RECOVERY

The Reckless Glorification of the Good Ole Boy Mentality

It’s a killer concept.

Photo by Austin Pacheco on Unsplash

I’m not known for the popularity of my views. I’m also not one to keep quiet when I have something significant to say. The difference is, I’m writing this strictly for myself.

I understand that my words may not be well received by a certain group of people, particularly a subculture of society who identifies strongly with the rural southern USA. So be it. I’m working all these thoughts onto paper because somebody has to say it. It might as well be me.

I’m not against the Good Ole Boys, generally speaking. I love them. It’s simple to navigate. They’re part of my own culture–where I’m from. I also identify with this way of life. It’s all I’ve ever known.

There’s an abundance of good things about men who grow up in the South, particularly in the area where I live. Here are a couple of quick ones:

  • They’re raised to be strong providers. At least, that’s the tradition. A strong work ethic, rough, working-man hands, backs that don’t break with the weight of their families’ needs. Baby boys are born strong; Daddy and Grandpa smiling down upon them, ready to impart the wisdom of generations.

Like I said, that’s the tradition. In many cases generational strengths have been replaced by the new generational curse of addiction. A boy who would have once turned his hand to the plow may find himself battling to keep his life from becoming meaningless in the trail of destruction left by methamphetamines or alcohol dependence.

  • Many of them can live off the land. This area is known for hunting and fishing and raising crops.

If an apocalypse happens, you’d want to be with one of these guys. You might live through it. Not every kill is taken legally, not every rule is followed, but the survival skills prevail.

Here’s what I’m not doing in this article:

I’m not writing to address the “Good Ole Boy Network” as it does or doesn’t exist today. That’s not my goal or intention. 

There’s no question that racism and misogyny exist in the South.

There are plenty of people who are more qualified to speak on those subjects and who are doing so eloquently. I’m glad of it. Things need to be said. Things need to change.

What I do want to talk about hurts me on a deeply personal level.

As a mother and grandmother, I have the responsibility to speak up. To call it like I see it, whether it begs to be heard or not. I’m doing this for me, to get it off my chest. Maybe I can move on once it’s said. Maybe I never will.

That’s because I’m a mother who has buried a teenager in the South. In my mind, this gives me the authority to shout from a rooftop if I feel like it. You don’t have to agree with me. That’s what you get to deal with. It’s not my problem.

I’m not insensitive to your feelings.

I just don’t care. Unless you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, this is not about you.  

If you hold fiercely to your way of life as the be-all and end-all of a perfect existence, the truths I point out may cause you to want to stone me. I don’t blame you. It’s going to be hard to look at. Look anyway.

You may see something that makes you think a little harder about it yourself. Ideally, if you have the opportunity, maybe you’ll choose to do better than what’s been done in the past.

Perhaps a life might be saved.

If so, this would serve to be my greatest work ever, even if I never get the first clap or “good job” on it. I’m stepping up to say it, no matter what the outcome may be, because the truth is ugly.

Around here, teenage boys drop like flies.

And by that, I mean they die. Disproportionately.

Check out the statistics for yourself. There are plenty of ways to do that. The internet is amazing. I did some research based on my personal knowledge, which was enough to convince me. Then I checked some sources and found out how right I am.

At first, my major question was whether this was really a culture thing or not.

Kids die all over, for lots of different reasons. Data suggests that I’m onto something.

There’s no question that young men in urban areas die at an alarming rate from gun violence. It’s an awful reality, and we need answers on how to stop it. However, death from firearms is not limited to violence inflicted from one individual onto another.

Photo by Nagy Szabi on Unsplash

Sadly, the suicide rates for young men, adolescents and young adults, has increased dramatically in the last ten years. Check out this report and this article. What it boils down to is that boys are far more likely to take themselves out by suicide than girls (although girls are trying to catch up), and that when they use firearms (which is most of the time), they are most likely getting them from their parents. 

According to worldlifeexpectancy.com, Louisiana ranked 2nd in teen deaths for 2017, surpassed only by Alaska. They die by guns and car crashes the most, no matter what area they’re in.

There’s also no question at all that substance abuse plays a huge part in these results. Opiates, alcohol, and meth.

Add a kid, a car, and a gun and you have a recipe for disaster.  You have a tragedy that some mother will never recover from.

I have the experience to call out the truth and the guts to dare anyone to contradict me. My child’s decomposing body is all the proof that I will ever need. You can say that I am misplacing the blame for his death on whatever external factor I can find that might explain the tragedy away. I know that there is NOTHING that can explain it away. He died because a good ole boy didn’t want to acknowledge that his illegal drugs were accessible to a teenaged boy with emotional problems.

He died because “boys are gonna be boys.”

If you took the town I live in and mapped off 100 miles in any direction, you’d see a pattern. There’s a way of life here that is as deadly as it is beautiful.

It’s a way of life that encourages young men to live recklessly; to risk their lives in pursuit of one-upmanship.

What I find most astonishing is the apparent denial of this phenomenon! Surely I can’t be the only person who notices?

Teenagers. Young men with their entire lives ahead of them are trading everything for the chance to beat a train, make a faster curve, smoke another pipe, kill the biggest buck, drink one more beer…you get what I’m saying here. It’s not always because of drugs. Sometimes drugs aren’t even involved. They’re just “being kids.”

They live to show off. Impress the crowd.

And they die for it too.

This is what I find most disturbing about this: their parents encourage them.

Don’t you?

Who buys the fast cars, big trucks, and the guns? This is what we reward kids with around here. This is how the adults show off. Impress the crowd.

There’s nothing wrong with the competitive nature of boys.

It’s when they’re encouraged to live with reckless abandon and without consequences that you manufacture the disaster that’s inevitably going to show up for some poor mother. Death is going to eventually come calling. Is it going to be your son this time? Your grandson?

I’m not saying you don’t love your kids. I know you do. This way of life was handed down from your own parents. These things we give our children to kill themselves with are STATUS SYMBOLS. They’re also how we survive.

How is it that life and death are delivered in the same package?

We hunt for food, so we buy guns. We teach our kids gun safety, but somewhere along the way the recklessness with which our own lives are lived trickles down to our children. A good hunting story around the campfire with a 12 pack of beer is a regular weekend event, and it’s GLORIFIED here in the South! Sometimes a pipe is even passed around.

Bottles of pills get bought and sold like any other commodity. Pain management is big business. Our kids see all this. It’s how they grow up.

We love the way we live.

Sometimes we fail to recognize the danger.

Suicides, accidents, and homicide are not events that we would regularly associate with children, and yet they are reality.

As parents, you tend to want to look the other way when your boys get in trouble. Remember? Boys are gonna be boys. I’ve heard it too many times. I’ve also heard this one, “I’d much rather he drinks at home where I know he’s safe than out running the roads with his buddies.” So, the idea is to just allow the unhealthy behavior, because after all, you do it too. Right?

That’s how we live! No one has the right to take our way of life away! We’ll die to protect our rights.

Sacrifices to the cause. Is that what our children have become?

Here are some tragedies I’ve had to witness in my neck of the woods. Keep in mind that I’m not saying these happened because their parents weren’t responsible or didn’t love them. I’m calling out our way of life, because it needs to be called out. I’m calling out our mentality. I’m saying we need to wake up, because our children never will.

  • I lost my son to a morphine overdose in 2006 when he was 16 years old.
  • In 2001, teenage cousins were killed when the oldest one lost control of the vehicle he was driving.
  • I know of more than one train accident in recent years that has taken the lives of kids within 30 miles from my house.
  • Another young man hung himself, in 2005 I believe.
  • One boy was driving way too fast late one night and somehow ended up missing a road, which ended in his death.
  • A boy from the school my kids attended was being bullied and took his own life with what I believe was a handgun a couple of years ago.
  • A 15-year-old young man lost his life a couple of months ago to a gun in the neighboring town. I believe that was an accident.
  • Someone I worked with had to try to help her son put his life back together after he accidentally shot his best friend.

These are just a few of the ones I know about and just the young men. I didn’t bring up the tons of them who died in their early twenties. If we lived in a large city, this wouldn’t be as unusual. This is small town America. A lot of boys are born here; not as many grow up.  

What is our responsibility?

We need to stop the madness. I know accidents happen. Bad things happen to good people. It’s not about blame.

I’m not advocating for gun control. I’m not suggesting that we end a way of life. 

It’s about RESPONSIBILITY. It’s about our little boys. Surely, we can at least entertain the idea that maybe something needs to change.

This hasn’t been as cohesive a piece as I would like. It’s one thing to know something, another to be able to prove it.  

But if you’ll just think about it–if it changes one thing–if it causes you to think twice about the glorification of things that kill our children…that’s enough for me.

A couple more sources for you to check out:

https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/death-by-gun-top-20-states-with-highest-rates/20/

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/states/louisiana/louisiana.htm

Do your own research and do something about it.

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