Posted by: joshjasper | December 20, 2012

Newtown

Like you, I am deeply saddened by the school shooting that took place in Newtown, Connecticut.  27 lives have been lost, and countless others have been destroyed.   This community will never be the same.

My sadness is slowly dissipating though and turning into frustration.  We’ve been here before, and it feels like we’ve learned nothing.  Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass murders in the United States.  Of the 142 guns possessed by the killers, more than three-quarters were obtained legally, and some of the individuals were mentally ill.  44 of the 62 killers where white, and all but one were men.

Surely you must see the most significant common denominator.  It is so painfully obvious, but yet no one is talking about it.  If 44 of the 62 mass murderers were black, we would be focusing our attention solely on the examination of the African-American culture, and how it is resulting in this type of violence.   If 61 of the 62 killers were women, we would be scrutinizing the socialization of girls in our society.

While funerals are being planned for the 20 children killed by Adam Lanza, the conversation is now focused on gun laws, the inadequacy of mental health services, and the possibility of arming school officials.  There is no mention of the fact that over and over again, white men are entering our schools, workplaces, churches, and movie theaters, shooting and killing people at alarming rates.

More than 95% of all violent crime in the United States is committed by men.  We must begin examining masculinity.  Something is terribly wrong.

For the past ten years I have been asking audiences throughout the United States about manhood.  “What’s it mean to be a real man in today’s society?”  I have given this gender stereotype presentation hundreds of times and I always receive the very same answers.  “Tough, strong, aggressive, macho, dominant, controlling, powerful, emotionless, armed, protector, and provider.”  In short, you must be physically strong, take what you want, never back down, and absolutely never express any meaningful emotions for fear of being scrutinized, to be a successful man in today’s society.

This stereotypical definition of manhood is fatally flawed, but continues to be reinforced in our media, television shows, movies, video games, and in our homes.  If we truly want to understand why someone like Adam Lanza, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, or James Holmes would perpetrate such heinous crimes, we must first examine why these young men are acting out in such hateful and violent ways.  We need to start asking different questions; questions that have nothing to do with gun laws and mental health.

man card

(above advertisement is for the semiautomatic rifle used in Newtown)

Why are we so fascinated with violence?  Why are the most violent television programs, movies, and videos games, also the most popular?

More importantly, why do we continue to give men a pass when it comes to violence?  As stated previously, more than 95% of all violent crime is committed by men, but the vast majority of men are not violent.  The problem is that not enough men are speaking out against other men’s violence.  Why?

The solution we are looking for is right in front of us.  He’s always been there.  We simply have to empower him to be the man he so desperately wants to be.  Let’s begin by role modeling and mentoring our young men in ways that does not involve degrading and abusing others.  We need to help him break free from the stereotype that not only results in harming others, but also harming himself.  Together, we can realize a community free of violence.

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Responses

  1. Great blog, Josh!

  2. Thank you, Josh! I hope you are well. Happy holidays.

  3. Josh I like this perspective as I haven’t read anything yet (in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre) that addresses masculine identity and gun ownership and gun violence. I grew up in CT not far from Newtown. This tragedy hits home for me. Lately I’ve wondered why Adam Lanza’s mother felt the need to own such high powered weaponry. Then I remembered a horrific incident that occurred in nearby Cheshire CT not far from Newtown. Look up “home invasion in Cheshire CT” and read the Wikipedia entry on a horrific home invasion that occurred by two ex-convicts in July 2007. I can now understand why Adam Lanza’s mother would feel the need to protect herself. It’s too bad that her unstable son was able to access those weapons and that is something that needs to be changed. I’m not crazy about guns. I don’t own one myself and hope I never feel the need to own one. I think the majority of gun owners are responsible. But sometimes I feel safer thinking that my neighbors are well armed. Maybe less home invasions occur where I live (Maine) because the chances of getting killed by the homeowner are greater. But I do think that limits should be set. One can still protect yourself and home, hunt and target practice without the need for military style weaponry.

  4. Josh, very well said but it won’t work. Their is nothing we can do about the violence we teach you boys and men that fill our video games, TV, and movies. All of these industries are Obama supporters and Mr. Obama will never touch his golden cows who give him tens of millions.

    We have murderd 55 MILLION babies by abortion. We teach men if they don’t want their own child – force the mother to murder the baby in her womb. Why should these men care about other children? Again abortion is Obama’s big cash cow.

    The violence is here to stay.

  5. Thank you for this important opinion piece. It should be required reading for every parent and every educator.

  6. This is an interesting perspective. Reflecting on what was said I would have one other thing to add to the whole issue of “what makes a man a man”. There are more and more single parent families with young men who do not have a true father figure. These young men end up never getting the opportunity to learn first hand what a “real man” is. A loving, caring, tough, stern, compassionate, protective, understanding…..etc. man is someone who is a father. These kids instead grow up having to “prove” their toughness to be acccepted amoung their peers who run wild throughout towns because discipline is a lost art on our society. If they can’t stand up or show they are tough, they then become ridiculed/bullied/ignored. Which also goes back to the whole problem in our society of people feeling that they need to crush other people to feel good. Look at our political campaigns this yr. Nothing but negativity, never any substance, never any positive ideas or goals with plans to back them up. Just constant bad mouthing of each other.

    Parents are friends or just don’t bother with the trouble of actually keeping thier kids in line and on the right track. The lack of family & actually wanting your children to strive for greatness in their own lives is something that has continued to bring our society down. It’s not about church or religion, it’s about doing what is right and teaching our children to do the same. Teaching the rewards of doing good and treating people in a respectful manner. Teaching them that every person or creature has value. Everyone may be different but that doesn’t make them “less than” anyone else. The balance our society needs is gone. Understanding that we all need to respect one another enough to do what is right. That also applies to punishing those who deserve it in a manner which is just, it applies to hunting for food & for ecological balance, it applies to giving to those who are less fortunate because it is the right thing to do not because we are forced, it applies to holding our children accountable for what they do or don’t do at a young age and not allowing the blame game to start, it applies to understanding that disagreements can be solved without pulling a gun but if your life/property or family is threatened you should protect it by any means possible…… Political correctness and skirting the facts/truth about situations has put our country in such a dilema. How can we continue to say that we are a country which is together when we can’t even have the common sense to see what is right in a given situation regardless of your political affiliation or your religious ideals. Good or Evil, Right or Wrong, Fair or Unfair, Just or Unjust….none of these things have a religious patent/trademark or a political one either. Changes need to be made, but they have to start with common sense and getting back to teaching our children right from wrong…..and all of us adults following suit.

  7. Mary Lee-thank you for sharing. I did not know about that incident. You definitely reinforce the point that violence in society is very complex, and in order to participate in any form of effective prevention, we must understand the all causes and have a firm grasp of the entire story.

    Jason-Thank you for sharing. Your points are right on. I continue to become more and more disappointed with our country’s inability to have any political discourse that does not involve attacking the other side. Any form of real progress is difficult, if not impossible. So much of the work that is required to be done in violence prevention comes down to good parenting, holding children accountable, being a healthy role model, taking an active role in a child’s life, etc., etc. This stuff isn’t rocket science, that much is for sure.

  8. Thanks, Alan!

  9. the greater evil at work.

    as sad as this event is, if you check the statistics, it doesn’t add up to a percentage point of the children that will be lost to gun violence in this country this year alone. is it easier to take at a couple of children a day?
    sorry man, but when i look at this. and think about what this guy did it amounts to nothing more than a spike in our daily dose of child abuse. tell me how you raise a child to love and respect life, when as a society we kill more children in this world by simply turning our backs. what’s a worse way to die? having your head blown off or starving to death? where’s all the outrage and screaming for laws to be made. look at how we think, if someone broke into our house we would not send our child with a bat to defend the family. we willingly give up our lives to defend them. yet if war breaks out we send these 18-21(age range most join the military) yr old kids out to defend us with their lives so we can live. didn’t you just sacrifice 18 yrs of raising this child so he can have a better life than you? shouldn’t it be you sacrificing your life so that he may have one? is it really any different mentally when you kill someone cause you were told to, whether its the government or a gang leader? this child that you raised to have such respect for life? and if their are better ways to solving one’s problems than thru violence, should not the people we choose to lead us, be setting this example. should we not be proving this by giving up our guns, because there is a better way? this is a society of the here, the me, the now.
    this is why they took vocational training out of high school. cause they could make money off of it now. when we want to garner support for our causes we use the children as an excuse selling it as the future. but how quickly we sacrifice the future for now. we allow priests to get away with abusing children sexually. how can i teach my child to care about others when i show that i only care about me? if this guy was mentally ill, then what is society?


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