• In my previous post, Random Male Violence, Part I I began to unravel the mystery of why the random violence we regularly encounter happens in the U.S. on a level unlike any other country. Our soul searching requires that we recognize that we are developing wounded males. But all countries have wounded males. There’s another inescapable reason random mass slaughter happens within American borders so much more than anywhere else— the ease with which anyone, regardless of capabilities, mental health or training can get their hands on assault rifles—weapons of mass destruction. The solution to this issue has proven exceptionally difficult to find, but I don’t think there is any question that this is a central part of the problem.

  • Once again we wrestle with piercing feelings of grief, bewilderment and anger. Yet again a young American male has unleashed his wrath against a vulnerable group of students. Our hearts ache, our heads shake and our minds reel. How can this keep happening? What can we do to make sure this never happens again? We’re familiar with the spectrum of suggested causes as well as solutions—it’s a mental health issue, it’s a gun access issue, it’s a cultural issue. It’s all of those to some degree, but in my option it’s a horrific case of American Exceptionalism. I love my country, but I really dislike the way that term is typically used. It implies that American culture is first and best, as if we’re all in a global competition for a mythical cultural gold medal. Having traveled to more than 60 countries over the years I’ve experienced qualities in every one of them that are admirable as well as unfortunate. Mine included.

  • American culture does a good job of creating, idolizing, and then rewarding, young men who are convinced of the following life principles:

    1. Life is a party. Rock on.
    2. You're the master of your domain. You get to decide how life goes. Others are at your service.
    3. You're special. The rules that govern others don't apply to you. You get a pass.
    4. You're invincible. You're forever young. You'll avoid the natural consequences of injury, illness and aging.
    5. It's all about you. You're the center of the universe. Grab it.
  • Rite of Passage. Western culture largely views these as age-based rights young adults automatically deserve once they hit a certain date. Depending on local laws 18 or 21-year olds are allowed to consume tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and pornography; they can now purchase weapons and ammunition. In most cases, this "right" is granted regardless of whether youths have benefited from any guidance in the inherent dangers of these practices nor any training in discernment in their use. High school sports team and college fraternity hazing rituals involving sexual abuse, or deadly alcohol over-consumption, as we saw this week at Penn State and in 2013 at my own alma mater, Northern Illinois University, confirm the consequences of the absence of effective guidance in rites of passage.

  • In one breakfast of scanning the newspaper this week I came across these stories: 1. The Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker wrote a moving editorial regarding Charleston church murderer Dylann Roof. He’s the self-professed white supremacist who slaughtered 9 African Americans while attending a Bible study at their church. (Just typing those words makes me both sick and angry.) Roof may want the public to believe his insistence that he wanted to start a race war, or that he has justified grievances against blacks he supposes are the cause of his life of misery and social rejection. Parker eloquently lifts the veil to the real truth of what drove him to this awful act:

  • If you’ve read many of my posts in the past there’s a good chance you’ve seen me quote an African[...]

  • This is a fascinating, brief insight into what is going on with addictions of all types. Yet another reason for[...]

  • "I violated my values and it was wrong. I behaved shamefully." Those are the words of Christopher Correa, the former scouting director of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, recently convicted of hacking into the player personnel system of another major league team. He has lost his dream job, faces 46 months in prison and has been ordered to pay a fine of nearly $280,000. What he would do if he could only turn back time and make another choice when faced with temptation to further his reputation as a winner! Too late; the secret is out. How sadly often it is that we read very similar stories in the news:

    • imagesHead football coach Art Briles, a man of faith, whose decision to ignore, hide or discredit the stories of numerous women who reported sexual assaults by his football players, cost him his job and has cast a dark shadow over the outstanding reputation of Baylor University. He is not an exception; he is only the most public and recent of coaches to betray their own beliefs, and those who trusted him, for the sake of success.
  • trumpcruzHave we seen a more circus-like political process in our lives? I haven't. I doubt you have. We are all familiar with the boorish, demeaning, literally below-the-belt accusations flying from one candidate to the other in the current marathon race for the U. S. presidency. Each day brings another series of bewildering headlines revealing head-scratching results and stomach-turning behavior that seem to represent the worst of American politics. I'm saddened by it and ashamed of it. In a recent conversation with a group of friends we carefully shared our frustrations, as well as our hopes for how this might end. I say "carefully" because we've probably all learned that there is no telling which of your friends is going to launch into an angry rant about his favorite candidate, or against any that you might entertain. We're walking on eggshells. And that's with friends. The depth of emotion in this caucus season reveals the long-simmering disappointment so many feel with our system and our leadership. OK, fine. That doesn't excuse violent behavior or relationship-killing words.

  • clarkson husbandMedia confession: Beryl and I watch American Idol regularly. Because it often actually moves us. Sometimes the performances are lukewarm; every now and then they are jaw-dropping. Recently, Kelly Clarkson, the Season 1 winner, told a story through song that brought tears streaming down my cheeks—and those of the judges and many in the audience. We intuitively know dads matter, but in our dramatically changing family culture that often questions the value of fathers, we sometimes need a reminder. Kelly gave us a jaw-dropping one. Her song, Piece by Piece, compares her experience with a father who disappeared when she was a young girl, to her husband who is a present, loving father to her kids. "He filled the holes you burned in me when I was 6 years old...He restored my faith that a man could be kind, and that a father could stay."