How We Kill Johnny
It was three weeks after I left the last residential treatment center for which I would ever work. A Saturday morning to be precise, and the phone rang- jarring me from the rare pleasure of a sleep in. It was Camille, so I knew it wasn’t good.
She wouldn’t call me if it were good
“You remember that boy Johnny you worked with, the one from Louisiana?” she asked.
“Dead,” she said. It was uttered in the tone of someone doing a poor job acting like they didn’t like delivering bad news.
“Drugs?” I asked.
“No,” she replied, “Suicide. Killed that little girl he was married to, as well. And shot some guy she was sleepin’ with, but he made it.”
I just lay there silent.
“Anyway, I knew you would want to know.”
I hung up without saying anything else. Knew I would want to know? Yeah, sure. Couldn’t wait to tell me was more like it. Camille was an ideological crusader. She made a career of telling the men we counseled what louts they were for being men, leaving me with the part time job of cleaning up her messes. We were the only two counselors in that program and the mix was volatile. I spent many days in the administrative offices fending off complaints about my “unusual style” in dealing with male clients. Unusual meant that I did not view masculinity as a mental health problem.
Johnny wasn’t the first tragedy in my years of doing that kind of work. Drug addicts very sadly have a way of dying young and I have never seen evidence that the negative messages I heard constantly at work about men were helping to change that.
I remembered Johnny’s story, and his pain. He was a twenty-two year old stock boy at an auto parts store in the hot and humid swamp lands of southern Louisiana. When he spoke, it was with rural earnestness, and a Cajun accent as thick as gators in bayou country.
Man, Paul, I doan know what to do ‘bout that girl o’ mine. I know she cheatin’. I know I doan make a dime what she don’t spend right away. Sometime she spend it on some other guy. But I can’t help it. Every time she call my name I got to come runnin’. Lord never made a bigger fool than me.”
Johnny was right. He was a fool, and couldn’t be talked out of his foolishness. Just like so many “real” men. His story isn’t reserved just for those who drink and drug themselves into oblivion because they have a woman they can’t live with, or without.
In this awful age of misandry, we live so many lies about men that we have lost all touch with the reality of what they are really like. And the cost of it is written in caskets and countless souls lost in a world with no memory of why they died.
You see, men love. They love with the most profound intensity and selflessness of which any creature on this earth is capable. And the steely bond between them and women is, unlike their hearts, unbreakable. When men die on the battlefield, they often fade away telling fellow soldiers “Tell my wife I love her.” Others cry out for their mothers as blood soaks the soil.
They are flattened by divorce, by the loss of love, even when that love is an illusion. Many will eat a gun rather than face life unloved.
They will lay down in traffic for the women they love and stand in the way of bullets to protect them. And they will strike down any many who dares offend them. They have been doing this for all of human history.
79% of all suicides are men. The death class. Yet all this has been rewritten with misandric ink. It has been revised by scholars who tell us men are bad, by psychologists whose main field of work seems to be targeting men as inadaquate women, instead of helping them on their own terms.
The religious establishment is of little help either. In most cases men are advised by clergy to “man up” and take full responsibility for whatever abuses they encounter in a relationship. The mentality behind all of this now drives our family law system, pushing men to despair and despondency with tragic frequency. That is not to even mention what it is doing to their children.
I hope, more than anything else, that at some point in our future that people wake up to this tragedy hidden in plain view. I hope that when we see the story on the evening news about a man who set himself ablaze outside a family court that we might stop and ask ourselves what kind of pain could drive someone to ease it with fire? When we read in the newspaper about the man who holed up in his house with a gun and his children, threatening to take them all out, can we at least wonder if this is just a crazy man, or a man driven to the brink by a pain so monstrous and devastating that even the unthinkable could become an option?
The normal 4 to 1 ration of male suicide more than doubles during divorce, without so much as causing a hiccup on the women’s numbers. Is this because men are inept at articulating feelings in a female mode? Or is it because we gleefully rip their lives to shreds during a divorce and then tell them they had it coming?
Indeed, there is a great deal we have to ask. The only problem is that all the wrong people are asking all the wrong questions. Former President Obama used to mark Father’s Day by shaming men for not being better Dads. We have psychotherapists spread the destructive illusion that women are a victim class and that men are a perpetrator class. Of course, they treat those men and women accordingly. And we have a system of higher education that is so ideologically corrupt that it is nearly impossible to get honest scholarship on the problems.
All this in a culture that still raises men to put women first in all matters without even pausing to think. In fact, when men attempt to reject that form of programming the people around them can become hateful in a hurry.
That may well have been what was needed on the African Savanna three million years ago, but today we need to start having the difficult, even scary conversation about teaching boys as much or more about taking care of themselves than taking care of women. It is not narcissism but survival skills and perhaps a prescription for less social violence.
Perhaps if Johnny were raised not to “come running” so quickly he would have learned enough to prevent two deaths.
Perhaps President Obama, in his own erroneous way, was right. We do need better Dads. We need Dads to teach their sons, not “how to treat a woman,” but how to hold their own with them. We don’t need to teach them to “take care of their woman,” but to value their own worth enough to have standards that they will hold women to other than their appearance.
And we need to teach them how rare that is in modern life. The social picture I have painted here is also an artifact of the last 50 years of radical feminism’s toxic effect on sexual politics. Men and women do need to talk to each other, but differently than we seem capable of today. We need honesty between the sexes in a dishonest world. And we need compassion for men in a society that hates them.
I know, it’s obligatory. I can’t write a piece like this and not include some resources for men to call in in times of crisis, such as those paltry resources are. So I will include something here. But I would still like to think, that somewhere, at some point in time, we can quit offering Band-aids for men to put on tumors and start helping them with their real problems.
Paul Elam is the author of Men. Women. Relationships. – Surviving the Plague of Modern Masculinity. He also offers fee-for-service life coaching through his website.