Boys are especially attracted to violence. When boys have limited guidance, violence can become a distorted tool.
For me violence has been a very successful tool. I grew up in Wisconsin, son to a single mom and slightly older sister. Ice hockey was my venue for socialization. Applause and increased playing time was my reward for body checking an opponent into the boards. When we moved to Ohio I lost access to ice, but I gained the grassy gridiron. Defensive line coaches have a less than gentle way of rewarding those who smash their opponents with no mercy. From high school to the Super Bowl successful violence was rewarded with respect from other boys and men, attention from cute girls, popularity among my peers, and access to money and opportunities.
Last Monday (April 16, 2007) Seung-Hui Cho killed 33 fellow students and wounded many others at Virginia Tech. This past Friday (April 20, 2007) was the 8th anniversary of the Columbine H.S. killings by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. We started the New Year in Denver with the killing of Darrent Williams, a 24 yr. old Denver Bronco. It’s speculated that he was shot by a young gang member who is still to be identified. On February 8th college freshman Gilbert Garcia was visiting his mom and was shot and killed from a passing car. There are too many more examples.
While we publicly lament the outcomes of illegal violence we also give strong mixed messages. We glorify violence when it’s wrapped in patriotism. We support it when we buy tickets to the latest Hollywood death flick, and also when we stand and cheer when the gloves come off in the NHL. We indoctrinate our young when we invest hundreds of millions of dollars to produce video games that make killing fun for all ages.
No, football and movies are not the same as mass murder. But when a boy goes it alone in interpreting the difference, we get what we get. Confused, lonely, and angry young men.
Violence is simple and effective, whether you wear the silver and black of the Raider’s, or the blue of Crips and red of Bloods. And yet the answers to preventing youth violence are also simple and effective. We need to:
• Reconsider how we glorify violence.
• Recruit volunteers or pay more adults to sincerely listen to our kids.
• Create access to more positive opportunities.
Simple and effective. Not cheap. In 1999 there were over 400 students for each counselor at Columbine H.S. Today…no change. What would the ratio need to be to have a better chance of an adult actually noticing Dylan and Eric’s behavior?
I believe that we know what works to develop balanced young men. Do we have the will to do it?
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.