Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Anger of Young Men

Image result for toronto van massacre

A man in his 20's is awaiting sentencing in Quebec for the senseless murders of six Muslims as they worshipped peacefully in their mosque. Alexandre Bissonnette became obsessed with immigrants, was suicidal and obviously homicidal. He eventually pled guilty to his crimes and will likely be in prison for the rest of his life.

Yesterday a young man in Toronto rented a van then "weaponized" it, careening along one of Canada's busiest streets with the intent of killing innocent pedestrians. Sadly, he was very successful , killing ten and injuring many more. Alek Minassian, also in his 20's, had no previous criminal record but has been described as a loner, and he challenged the remarkable police officer who arrested him to shoot him in the head.

We hear far too often about incidents of mass murder in places around the world where young men are recruited to do terrible harm to others, as well as so-called "lone wolves" such as Dylan Roof  and Nikolas Cruz, and just this week, Travis Reinking, in the United States. Please note that all these North Americans  I've named are angry white men, alienated and enraged. Yes, there are brown-skinned terrorists out there, some of them religiously motivated, but while we obsess overthem, there are terrorists in our midst whom we aren't as inclined to "other." 

In February, after the school massacre in Florida, the New York Times published what has become a widely quoted op-ed piece called The Boys are Not All Right by Michael Ian Black. In it he observes:

America’s boys are broken. And it’s killing us.
The brokenness of the country’s boys stands in contrast to its girls, who still face an abundance of obstacles but go into the world increasingly well equipped to take them on.
The past 50 years have redefined what it means to be female in America. Girls today are told that they can do anything, be anyone. They’ve absorbed the message: They’re outperforming boys in school at every level. But it isn’t just about performance. To be a girl today is to be the beneficiary of decades of conversation about the complexities of womanhood, its many forms and expressions.
 Boys, though, have been left behind. No commensurate movement has emerged to help them navigate toward a full expression of their gender. It’s no longer enough to “be a man” — we no longer even know what that means.

Too many boys are trapped in the same suffocating, outdated model of masculinity, where manhood is measured in strength, where there is no way to be vulnerable without being emasculated, where manliness is about having power over others. They are trapped, and they don’t even have the language to talk about how they feel about being trapped, because the language that exists to discuss the full range of human emotion is still viewed as sensitive and feminine.
Here is the sad reality. While religion can lead the way in nurturing a healthy sense of being male in this time of confusion, the opposite happens, far to often. Again, some like to point the finger at other religions, particularly Islam, for unhealthy male images. Yet in too many conservative Christian communities manhood has been associated with male superiority, often described as "headship" and "complementarity" -- which is just another term for patriarchy. Evangelicals in the United States have elected and given a free pass to a president who is a strutting, lying, misogynist -- the worst possible role model for male leadership. If you want to know how bizarre this has become, take a look at the advertising for the upcoming Stronger Men's Conference, with disgraced pastor Mark Driscoll, a bad-tempered arrogant bully as one of the speakers. https://strongermen.org/
Faith communities do have the opportunity to address this toxic and ultimately destructive perception of manhood. I am praying that our two grandsons will grow up to have a balanced and healthy sense of self, grounded in their Christian faith. They have wonderful parents to model this, and we can be hopeful.
As a society we can ask the important questions about what it means to be a man in the 21st century. Enough is enough.


roger said...

Excellent blog, David, and thank you for reminding readers the widely-believed perception that all terrorists are Muslim simply isn't true.

You only have to look at individuals like Andre Poulin from Timmins and John McGuire from Ottawa - white males with seemingly "normal childhoods" - who radicalized to violent extremism, went to Syria to fight with Daesh, and were killed doing so.

In fact, I would say that those who have a solid and true understanding of Islam are extremely unlikely to ever become radicalized to violence. It's the ones who believe the rubbish coming from Daesh who are more susceptible.

Of course, there are other white attackers such as Dylan Roof, the Vegas shooter...the list goes on. I have never felt safer than being at Ramadans, at mosques, or being at events with Imams.

Ultimately, none of these incidents happen in a vacuum. There are behavioural indicators - observable and assessable - that these individuals will exhibit. The key is picking up on them and knowing what to do. We can't wait for an individual to enter a shopping mall with a backpack full of explosives - it's too late at that point. We needed to intervene while he/she was going down that path of radicalization to violent extremism. Yes, it's easier said than done, but it's not impossible.

My prayers and thoughts go out to the family and friends of the victims of the horrific attack in Toronto. I was also glad to see the Toronto officer utilizing his use of force training in exactly the right way.

David Mundy said...

Thanks for taking the time to respond so thoroughly Roger. I agree, and your comments about the officer are offered from experience!