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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Men and violence

American men need more positive role models in society


America has a problem with violence committed by men. That’s indisputable, as the front and back pages of newspapers and the nightly news broadcasts across the country attest every single day.
Just this past week, we had two stories in the Timberjay of local males now in custody due to horrific outbursts of violence against those closest to them. The week before, we reported on the death of a Tower woman due to the apparent reckless actions of another male. Just weeks before, we had the story of an Ely man who went haywire in a domestic incident and ended up in a high-speed chase with police before being apprehended while fleeing across a field.
While men have always been predisposed to violence, due in part to the higher levels of testosterone, it is clear that the level of violent, reckless, and inappropriate behavior committed by men in America is off the charts, especially compared to other societies. The easy accessibility of guns in the U.S. is one factor, but it is far from the only one. It’s worth noting that most of our recent local incidents of male violence did not involved a firearm.
To be clear, we’re not talking about most men, the majority of whom are well adjusted and important to the functioning of our society. But the problems that present themselves every day, and the results of many recent surveys, point to a systemic breakdown that has changed our understanding of what it means to be a man in modern America. A number of recent studies have shown that American males from the teenage years to middle-age particularly, report feeling increasingly isolated in their personal lives and fully 40 percent exhibit symptoms of depression, while nearly half reported recent suicidal thoughts. Many seem to have little direction in life or goals for which they’re willing to focus and work hard to achieve. What they lack in personal connection with others, they compensate for with frequent exposure to online sources of “community,” which too often spread racist, misogynistic, and violent messages under the supposed rubric of “men’s rights.” They are told that real men are supposed to dominate female partners, use violence to resolve conflict, and never show compassion or express vulnerability. Such messages are not only harmful to others and society at large, they are harmful to the men who fall prey to such twisted teachings.
What many of these sources preach most of all is that men are the real victims in society, which some interpret to mean that men don’t need to take responsibility for their own actions. Instead, they can blame their shiftlessness, their addictions, their poor decision-making, and their violence on other factors, like feminists or “woke” policies that they believe put men, particularly white men, at a disadvantage. They’re told that returning white males to their former positions of primacy in American society is their birthright and that anyone who stands for equal opportunity is an impediment to their cause. It’s a message that has turned far too many men to back groups like the Proud Boys and politicians like Donald Trump, who regularly use violent and abusive language in promoting an authoritarian model of society, dominated by white males.
It isn’t just white males, of course. Rap culture, which is dominated by African-Americans, often preaches similar messages of violence and male domination of others.
It’s tragic for everyone involved and it’s warping our society. A recent survey found that more American men found Andrew Tate, a narcissistic influencer who has trafficked hundreds of young women into sex work to enrich himself, a better role model for a male than President Joe Biden. Whatever one might think of Biden’s political views, he has always been a devoted family man. That used to be a descriptor that held weight in America, but apparently that’s no longer the case.
Such negative influences obscure the fact that there have long been positive and healthy ways for men to express their natures. They can take on roles as protectors, rather than abusers, as caregivers rather than simply disciplinarians. Mr. Rogers, who famously taught young people to harness their positive values, was more of a man than Andrew Tate will ever be. Kindness takes more strength of character than cruelty.
We need new and better influences in society that define what it is to be a man in more positive ways. We need to demonstrate that there is value and meaning in caring for others, not just yourself, and that the truest expression of “being a man” comes from helping, not hurting, others. Only then can we begin to address the violent and reckless behavior of too many American men.