So here’s why you and I should get stuff done.
The Germanwings plane disaster hit me hard because of one fact: 18 of the dead were from one high school, sixteen kids and two chaperones. I still don’t know for sure what they were doing in Spain, but it didn’t make the slightest difference to me: they were kids, teachers were with them, and that interaction has meant the world to me for much of my life, and life to me in most of my world. I’m an education guy. I’m a school freak. So I got writing. The emotional vein was rich, and I had it going. 613 words in, I knew where the piece was headed and how it would end. Powerful comparisons had been summoned, and hearty stories from my direct and tangential experience just needed a little more flesh. I was tired. Maybe a bit distracted. Probably could’ve finished, but close enough. The writing beast had been slain for another day. Well, badly wounded, anyway, so I knew it couldn’t run much farther.
Life intervened, though, and I couldn’t get back to the piece the next day, and didn’t the day after that. Not only was nobody waiting for the piece to be done – standardly lame working conditions for an aimless blogger – but my take, full of emotion though it was/is, wasn’t exactly a hot one. It was elegiac and backward-looking and somber. No rush, right?
And then the air disaster story changed for me, dramatically, with the reports of the co-pilot having done the deed purposely, by and for himself. Now it was a more steamy and blistering thing for me, not just sorrow for the lost but that special anger that I reserve for Chickenshit Men who are willing to take down, it would appear, any number of nearby innocents, be they “loved ones” or strangers on a plane. I once heard – and was non-fatally wounded by – the description of the “self-loathing narcissist”, an “asshole that the whole world revolves around”. I write hot and angry when men are pyrotechnically weak, flamboyantly prey to their own festering sores: like the cowardly scum who kills his estranged wife and kids ‘cause he can’t control ‘em and then offs himself ‘cause he can’t face it (2006), or the scar(r)ed little bastard prince of Santa Barbara (2014), or the murderous whiner of Virginia Tech (2007), or any of the spineless, hateful pricks who blame women for their failures (1989, 2006, fill in the dates of your haunted memories here).
So CoPilotBoy – as has become my custom in these rants, I do not name him, not wishing to confer even my microscopic dollop of “fame” – went out in a blaze of toxic despair or resentment or something that may for him have carried rumours of psychotic glory. Glory. This is new ground for me. Listen: I can get funked-up; I’ve known my share of melancholy. But I’ve never felt suicidal, and that likely explains my difficulty in getting past the feeling that suicide is selfish. You know, gosh, how could s/he do that to parents/spouse/kids/whoever gets to find the remains? It’s the old problem of the killer – how to dispose of the body? – but it seems that for the suicide the ONLY thing that matters is to eliminate the pain. I’ve never gone that deep, but I get it, at some level.
I don’t get this.
What has to be combined with suicidal despair and hopelessness to scatter human lives across a mountainside? Megalomania? Sociopathy? I’ll show everybody who ignored me!? Generalized hatred of everybody-but-me? Blinding hate for oneself? What causes, forces, or allows a man to think that the apparent imperative to take himself off would in no way be compromised by the collateral damage of one hundred and fifty other lives? (Or maybe that made his suicide somehow more bearable, or more worthy?)
Human beings are in trouble, friends, have no doubt of it. And men? Oh, my God, the men. These stories enrage me, but they also make me fear and rant and insist: don’t forget about the boys. Not long after one of the angry blogs I’ve linked to above, I wrote a personal re-dedication and a plea, called “Boys Will Be Men“. It was 2006, but it still reads pretty well, and the crisis is even deeper now. I wrote about the equality of women and men, about how, at least in North America and Europe, women and girls are advancing (not that they don’t have challenges and legitimate beefs and intolerable fears). Men and boys, though we’re still patriarchal at the top end of wealth and power, have been flailing and failing for a long time now. I finished that piece this way:
A man yearns to be useful. He needs a thing to work at. And yes, there are lots of toys – mechanical, electronic, chemical, female – to spend our hard-earned money and hormones on, not to mention being a slow-moving target for televised sport, World Wrestling Entertainment, record producers, porn kings, and the Hollywood hype machine. But we all know. All this “cannot fatten nor appease their thirst”….Women trip and fall on this lurching, drunken planet, but they are building strength and vision and wisdom. They’re coming. They’re here, in every high school. I want to believe there will be enough good men brave enough to walk beside these bold and lovely ladies. It’s a big issue, but I suggest we start small. Take a man to lunch. Help a man across any metaphorical street you can. Let’s continue our work for the advancement of women, but don’t forget the boys!
I wish I could forget CoPilotBoy, but I’ll be thinking about him for awhile. Better to focus on 16 high schoolers and their guides, and all the others who are prey to such sickness, whether they’ve been sacrificed on a mountain or mourning their loved ones who fell out of the sky.