Like so many others, my heart broke when I heard the news out of Newtown last week. And like so many others, my first thought was about gun control. We need it. End of story. My next thought was: When are we going to talk seriously about men and violence in the United States?
With the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary, and other, still all too recent, tragedies like the murder of Kasandra Perkins at the hands of Jovan Belcher, the time has come to talk about manhood in America. Staggering, sobering statistics tell us that more than 95 percent of all violent crimes -- and all but one of the 62 mass shootings over the last 30 years -- have been committed by men. Why? Boys aren't born violent. They learn to be. From fathers, from male celebrities, politicians and athletes who commit acts of terrible violence only to be welcomed back to public life, unrepentant. Through advertisements that tell them their "man card" comes with an assault rifle. Simply put: We have a culture that equates masculinity with aggression and domination. As Michael Kimmel wrote so eloquently for CNN, our boys are being raised to see violence as a solution -- often the only solution -- to their problems. And while, thankfully, massacres like these remain rare, there is a continuum of male violence that permeates our daily lives, whether in our homes, at the office or on the street.
In his memorial speech to 26 grieving families over the weekend, President Obama talked about how it takes a village to raise strong, healthy kids.
It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can't do it by yourself. That this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation.
And he's absolutely right. We can raise our boys to understand that that empathy, compassion and talking about their feelings -- especially feelings of anger and isolation -- is not "girl stuff." It's people stuff. And that despite what some obituaries might tell you: real family men do not kill their families. They nurture them. They raise sons that will do the same.
Tragedies like Sandy Hook shock and humble us because they remind us of how much we share. Those victims -- the 20 children and 6 brave women -- are so like us. They are our friends, our families, our neighbors. They are us. And we all deserve to live free from violence. It's a future we can only hope to see if we begin talking about it and working toward it today. Our families can't wait. Our communities can't wait. The time to start is now.