Lance Scranton: Why do boys shoot? |

Lance Scranton: Why do boys shoot?

Lance Scranton

If one is to look around the entirety of our country, it is accurate to observe that, overwhelmingly, shootings — violence inflicted upon others with a gun — are carried out by young (usually, but not exclusively) males.

Without exception the acts of violence take place in some type of public setting. Some of the most horrific involve schools and innocent students and teachers. Beneath this landscape of violence is a crisis that is exacting a toll on the most basic levels of our democracy.

One that some believe will be solved by increasing the legislative response, which means laws that take certain constitutional freedoms away from a segment of our population. The violence perpetrated by young men in our country is, if we take an honest, non-ideological view, the result of a complex multitude of factors that have been at play in our society for a number of years. Understandably, legislators are elected to make laws, but stricter laws may not be the answer to this crisis.

Young males growing up in America face a culture that sends them mixed, and mostly confusing, messages about their identity, value and purpose in life. As a father of four sons, I have done my best to counter the constant attacks by our schools and culture that would have young men believe that their masculinity is toxic, their skin color directly relates to their level of oppression, they are inherently racist, their biological gender is a privilege, and that they are part of an oppressive patriarchal culture. Don’t believe me? Take an honest look around our country and you will see these carefully crafted messages that are destroying the concept of maleness.

What should be our greatest concern, however, involves the developmental vulnerabilities of boys who grow up in a father-deprived environment. This lack of paternal involvement has had a profound effect on young boys in every segment of our society. Parents who fail to enforce boundaries for young men too often lead to harmful effects both in learning and socially. A lack of reading and writing skills is a huge issue in boys as are an absence of the required negotiation skills that help make childhood bearable (none of these observations, in any way, are meant to cast aspersions against those who are left to raise children because of abandonment or divorce).

The catastrophic results can be seen in boys who (biologically) grow into men but because of the rejection of their status as males, resort to gaining popularity through affiliation with groups whose members have endured many of the same experiences and become places where young men begin to play out fantasies of violence to gain social status.

It is, on many levels, an issue deeply embedded in a complex series of events that have left young men feeling rejected by women because they appear wimpy when they have been trained to not take initiative unless asked or granted permission. It is a confusing mish-mash of cultural contradiction for young people when every conceivable sexual identity is accepted (and celebrated as brave) while simultaneously sending the message that every act of physical intimacy (even a kiss or a touch) is so dangerous that affirmative consent is needed on many college campuses or else the act is punishable and potentially life-destroying.

These observations in no way excuse the brutish behavior that some believe is acceptable in our culture. The celebration of Father’s Day this past week really got me thinking about how we have done a huge disservice to boys in our culture who have not been raised with a steady, dependable male influence. Family organization is complex and solutions are many, but without fathers who are determined to raise their sons, we are at the tipping point of a catastrophic societal problem that will tear our culture apart. Reality demands that responsibility and sacrifice be celebrated in our family units and that men and women are not vilified for their roles in parenting.

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