Readers sound off on why young American men are so angry
On Tuesday, in the aftermath of the Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting — committed, as such carnage overwhelmingly is, by a young man — I ran a column asking one question: Why are young American men so angry?
Emails came pouring in from all over the country, men (and some women) of all ages, offering their thoughts as to what’s behind this epidemic.
What almost all have in common is a belief that the root causes go beyond gun control or violence in the media or first-person shooter games or easy access to hard-core pornography or virtual social lives that allow like-minded youth to interact only with those who stoke and reinforce resentment and anger.
In fact, most of these readers believe that what we’re seeing today, with alarming regularity, is a result of a decades-long erosion — in education, in popular culture, in the family and the workplace and society at large — in the way we now raise and regard boys and young men. Many pointed to the relatively new buzz phrase “toxic masculinity” as emblematic of the liberal and media elite’s reflexive contempt, one with real-world, trickle-down consequences.
This most recent shooter, in a since-deleted Instagram post, identified himself as Italian and Iranian, and had also encouraged others to read “Might is Right,” a 1890 tract popular with white supremacists. This has, tragically, become far too common: disenfranchised young men flocking to white supremacy, or the Proud Boys or other racist or radical groups; finding strength in numbers, an outlet (for a time), and groups of others — be they women or minorities — to blame.
To that point, some readers blamed women: feminists, women who choose work over devoting themselves as wives and mothers, single mothers for not providing male role models. This is not far afield from the warped perception of the so-called incel community, those young men who blame the other sex for their involuntary celibate status. 00:30 / 00:30TOP ARTICLES3/5READ MORE‘CHASING THE CURE’ LETS PATIENTS CROWDSOURCE A DIAGNOSIS
I initially wrote that what we’re living with, as a nation, is now treated more as a chronic illness to be tolerated rather than solved and eradicated. That our greatest threat isn’t Islamic terrorism or Russian hacking or immigration but our own angry young men, who now unleash their rage on unsuspecting civilians with terrifying regularity.
What have we done to cause this? What can we do to stop it? Consider a few of these impassioned replies.
I am 58 years old, farm born and raised, a US Air Force veteran.
In your column, you say the moon landing 50 years ago was one of the great triumphs of humanity — unless you also recall the opinions expressed by the media last week.
For example, The Washington Post tweeted, “The culture that put men on the moon was intense, fun, family-unfriendly, and mostly white and male.”
They weren’t alone, as The New York Times and the UK Guardian echoed the same sentiment.
The moon landing was, to paraphrase, racist.
And then you write an opinion piece asking why young white men are so angry? Where do young men get a chance to do something they can be proud of? The DNA of men is to do stuff, to build things, to put themselves to the test.
These days, the majority of students in college are women and the men who do attend are subject to crap classes such as women’s studies. Other courses are designed to kill their souls and re-educate their brains to default to a sense of guilt because everything done by white men (Columbus, Washington, R.E. Lee, for example) was evil.
Activities that used to be common to young boys while growing up (playing “cowboys and Indians,” learning how to change a tire on a car, hunting game in the outdoors) are now harshly discouraged.
Today’s cure for letting boys be boys is to medicate them instead of redirecting their energies.
This culture and society made boys and young men the enemy. This does not excuse the actions of those who fall prey to evil thoughts and act on them; but asking why young men perform heinous acts?
They don’t know how to grow up to be men of honor.
— Tom Geistkemper, Blairstown, Iowa
I’m scared for our society.
I’m a 61-year-old PhD social scientist, a third-generation teacher, a teacher who works with BD — behavioral development Special Ed students. I don’t have all the answers. This isn’t a bumper sticker solution.
I’ve served as a union steward protecting females and people of color. I have witnessed individuals from both minority groups being bullied, harassed, mistreated and subject to #MeToo-type sexual harassment. We have programs and official action to combat these injustices.
I’ve spent my career in service to providing equal opportunity for people, but I can see and feel resentment now from men. There’s a pushback. 99.9% are simply expressing frustration. But a small percent will lash out.
I can’t speak further to the Garlic Festival murders, yet as a professional social scientist, I can’t reject this hypothesis:
If white males feel excluded from society, would they seek out groups that historically defend or champion the supremacy of white males?
This shooter hadn’t demonstrated any childhood behavior to suggest a violent nature. He seems relatively calm and decent. Something changed. All of a sudden, this young man is searching White supremacist literature and groups on the Internet.
What has “broken” in him? Is he feeling alienated? Is he feeling pushed to the margins?
If so, who protects him? White Supremacists groups could fill his psychological emptiness.
This scares me. The shooter hit a soft target. Nobody is safe and we have millions of guns in America. A Japanese man recently sprayed a room of people with gasoline. There are too many ways to harm.
We might be lighting fuses everywhere.
— Scott Goold, Honolulu, Hawaii
Why are we angry?
Let me share my story.
I work a corporate job that routinely demands 70-plus hours a week. I barely have time to think, much less take care of myself mentally and physically. I am so burned out I can barely handle life anymore. I am 43.
I am constantly told how I am wrong at work.
I am seeing on the Internet that white men are toxic. It’s in the popular culture.
I’m a Democrat, and frankly the anti-white rhetoric has gotten ME angry.
I’ve been passed up for several promotions for applicants who were less qualified but met race and gender preference criteria — also known as, not a white male.
It’s not a good time to be one. I can only imagine what a young man who hasn’t established himself yet is going through.
Let me be clear … I do NOT advocate what any of these idiots have done, when they commit acts of violence. I just understand the anger. They feel that society rejects them and that they have no use, purpose or reason to exist. Add in some mental health issues and it’s a recipe for disaster. Men do not know how to deal with their emotions. White men in particular cannot handle situations where they feel helpless for very long. If these situations are real or imagined, they have very real feelings that society has backed them into a corner.
— Jason Reynolds, Orlando, Fla.
I wonder if an element stoking that anger is how poorly, in general terms, men are portrayed on television. From sitcoms to the majority of commercials, men, both black and white, are often portrayed as bumbling and not-too-bright. Beer and pickup truck commercials generally notwithstanding.
— Ben Carlson, Lexington, Ky.
I am a 48-year-old male. I am a counselor for, mostly, males in their late teens. I have been for years. Every one of them is angry. Each and every one.
Their biggest gripe: They do not feel like anyone notices them. Hears them.
The men and boys I work with regularly communicate to me that they feel disconnected from, and unimportant to, their parents. They do not feel seen or heard; their parents are off in their own worlds.
I cannot adequately articulate to you the relief they experience simply from my listening to them talk. I ask basic questions they’re not accustomed to answering, because they’ve not been asked:
“What do you think of school?”
“What is your experience at home like?”
“What do you look forward to in life?”
One might assume that by the time a man is in his early 20s, someone in his family has asked him these kinds of things.
There are no positive male role models. Countless clients have told me, for example, that they believe all men cheat on their wives because their fathers cheated. That men lie. Are not loyal, etc. Our current culture offers little aid.
When I was a boy, we watched “Little House on the Prairie” and our president (Jimmy Carter) was mocked for being horny for his own wife. Today it’s “Game of Thrones” and a president with, at least the perception of, a reputation that is vastly different from that. It is not political. It is spiritual.
Moreover, if you asked young children which they would prefer — a parent looking at them or a parent on a cellphone —what do you think they would pick?
No wonder young men don’t feel seen. They’re not.
If I were a teenage boy today, I would be furious. Anyone want to tell me what we’ve given them to look forward to? Who we’ve given them to look up to?
Are we all too selfish to see this?
— Thornhill Loomis, Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Are you serious? You don’t know why white males are angry?
They are passed over for college admissions, even though they have the highest scores. They are the enemy of every equality/equity program. They work the hardest and get the least in order to promote females and every other race. They are the bottom of the barrel in college entrance and job applications, and it is okay to mock and deny them equality.
My 28-year-old son is moving next week to Japan and has no plans to return to the US. Two nephews and one neighbor at the top of their classes are going to Europe for medical school.
Leftists have done this to America’s young men — it is open season on white males.
— Deborah Adams, Mukilteo, Wash.
Billy Joel put words to this phenomenon in the 1970s, but maybe times were different then: “There’s a place in the world for the angry young man, with his working class ties and his radical plans.”
Maybe the young men of today are more violent because of first-person shooter video games and online porn; maybe the keyboard warriors find that anger manifesting itself into action.
But maybe today there isn’t a place in the world for them. Not that this excuses these horrific actions, but maybe it helps explain them?
You take away one’s right to exist or place and some don’t go down without a fight, or a slaughter, in these cases.
I’m a father of three very young boys, a combat veteran, a former “angry young man” and I’m concerned about where this goes from here.
One thing that really just struck me as I’m composing this e-mail is this isn’t manly behavior at all. I’m 46, and in Iraq I saw 18-year-old paratroopers, men, do things that would make our forefathers proud.
At the same time, these “angry young men” don’t deserve the title of man at all. Punks. Call them punks.
This isn’t a gender/race problem. It’s societal.
— Stephen Kraft, Raleigh, NC