by Ross Bishop
Most men today are doing very well. They finish school, make healthy choices, and accept the world of work and the responsibilities of family. For men like these, opportunities today are excellent.
For others however, the transition is more difficult. For these men life is a constant challenge. Their masculinity is always on the line. The entitlements that seem so easy for other men are denied these guys. Their state is one of aggrieved entitlement. A few are victims of crimes or commit crimes themselves. Others abuse substances or suffer from depression. Some drop out. And often, there are disparities based on race, ethnicity, family structure, socioeconomic status and simply where they live. Their operating status is of rage.
This is a plea on behalf of the rageful men of America. We need help, your help, so we do not continue taking our frustrations out on the people around us. And thus far, no one has been willing or able to do much about our problem. We already feel disaffected, shunned and isolated, and the community turning a deaf ear to our cries for help makes our situation worse.
Some of us are rageful – violently rageful.
You have heard all about the disaffected, rageful, malcontent young white males who shoot up schools, nightclubs, churches, mosques and synagogues. They are relatively few in number but their impact on the national psyche is considerable. Unfortunately, we cannot profile projected shooters from amongst the millions of other rageful men.
Of far greater significance, but existing under the radar, is the issue of domestic violence. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women – more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten. Every day more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that same period was 11,766.
Looking at violent crime generally, The National Crime Victimization Survey found that in the first six months of 2017 the incidence of violent crime increased 17% over the same period in 2015 (from 2.7 million to 3.1 million).
Some of us get depressed and commit suicide.
Of the 47,000 people who killed themselves in 2017, 37,000 were depressed males – that is 78% of the total. Firearms were used in 51% of suicides.
Some of us struggle with PTSD.
Of those diagnosed with PTSD, 27% of have attempted suicide. Thirty seven percent of PTSD victims are classified as severe cases (at-risk for suicide), but only half of them receive any form of treatment. Aside from self-harm, PTSD sufferers are prone to violence, hatred, and estrangement. Veterans are a high risk group for PTSD, but victims of sexual assault and first responders such as police, firemen and paramedics are also at high risk.
500,000 of us are homeless.
These are the flotsam of capitalism, cast aside by a culture that equates “success” with materialism. 15% of the homeless are considered chronic. There are 18,000,000 vacant homes in America. We could give each homeless person 3 houses and still have 3,000,000 left over!
Many of us are drug addicts.
More than 63,600 people died from a drug overdose in 2016. That’s an increase of 21% from 2015, and the number for 2017 will be significantly higher. This is nearly double the 34,425 drug overdose deaths that occurred a decade earlier.
Some of us are pedophiles, others send death threats over the internet, some send dick pics. Some of us cling to Neo-Nazi, KKK, white supremacy groups, others join street gangs.
These are just a few of the many statistics. And these are not mentally ill people. Troubled for sure, in need of help, certainly, mentally ill, no. And although there are individual factors driving each of these problems, there is a surprising common thread that runs through all of them.
They all share serious feelings of estrangement – from society, family and friends, whether we are taking about depression, domestic violence, the homeless, school shooters, drug addicts or violent criminals. The feeling behind each of these situations is a sense of feeling unwanted, rejected, isolated and alone.
Ask ghetto kids what draws them to gang life and they will tell you that the gang provides “a feeling of family.” PTSD suffers speak of feeling isolated and alone. White supremacists and Neo Nazis turn to violence to express their frustrations with and disenfranchisement from society. Domestic violence perpetrators and violent criminals with their short fuses, universally speak of growing up in homes of violence. The diaries and web postings of these individuals are rife with expressions of isolation, disenfranchisement, aloneness and frustration, manifesting as rage.
Around the country are people who have created programs, (largely on their own), who are reporting incredible success with some (not all) of these men, through the creation of refuge places for them to feel safe, accepted and respected as individuals. Places where they can share their frustrations with the world.
The approaches range from conventional therapy groups to animal rescues, sports teams or as crazy as it sounds, even knitting circles, where once violent or disaffected individuals can find group acceptance and an outlet for their feelings of alienation and isolation.
We won’t reach everyone. But this approach is a great deal better than having these men take out their frustrations on society. And from all indications, we can make things considerably better for these men and for the people they live with. And in some cases this gives us the opportunity to identify and reach out to the hard core cases.
One month before to the Presidential election of 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the Mental Health Systems Act, which created community mental health centers. These had proven to be far superior in handling mental health problems than the big, centralized mental hospitals. The act also included a provision for federal grants “for projects for the prevention of mental illness and the promotion of positive mental health.” With President Reagan and the Republicans taking over, the Mental Health Systems Act was discarded before the ink had even dried and the CMHC funds were simply block granted to the states and ended up being used for other purposes.
The result was that we closed the big hospitals but never built the community based facilities that were slated to replace them. A combination of local NIMBY resistance and a lack of commitment by the Reagan administration simply turned troubled people out onto the streets, left to their own devices. (After all, few of them voted or had advocates, and were easy prey for Republican budget cutters.) And this is a real tragedy because, as we have seen, without some sort of a buffer, this simply turns these disaffected men out onto the streets to inflict their frustrations out onto the larger community.
We desperately need a community based program of local centers to host groups to support rage-challenged men. And as simple as it sounds, it works! Facilities aren’t the problem, we could use schools, churches, community centers – whatever. Leadership isn’t really an issue either, there are plenty of trained therapists around who could host groups of this nature. Funding would be amazingly cheap. In comparison with other staff and facility heavy programs, we’re talking peanuts! What’s missing is political will, but that may be changing.
t majority of gun owners agree with that premise.
What ticks responsible gun owners off is that they feel lumped in with school shooters by gun control advocates. And that is unfair. 99.9% of gun owners would never do anything illegal with their weapons. Gun owners are under the mistaken impression that having a weapon in the home will deter robberies, but research clearly shows that this is not the case. And since most gun owners don’t lock their weapons up, this lead to accidents and other mishaps.
We need a much better system of gun control that bans assault weapons, secure weapons kept in he home and effectively registers gun owners so as to deny access to ragers, especially ones with a history of crime, domestic violence or violence toward animals.
In summary, a way to reduce the impact of rage on society is at hand. It works, is cheap and would be easy to implement. So long as the progam is voluntary, we avoid civil rights implications. If it is to have mandatory aspects, we’d need to administer those through the courts. The larger issues will be to confront the inertia of a society that has never had to really address this issue, but that train has already left the station.
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