Yesterday morning, before I had checked the news, I was cleaning at our Ballet School. I talked with a young man there who works at the little dance supply shop in trade for his classes. He’s 19 and been dancing for 3 years. He vented to me for a few minutes about how his parents ignored his repeated requests for dance classes and ballet shoes when he was younger. His parents wanted him to be a mathematician. Now he feels he has years to catch up, dancing with girls who started at 3 or 4. I finished cleaning, and headed home. I logged onto Facebook to see pictures of a friend’s new baby.
I absolutely believe that we need to control and regulate guns, as closely or closer than we control and regulate cars and driving them. Undoubtably that would make a world of difference. But I think the conversation we need to be having is bigger and deeper than that. Guns don’t just load themselves and go out on a rampage.
We need to talk about mental health and the way the funding for mental health access and support is one of the first things we decimate in a budget crisis. But though some people are born with serious mental health needs, more people take a slow journey toward a mental health crisis. I think that there is another layer here, the deeper layer.
I’m looking back at these shootings that have peppered the news in the last year. The big ones, the public ones that have caused us to scream in anguish, have been perpetrated by angry, hurting, men.
The conversations we need to start are about how we treat our little boys and how men have little social recourse to share their feelings. We need to look at the role models and video games, and truly consider how the pictures that we give boys about what it means to be a Man will impact their future. We need to see when our boys want to be dancers instead of mathematicians. And then we need to help them follow those dreams, loving and supporting them so that they aren’t leagues behind their dancer friends and working long hours to trade for the classes they need and can’t afford.
We need to give a male friend the same consideration and opportunity to share feelings that we give our female friends. We need to hold our boys and let them cry it out, let them twirl in delight, honor their achievements even when we don’t understand them, and let them show us their rage and dark feelings even when those feelings scare us. We need to make it okay for a boy or a man to show us that he needs help, whether its the help of a listening ear, a hug, or a therapist. We need to be on the floor, playing with our boys and showing them what to do with these feelings and giving them alternatives to violence. We need to stop whitewashing violent boy play as “boys will be boys” and show them safe ways to play those games. We need to reassure our boys that being gentle, that being dancers, that being quiet in no way makes them less. We need to listen and pay attention so that sometimes we can see the hurt before it explodes, and help before the crisis.
We aren’t listening. Every shooting is a desperate plea from the dark side of a world we choose to ignore. We hold these men up as sick, as psycho, as anomalies. We pray – God, how we pray – that our community is not housing the next anomalie. But we aren’t listening to these men. They have shown us clearly that they need us. They need us to stop demonizing them and start loving them. They need us to love our little boys, even when (especially when) those little boys don’t match up to what we are told a boy or man should be.
That’s the conversation we need to be having.