To my mind, it is undeniable that, as a species, we have, somehow, throughout the ages, inculcated in men an idea that, when placed in a position of power, they can and should exercise their penchant for violence — like when they have a gun in their pocket, or when given the opportunity to exploit the physically weaker sex. (A 1986 UCLA survey found that 50 percent of males said they would commit rape if they knew there was no chance of being caught.)
It is true that the majority of males keeps their barbarian impulses in check. But can we agree that the minority that doesn’t fosters way too much horror, pain, angst, psychological duress and loss of life among the rest of us?
What else can be said about Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. and now Rumain Brisbon in Phoenix, lest we forget Rodney King in Los Angeles? What else can be discussed, debated and analyzed about domestic and sexual violence against women, as in the cases of Ray Rice and Bill Cosby; assaults on campuses (nearly 5,000 in 2012), and in the military (nearly 6,000 in 2014)?* Alongside the elephantine problem of racial bias in America, what we’re dealing with is abuse of power and its spurious cousin, our culture’s shocking tolerance for violence. Is there anything left to say about these three disturbing and depressing issues?
Maybe someone’s already thought of this, but after hearing about New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that 22,000 officers will receive a three-day tutorial on “smart policing,” it occurred to me that maybe the way to address this blight upon our society is to institute a tutorial for boys at the kindergarten level. Can’t leave it to family to do the job; some of these bloodthirsty criminals masquerading as sons and brothers, often come from perfectly lovely parents. Maybe teaching all young boys how to resist their learned behavioral responses should come at the institutional level — if you’re not a racist or rapist-to-be, it won’t hurt you, and will only reinforce the desire in you to stick up for potential victims.
Johnny, you, Jane and Billy come up to the front of the class so we can playact a scene in the schoolyard.
Hire some appropriate, accredited group to produce videos, where kids in cop uniforms act out scenes with guns; birthday party scenes, where one of the girls gets beat up by one or a bunch of boys, and how the good guys react to the situation. Show, don’t tell of a black boy being picked on by an authority figure because of his ethnicity. Follow up with in-depth discussions. Hire psychologist to teach the course. Start brainwashing them in the opposite direction early on! Just like learning how to read and write, make this course part of the common, everyday curriculum. Call it what you like — an expanded Social Studies course just for boys. Yes, just for boys. And then maybe we can come up with one for girls who bully –which, in all likelihood, they picked up from watching boys.
I think it’s safe to say that everyone — even Republicans! — are horrified by recent events in our country. The conservatives’ agreement may be couched in the current discussions about our failed justice system, and how it needs to be reviewed. No shit. Yes, that’s very true. But the bigger problem lies in what we, as a society, expect and allow. Police brutality, hostility to non-whites, sexual violence against women and the treatment of sexual victims as instigators are so commonplace that, up until now, such events merited no more than a shake of the head before everyone moved on. I hope against hope that this important moment in time will not go the way of Sandy Hook Elementary, when the entire country’s momentum was on fire to pass definitive gun control legislation, only to sputter again into the arms of inconsequence.
We know that something is very, very wrong. It’s time to consider radical new approaches for creating a new standard. Have any ideas for fixing this thing? Get them out into the world! Someone with the power to enact good ideas has to be looking for answers.
* These figures only represent reported assaults.