Hey my brother, how’s that man cave thing workin’ out for ya? Gettin’ a tad claustrophobic in there?
Let’s open a window.
Maybe put that hammer down first. Let’s open it the normal way and get us some well-needed face time, OK?
Like the world over, I was shocked, saddened, and then angered by the news from Las Vegas last week.
A lone gunman, on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, armed with 23 guns, 12 of which were fitted with bump stocks (that allow semi-automatic weapons to precisely mimic automatics), opened fire on an outdoor country music concert, killing 58 people, including himself, and injuring 500 more. Police later discovered over 50 pounds of exploding targets and 1,600 rounds of ammo in the gunman’s car. It was to date the worst mass shooting in American history.
Maybe it’s easy to become numb to this seemingly neverending horror in American society. It deadens the senses, adds to cynicism at Congress’ inability to break the NRA’s grip on it, piling on more divisiveness into an already sharply divided electorate.
But what I couldn’t get out of my mind was the reaction of the gunman’s brother at hearing the news.
Eric Paddock told CNN his brother Stephen was “an army of one” and, aside from having a girlfriend, he “hung out by himself.” Paddock related that their late father was on the FBI’s “Top 10” most wanted list, but they’d had no association with him. Stephen Paddock lived solely as a gambler, with no political or religious affiliations or criminal record, amassed millions of dollars, traveled freely, and “could do anything he wanted.”
Paddock said he “knew” his brother for 57 years.
Well, I’m now 57 years old. And I, too, have a brother I have “known” that long.
I’ve never owned a gun.
My brother Brian, however, keeps our late father’s handgun and hunting rifle, and probably has another rifle he bought for himself. Brian raised three sons who often go hunting with him in the fall.
Frankly I’ve never thought twice about Brian’s gun ownership. I’m not sure this incident has changed my mind about that.
But it has made me think: Why should two brothers be such secrets to each other? What are the lessons, rules, and traits — the sins — we’ve acquired from our father?
And am I my brother’s keeper?
I do know this: As children we were encouraged by Dad to not be weak, to not cry or feel extremes of emotion (which, oddly enough, included joy), and to “buck up and be a man.”
The women in the family, my mother, aunt, and grandmothers, all stood by in silent complicity when Dad ruled the roost. I’m sure I felt betrayed and abandoned by them.
You can only imagine.
My brother went on to play sports in school: first basketball, then football, later track and field. When he raised his own family, he grew closer to our father. Meanwhile, Dad and I became more distant. I was determined to assert the few lessons of humility, cooperation, sensitivity, and kindness I learned from our mother. It’s still challenging to stick by those values, especially in this hyper-competitive, male-centric world.
So what’s an emotionally intelligent male supposed to do, to fight the madness and shitcan the despair, inertia, and cynicism?
Well, I think I have some ideas.
Break the Silence
It’s way overdue to finally deep-six the “strong, silent male” stereotype. Women should stop revering it, and men gotta spot-check their need for it.
It’s tough for me as I’m an introvert (and have always been cautious in a crowd), so I’m naturally reticent to speak about anything until I’ve thought it through.
The question I now ask is: “Can I encourage other men to speak out?”
The answer is: I must.
Feel All the Feels
This will be challenging. I’ve often wondered about the energy it must take for men to hold their emotions in check. Sure, Pop got angry — he’d storm and yell and let it all out — but he was also wise enough to apologize later, or try to make amends.
Later in life, Dad and I got the chance to grieve together after Mom died. We held each other and sobbed. I’ll never forget that. The man had a big heart. It was just hard for him to let it show.
Be Present in the World
The Las Vegas killer “could do anything he wanted.” He was a free agent, living in the Free World.
While America exalts freedom (and privacy) above all, the gaping hole in Paddock’s life had to be a lack of community. Hey, look, it’s okay to decide not create your own family, to not father children, and to privately enjoy the benefits that freedom affords you.
But it’s not okay to check out from the world you live in.
That we all live in.
What if everyone contributed more to volunteering? And I don’t mean just dialing in your dollars. It doesn’t take much time or effort to personally make a difference in others’ lives.
This is something I plan to do more of after this tragedy, to find ways to give back and grow within my community, in person. And that means a diverse community — not just my fellow aging white bros. Only through reaching out have I learned things I would’ve never discovered otherwise.
So, am I my brother’s keeper?
Yes. Yes, I am.
I was raised to believe that is one of humanity’s deepest articles of faith.
Will it be easy? No, probably not. But I want to help all my brothers get out of hiding and into the open — where we can make things better for everyone.
Are you with me?