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Some young males are cursed, doomed to an early, violent demise. I’ll leave the “profiles” to the psychologists and sociologists, but the fact is, some of us are simply ill-equipped to survive and predestined to self-destruct. I will say this: the number of human males so doomed is likely predictable, constant, and inevitable.
My parents moved our family to a small blue collar city just outside Boston when I was eight. Within a week, I’d been in a few scrapes, moving my way up the established order. I was a rugged little kid with no quit and dispatched all takers. This put me in a nearly permanent position in the “chair” in Principal Fortunato’s office at North Beverly Elementary, staring at the clock long after everyone else had been dismissed for the day. One day, after my eventual dismissal, I walked out of school to find a bunch of kids waiting for me. I’d reached the end of the line; Timmy wanted to settle things. Timmy was a problem child: smart and athletically gifted, but reckless, unruly, surly, and unrepentant. I was selected as his next victim, somewhat strange as I was more than a year younger than he was; but I had so upset the established order, I had been launched to the top of the list to be vanquished.
At the time, I knew nothing of this kid. I sized him up as nothing special, no bigger and likely lighter than me. I could tell he had a reputation given the crowd he’d attracted. He launched after me like a wild animal and I took him to the ground. He refused to give in, so I choked him out.
After serial high school expulsions for a long list of offenses, Timmy quit school and took up crime full time. He died in jail before he could legally buy liquor. He was cursed.
My dearest friend’s older brother, Chuckie — two years my senior — introduced himself to me by killing a frog I’d captured. He shot the poor creature with an arrow then laughed as it suffered and died, but not before he threw the skewered amphibian high in the air to splat on the hot asphalt. Like Timmy, Chuckie was also removed from public high school and offered either reform school or a private high school. His parents sacrificed and selected an expensive, stern, rod-brandishing Catholic all-boys’ high school, but even the Jesuit Brothers could not tame Chuckie. They kicked him out, and soon he faced a choice of jail or Vietnam. He chose the Marines, was dishonorably discharged, and soon after his return home; he died of an overdose and exposure after he was dropped off in a snowbank in front of a hospital emergency room in the early morning winter darkness. Chuckie was also cursed.
Billy was from a tough part of town. He was a big kid for his age, a factor exascerbated by the fact that he was slow of wit and kept behind a year in school. Billy was also a bully and sadist who took pleasure in hurting others. Some kids were drawn to him — probably to reduce the risk of being another victim — and at least pretended to enjoy Billy’s depredations, giving him an audience and attention. Billy never bothered me and I was never one of his sycophants. I’d earned exemption for being too difficult to torture; I would put up too much of a fight. As Billy grew older, he grew bigger still and his antics became much more random and violent. He would beat people for no reason, brag about it, and admit to being a racist.
Billy quit high school to work as a thug and collector for a local crime boss; rumor had it that he’d moved up in the organization. He was murdered before he reached the age of thirty. He was also one of the cursed.
Here is the truth about some boys: they are predestined to live short and violent lives. It’s likely that poor Michael Brown and Treyvon Martin both suffered more from this curse than from anything else. Folks like to blame these violent ends on racism, police brutality or unfortunate circumstances. It’s not that at all. The curse is indiscriminate, and knows neither skin color nor paternity. It robs a certain number of unlucky young men of an adequate sense of right and wrong, proportion, caution, and any sense of self-preservation. This leads to anti-social, violent, self-destructive behavior — almost always — to an early violent end.
Some boys can never be tamed or civilized.Published in