m terrified that I’m going to somehow mess it up.
I can accept the fact that there is no way for me to control many of the terrible fates that could potentially befall me or the people I love. Random acts of violence are just that—random—and I can no more determine when and where the the next one will strike than I could determine where the next meteor will fall. And so, by that logic, there is nothing to be gained by worrying about them.
However, as the mother of a son, I can try and control the other half of the equation. I can’t do anything to ensure that I or someone I love won’t one day be faced with an individual who is so broken and angry they want to hurt everyone around them. But I can do a lot towards making sure that I don’t help create that very same broken individual myself.
It is a sad fact of our society that the only emotion many boys are allowed to feel is anger. Not sadness, not fear, not disappointment, not anxiety—every expression of these “weaker” emotions is met with the command to “man up,” or “stop being a little pussy.” And so we create these sad, inchoate creatures who have been denied the opportunity to really understand what it means to be human. We talk about Millennials who have never learned “how to adult,” while ignoring the much larger problem of our neighbors and coworkers who have never learned “how to human.”
Look, I’m not trying to pull a Trump here and say that this isn’t a gun problem. It is clear to anyone with even a slight understanding of math that less guns would equal less carnage, in the same way that if we were suddenly able to purchase personal nuclear weapons at Walmart the body count would start to go way up. But there’s no reason that it can’t be both an anger and a gun problem, in the same way that someone can be both drunk and stupid. And so, what I’m suggesting is that we try and work on both problems at once. Outside of the home let’s work on electing people who understand that, unlike lobbyists, numbers never lie, and inside the home let’s work on helping our tender-hearted, sensitive boys stay that way.
Although perhaps “work” is the wrong term for what we must do, because that implies that there is something wrong with our boys that we need to fix, when the truth is that there is something right with them that we need to stop breaking. Just like our little girls, our little boys are born ready to love and be loved in return. Compassion and kindness is their factory setting; all that is required of us is to not change it, and to speak up when others (coaches, teachers, older relatives) try and change it themselves.
It might not fix the entire world, but it will at least fix the part of it that is still within our grasp. And who knows? It’s entirely possible that that just might be enough.