Keeping our kids from killing

Why are the boys always so angry?

March 27, 2001|By Katherine Dunbier

HANOVER, Pa. -- Has anyone else noticed that teen-age boys in our society are particularly fierce, violent and angry?

When I am watching TV, reading the newspaper, listening to the radio, surfing the Web or overhearing conversations on the street, I find myself constantly wondering, "Why is he so angry? Is this only a problem with my generation? With our culture? Can this fury all be traced to a boy's childhood?"

Dr. Drew, co-host of my favorite radio program, "Loveline," would say, "Yes." He says that most problems that manifest themselves in adolescence can be traced to incidents that happen in early childhood.

And it's true that many of the callers to the show finally acknowledge that they had absent (mentally or physically) or abusive parents as small children. And divorce is an issue that has hit my generation, in particular, pretty hard. So that could explain why this anger is so prominent now.

But divorce affects as many girls as guys, and we don't seem to be nearly as furious.

The angriest of all seem to be white, middle-class males. Surely this group doesn't suffer exclusively from abusive parents. And why is this only a problem in males? Is it because they lacked a responsible father figure growing up? Is it because we as a society put too many pressures on these boys?

Sometimes it seems as if we expect them to be both macho and sensitive, obedient and rebellious. But teen-age girls are expected to be busy and popular, thin and athletic and have perfect makeup. Isn't that equal, if not greater, pressure? So why are guys so angry? Is it really just testosterone?

Is it because of our culture? It's true that our culture is violent, especially the things that boys are exposed to. But is it really an angry culture?

The only part of popular youth culture that is truly angry is the music. Do young men hear this and think that their anger and pain is OK to express? Is that a good thing?

But where do these listeners of that music get their anger? And why are the young white men on the other side of the speakers so furious at the world?

In the song by the heavy metal group Korn, "Daddy," singer Jonathan Davis yells about how his father sexually abused him as a small child. By the end of the song, he has totally broken down, sobbing, "You [expletive deleted] ruined my life!" Is this truly the root of this anger? How many boys go through this? Why does it make them so angry? Even Jonathan asks why in his lyrics.

Whatever the root of this anger among teen-age boys, it is a real social phenomenon that cannot be ignored. And when this anger is coupled with a culture saturated with violence, it is a recipe for disaster. Socially, it's a ticking bomb. There are two clear examples of when it has gone off.

Two boys in Colorado were (like most high school kids) bombarded with violence in their daily lives, from TV and movies, video games and music. They had easy access to guns and materials for bombs. And they probably saw violence as a way to express their pain and anger.

They killed 12 people and themselves. Why? Why did they think that violence was an appropriate way to express their unexplained fury?

On the last night of Woodstock `99, there was a riot. Booths were tipped over, money and merchandise was stolen, cars were set afire. Why?

Was it because of the three days of angry, high-volume music? The heat? The prices? Was it mob mentality? The audience was mostly "young, white, shirtless males, who were wearing knee-length khaki shorts" who "could afford the $150 ticket fee." This obviously has something to do with it, but what?

What happened to peace and love?

I've seen "Scream." I've listened to Limp Bizkit. I've played "Goldeneye." But I don't have an urge to kill anyone. I don't see violence as a solution to my problems. Why do these boys?

The violence in our culture is a real problem when coupled with the anger in young males. We need to get to the root of this problem because it is eating at the foundation of our society. We are headed for a full-on revolution.

Katherine Dunbier, 16, is a sophomore at South Western High School in Hanover, Pa.

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