Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (AP)

Since September 11, 2001, the most heinous crimes on American soil have not been carried out by politically motivated foreign operatives. They have been carried out by young men: Adam Lanza in Newtown; James Eagan Holmes in Aurora; and Jared Loughner in Tucson to name a few of a depressingly long list.

Sure, the two young men who allegedly committed the Boston Marathon bombings were born overseas — but they lived here for a decade. And the younger of the two, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was a U.S. citizen.

In her book “The End of Men,” author Hanna Rosin explores how far men have fallen behind women — in college graduation rates, as well as in employment and advancement in the high growth service sectors of the economy.

Two million American men are in prison and half a million are suffering from post-traumatic stress and brain injury from service to our country. Male illiteracy and dropout rates are rising. Economic inequality between a privileged few and the great mass of working poor continues to broaden.

Of course there are many young men who are faring well in our country. Statistics do not tell the whole story, but they point to trends that tell a broader truth: many are struggling, and some are turning to violence as a last ditch, desperate solution.

Rational gun control would certainly be helpful. But frankly, it doesn’t address a kid who is determined to go into an elementary school and blow away 5- and 6-year-olds. Nor brothers who turn pressure cookers into homemade IEDs. If there is any conclusion I can draw from the chaos in Boston, it’s that the problem goes deeper, that there is an increasing alienation of an entire gender.

As founder of the Good Men Project, I’ve spent the last four years visiting boys’ schools and talking to young men. What I hear is frustration and isolation. Boys are pounded by macho images about modern manhood, but have no one to talk to about what it all means.

We need to be paying closer attention to our boys.

My plea is for a more open discussion about our outdated expectations of boys. We have to recognize that men of the next generation are facing huge challenges that we can’t will away by closing our eyes. We need to change the way men are portrayed in popular culture. We have to listen to what our boys are saying about their lives and be courageous enough to talk to them about the most uncomfortable topics. We have to make sure that far fewer of them are left behind.

The wars we have fought overseas have obscured the one we should be fighting at home, against the cauldron of anger and dissatisfaction among many of our young men that has tragically become a breeding ground for domestic terror.

Hopefully it won’t take another Boston, Newtown, Aurora or Tucson to see that our boys are in trouble.

Tags: Boston, Boston Marathon Bombings, Gender, Guns, Newtown, Security

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

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  • MShribman

    But they were foreign and politically motivated. And they weren’t young. At least the older brother

  • MShribman

    Are you forgetting the Times square bomber, the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, and Major Nidal Hassan…all foreign and/or jihad motivated.

    • MShribman

      This group is not not “our young men”

  • Neurojo

    Haven’t the majority of heinous crimes throughout history been carried out by young men? I think that the Good Men project is great thing but I think it’s a bit of stretch to link these bombings and other crimes carried out by young men to societal change and the increased equality of women.

  • Garage Noir

    How can you say rational gun control does not address a kid who is determined to go into an elementary school and blow away 5- and 6-year-olds?

    • Joey Lummox

      Well think about Newtown for instance. All the weapons used were bought legally and with background checks in place and everything. Then they were STOLEN. That’s how. Chicago has very strict gun laws and their gun crime is also some of the worst in the country. Handguns were banned in London, England and gun violence has nearly tippled since. So yeah. That’s how.

      • Garage Noir

        Lummox please.

      • Ryan Arnold

        Re: Newtown, you’re making an excellent case for gun control. You’re right, legally purchased guns end up in the hands of criminals and murderers all the time, because the citizenry cannot handle the responsibility of owning weapons. Banning sales on high capacity magazines and assault weapons would take them out of circulation. Fewer get stolen. Fewer victims.
        Re: Chicago, don’t compare gun crime rates in a major city to gun crime rates of an entire country. All that shows is that urban populations are where most gun violence occurs. That has nothing to do with Chicago’s gun control decisions. Also, there is no such thing as “strict gun control laws” anywhere in the US.
        Re: England…. do you really want to bring up the UK? Where gun-related deaths are an astonishingly low 0.25 per 100,000 people every year? I don’t know where you got your statistic, but even it’s true, tripling such a low rate is not an impressive fluctuation, and it could be attributed to almost anything. Or nothing.

        • Futo Buddy

          thats silly we banned drugs a while ago and they are still in circulation. not to mention the 300,000 million of so already out there. where are those going to go? perhaps compare it to NYC then where concealed carry is legal (sort of) and the murder rate using guns is roughly 1/4 of that in chicago where its not. so tell me more about how you think the war on guns would be more successful and not lead to all the crime and death that has been caused by the war on drugs.

      • BostonDad

        Slow down, mass proliferation of guns including non-hunting assault weapons and high capacity magazines certainly results in them trickling down to criminals who can buy them cheaply on the black market. Chicago is a few miles from where they can be readily bought and then brought into town. UK gun murders are 30 times less than US. The highest European rate is Switzerland with uniquely high levels of guns.

        • Futo Buddy

          so how bout all murders? are gun murders somehow different from other forms of murder? with all the proliferation of so called assault rifles why is it that all rifles “assault” or not are less than 3% of murders with guns?

          Illinois requires a permit which takes months to get to purchase any guns so thats clearly nonsense about being able to readily buy them.
          do you really think if domestic sources of black market guns were somehow dried up( which seems unlikely since they dont really enforce those laws in chicago now) that they would not simply be imported from elsewhere? in most 3rd world countries you can buy an AK47 for $50 you dont think that those would be imported here? would we be better off if the streets were awash with fully automatic AK47s? i am sure they eat 30 times as much bangers and mash as us, do you think we are the same as the british?

          • BostonDad

            Being British in origin, I agree with your penultimate point on bangers & mash !
            I think we can also agree on all murders being bad, even if some take more work than others to commit.
            Based on some of your other posts, I think we agree about 50% of the time !

          • Futo Buddy

            i think we all want the same things but have different ideas on how to go about it. some people choose to ignore history and the present and think the solution is banning something or making more hoops that only law abiding people have to jump through while ignoring the actual causes of violence. one need look no further than the massive and continuing failure of the war on drugs to see that thats not going to work. the last time we ended prohibition in this country the murder rate went down 99% in one year. to me that seems like a logical place to start but our public policy is seldom logical unless you look at who its designed to benefit. the bangers and mash was the only point you wanted to address?

          • BostonDad

            Looks like much more than 50% agreement !

            “public policy is seldom logical unless you look at who its designed to benefit.” I’m with you there too, Bro. !

          • Futo Buddy

            so then lets advocate for getting rid of the failed prohibition policies and not try to think up new ways to hassle law abiding gun owners.

    • Futo Buddy

      because the “rational” proposals being discussed would have not stopped him. at least the author admitted that much. tell me how expanding background checks would have stopped that crime?

  • Jeanne

    Oh I do agree we need to be paying attention to our boys. This is not a new topic to most of the women I speak with. It’s an essential topic for ongoing conversation.

  • Eva Arnott

    Some of them seem to have carried to a disastrous extreme the problems that other people have without doing quite as much harm to innocent bystanders.. The surviving Boston bomber was flunking out of college in his sophomore year after spending a great deal of time partying and smoking pot. Kids who do that will often blame everyone except themselves and be angry with the world as well as envious of others, like the wholesome healthy people involved with the marathon.

  • Stay at home Dad

    You have to be kidding.

  • Essexcnty1

    Repeatedly it has been stated in this publication these “..two young men allegedlly..” committed this heinous crime. So it’s clear, this has not been “alleged” by authorities, it has been admitted and confessed with an attempt to justify by both of the individuals. And although I suppose in this case it can be debated whether or not 19 is considered a boy or a man, a 26 year old who has fathered a child and has married is certainly a man.

  • docww

    Today’s “boy’s” are living in a relative world of luxury. The standard of living of many welfare families today exceeds the typical middle class family of only a generation ago.

    The reasons why a few individuals choose to turn to violence are complex and not easy to pin down. Reeling in expectations might be a good place to start. Life is not always easy. You sometimes have to work hard with little expectation of returns. Basic moral values also come into play.

    Because men have “fallen behind women” they should start blowing things up? Women lived below men for eons and very few of them turned to violence to vent their frustration.

    The blame for this act lands squarely on the shoulders of the young men who committed them. Looking elsewhere for answers will always lead you in endless circles of frustration.

    • david

      equal yes . men behind please . thats not ok and women would never really want that. we have to inovate and become and lead as we always have and are expected to. we are not the same. better or worse women could never. There are still only a very few women who have done anything.

  • Stephen Rost

    Slaves have sown games and wars to divide any nation through the voted curses of the Devil.
    These acts set them apart from the honorable sons and daughters of spiritual man and woman.
    Leaving their own without a course to spiritual death or lives of sacred freedom as can only be given from the Lord.

    The reality of the time of the reaping judgementation of their own master is now.

  • Stephen Rost

    That’s their reality.

  • Imran Nasrullah

    I had a mentor who once explained that if you look back through history, especially US history, much of the “dirty work” was and is done by young men. Our westward expansion in the 18th and 19th centuries were done by young men. So called Indian Killers like Davey Crockett, or Lewis and Clark were actually young men in their late teens and twenties. Our military has always taken in soldiers in their late teens.

    The point of this observation is that through history youthful aggression was channelled for national and nationalistic purposes. In the modern era, other than the military, there are not a lot of purposes to channel this aggression. And so young men get behind causes – most of which are ill-advised – as means to let out aggression. To me this makes a lot of sense. When you view who signs up for terrorist or resistence struggles, it tends to be you males. It makes me wonder if this is the latest unfortunate example.

  • arusticat

    I have every concern for my/our sons that the author points out – but it seems dishonest to use the few and extreme incidents cited to bring attention to the problems of our young males.

    One of the most challenging talks I ever had with my sons – was when they were 9 and 5 and I tried to explain to them that a toy gun was a real gun if a policeman (or someone else) believed it was – that they could lose their lives over a toy gun. And now they are 22 and 18 and I am essentially having the same conversations about using seat belts and drinking-while-driving and whether it is ever cool to walk from a confrontation (it is) rather than stay there and defend their honor.

    And we go back and forth about whether the benefits of joining the military are overshadowed by the potential for coming home from a far away land with PTSD – or not coming home at all. Gangs are not a real problem in our neighborhood – but they could be and that would be another topic for us to go back and forth on. I watch for signs of recreational drug use – but none of this talk is inspired by Holmes, Lanza, Laughtner or Tsarnaev.

  • david

    regardless of outcome at least they did what the believed in. I thought this post was about the effeminate evolution of man. the weakness and inability to act which is all around