My son is home and we just had a truly enlightening conversation.
I wish it had been sparkly and positive…and certain elements of it were. I also wish I could capture the whole thing in one post.
But he talked for nearly 45 minutes straight. I listened.
He is almost 21 years old.
I asked him what he thought was going on in the world to cause the increase in all this violence.
“Technology, video games, social media.”
I countered. “You don’t think maybe the violence existed before and we are just now seeing it because of social media and technology?”
“No.” His response was firm.
“The people who hate, who are fueled by hate have effectively utilized technology to confirm the reasons for their own hatred.”
I asked him to give me an example.
He brought me to a YouTube video…a particular version of the popular game “Call of Duty.” The player participates in a terrorist attack on a Russian Airport.
I watched three or so minutes with him and we both agreed that we had had enough.
The game is so disturbing I decided not to attach the link depicting it. Truly. It is traumatizing.
“This version was popular among many of my friends in the late 2000’s…five, six, seven years ago.”
I realized how unaware I was at that time of the violence in the games.
“Did we have that game?”
“No. Not that version. I didn’t feel right playing it.”
“Who makes these games Hank? Is it all for money?”
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I think a large number of folks who make these games believe that fueling hatred is important…it’s all enmeshed with masculinity and bravado and heroism. It’s their own “call to duty.” They believe hatred is noble…a part of being a man.”
“It’s totally messed up.”
He left to go be with friends and I called him after he had gone.
“Why didn’t you get tangled up in this? What’s the difference? Why didn’t you play those games? You played sports video games, but not those. Why not?”
“I had passions that were connected in some way to something greater than just me. Skateboarding. Swimming. Art. Fashion. These in and of themselves are good. But somehow…these got connected to purpose…connected with a vision for myself…with other people. To expressing the good in me somehow.”
So my plea goes here.
Be outraged. Outraged that someone creates the violent versions of these videos games. (If you know someone connected with the production of these I would like to meet them.)
Be outraged by an entertainment industry that perpetuates the masculine, the racial and the gender stereotypes.
Be smarter than I was. (I was lucky.). Don’t buy them for your kids, and if you do, please review the games with them. Know what their friends are playing. Know what your kids are playing at their friend’s houses. Be firm about this. “Just because my friend’s have it” doesn’t make it okay. Some of them are truly twisted sick stuff.
Like the Facehook page: The Mask You Live In. Visit it often. Trust me. It’s powerful.
Better yet…download the movie, “The Mask You Live In” and watch it with your family…including the girls.
And most importantly, if you have the opportunity, in your life, to help a young man, do it. If you don’t have the opportunity and have the time, seek it.
They need us now more than ever.
Listen to them. Love them. Connect with them.
No matter where or how.
Because our boys are dying…to be heard.