People control – on school violence and gender roles

We don’t need gun control, so much as people control.

If you ban guns, then only the people who obey laws will not have guns. The people who don’t obey laws will have as many as they want. They are the ones who kill people anyway.

We need to address why people, especially young boys, are killing other people.

We need to address the rage and powerlessness that young boys are feeling and counter that. They kill to make themselves seen and heard. Address that in a healthy way, early on, and they won’t feel a need to kill.

We have to address the sense of hopelessness and alienation they feel.

When boys are told to not cry, to “be a man”, they are not allowed to be in touch with their softer sides. They are molded into an unnatural shape, like a bonsai tree. But unlike a bonsai tree, they aren’t shaped into anything beautiful, but warped.

If a boy acts in any way other than the traditionally masculine role he is seen as either gay or a girl. He is emasculated by his peers. He is a “pussy” or a “fag” or “has no balls”. A guy who is caring, who is considerate, who is loving, is seen as not a guy. This is unhealthy and damaging to him as a person.

The only way that guys are allowed to express themselves is through being physically aggressive. So is it any surprise that they become violent, and the only way they feel that they can be seen and heard is to use violence? Gun violence is the most extreme form of “acting out,” but it is still in line with being a guy.

First, we must drop all the “rules” about what it means to be male.

Our society has really started to raise its collective consciousness about women’s rights and roles, but we’ve failed the boys. We tell women that they can be anything they want to be but we don’t say the same thing to boys. We tell women that they can be doctors or lawyers or mechanics, but we don’t support boys who want to be dancers or artists or stay-at-home-Dads.

Sure, they can be, but at a loss to their masculinity. Sure, they can be, but they run the risk of being seen as not male. In American society, that is the same as not being a person.

When a woman has a job that is seen as being traditionally “male”, she is a groundbreaker. When a man has a job that is seen as traditionally “female”, he is seen as not being a man. For a woman, it is a step up. For a man, it is a step down.

Let’s drop the “rules” for what defines someone as “male” or “female” and start thinking about what it means to be a person. Let’s focus on character and compassion instead. Let us let people be people, and not gender.

Let us also teach everybody – boys and girls together, as many ways to express their emotions and needs. Humans need connection. We are not solitary beings. We have to communicate with each other. But not all of us are good at communicating with words. We all need to learn different “languages” – of art, of dance, of music. We all need to learn as many ways as possible to “get it out” of ourselves. Bottled up feelings tend to bubble over in unpleasant ways.

Remember how frustrated a small child gets when something isn’t right? He wails and whines and fusses. He’s hungry, or tired, or something hurts, or he needs something that isn’t there. His frustration grows and grows until someone figures out what is wrong and fixes it. Sometimes a parent will say “Use your words” to remind him that he has to communicate his needs. Then he has to slow down and think about what it is that he needs so he can express it. Then the parent can help.

But what if he doesn’t know what is wrong? Or what if he hasn’t been taught the words?

There is a trend these days to teach sign language to infants. They are taught a gestural language because it is easier for them than speech at that point. The frustration level is reduced dramatically. Instead of guessing what is wrong, the parent knows because the child has said it with gestures.

But what if you are older? What if you know a lot of words? And what if they still aren’t enough?

I believe that this, along with the rigidity of the masculine gender role, is the heart of the problem. I believe that everybody needs to learn how to express themselves in multiple “languages”. Bring back art programs. Bring back music in the school. Let everybody take a turn at theatre. Or gardening. Or cooking, or sewing, for instance. Everybody needs to learn the skills necessary for life, for being an independent person, anyway.

I also believe that everybody needs to get moving. Lack of physical exercise results in too much pent up energy.

We can turn this around. We can’t wait for the government to do it, or the school systems. It will take too long for the committees to study it. Every person who cares for a young person is responsible for this change. Anything counts. We can’t do it all, and we certainly can’t do it all at once. But we have to start.

Go to the library for ideas. Check with the Y, or the community center. Get moving, get creating on your own. Think it costs too much? It is cheaper than a coffin.

The life you save will be that of your young friend and twenty random strangers.