I was driving to the market to get some soft food after a dental procedure when I passed a local college. There were three children standing on the corner, a girl and two young men. The girl made a comment to one of the young men, who then lunged at her, kicked her and pushed her, nearly knocking her glasses off her face and onto the floor. An elderly woman saw this in passing. She shouted something at the trio. The young man who had kicked the girl immediately told the elderly woman to close the door. [expletive] get up and go about your business.
I’ve seen this scene play out hundreds of times, especially during my years as a teacher. While patrolling the lobby, I overheard two young men “playing fight” and told them to stop. An AP scolded me and said “That’s how they play!” Implicit in his statement were two inferences: first, that I knew nothing about the culture of the children I had spent over 20 years teaching, and second, that I should close the [expletive] get up and mind my business. I felt the AP was wrong on both counts. Certainly, American culture in particular values boys who turn into “real men,” from John Wayne to Clint Eastwood to Will Smith. But, all of these men played characters who used violence to solve a problem. Violence is the problem that must be solved. We have evolved to understand that being a “real man” involves much more than courage and guns…it also involves emotions, tenderness and empathy for others. The young man who seeks to exert dominance over the young girl through intimidation is a role model that none of us will accept as valid anymore. And, unfortunately, he will continue to use this behavior until a young woman or young man corrects him.