Editorial claims ‘decline in masculinity’ is responsible for the police response to the Texas school shooting

Left: Cynthia M. Allen is a Star-Telegram editorial writer/columnist. Right: Police officers speak near a makeshift memorial for the shooting victims outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 27, 2022. (Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Cynthia M. Allen

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

I spent part of last week re-watching “Band of Brothers,” the HBO miniseries based on the accounts of members of Easy Company, soldiers from the 101st Airborne who parachuted into France on D-Day and spent the duration of the war fighting some of the most harrowing battles faced by Allied troops.

I watched in part to commemorate Memorial Day weekend, but also because after reading about the apparent law enforcement failures in Uvalde — police handcuffing desperate parents outside the school instead of confronting the mad man who was massacring their children inside — I was needing a reminder of what courage, selflessness and competency looked like.

Maybe it’s just the storytelling, but those things sure seemed plentiful in 1944.

We still don’t know a lot about the police response to the shooting at Robb Elementary; the federal and state investigations into the matter should help us sort that out.

So, casting aspersions on the law enforcement officials who showed up but didn’t appear to act with any urgency feels satisfying, but it’s also somewhat premature.

And it would be natural, yet also somewhat misguided, to draw broad conclusions or implicate any aspect of society beyond the obvious (we have too many guns!) based on the circumstances of a single event.

Still, it’s difficult to hear, as explanation for the officers’ retreat from the shooter, that they were just trying to avoid being shot or killed, and not feel like those sentiments are a reflection of the current state of masculinity in America.

It’s hard not to feel that our decades of eschewing gender roles and their associated characteristics in pursuit of equality have had some undesirable effects.

When the natural inclination to protect and defend, for example, has been repeatedly disparaged as dangerous and “toxic,” it becomes less difficult to imagine why a group of highly-trained armed men would still favor crowd control over pursuit of an active shooter.

The incentives just aren’t there.

But even if you don’t accept the premise that the decline in masculinity has something to do with the tepid police response, its failure is plainly apparent, and more culturally devastating, as it relates to the shooter.

We know that the common thread that links so many mass shooters is the crisis of fatherlessness.

We observe time and again how “a deep void of identity and relationship” that these young men tragically seek to fill through nihilistic violence is so often the result of a broken home, and particularly one in which no father is present.

Study after study confirms how boys need their fathers to help them develop empathy, to learn self-control and discipline. In essence, boys need their fathers in order to understand what it means to be a man.

We have observed also how a father’s understanding of masculinity is developed and often fully realized through parenting his children; that fatherhood reorients him towards family and community. And being a father is a strong expression of masculinity.

Yet every time a horrific event occurs, we gloss over the problem of fatherlessness — of boys not knowing what it truly means to be a man — as something only tertiary.

In an interview with the Daily Beast, the Uvalde shooter’s father, Salvador Ramos, described a strained and distant relationship with his son.

He didn’t live with his son and hadn’t seen him in over a month.

“My mom tells me he probably would have shot me too, because he would always say I didn’t love him,” he told The Daily Beast.

Ramos, who is also estranged from his daughter, described his son with a detachment that is all too common in today’s culture. Indeed, at least 25 percent of children are growing up in single-parent households.

It’s inaccurate to say that fatherlessness is the cause of our mass shooter problems, but it’s irresponsible to say it’s unrelated.

And it’s not a certainty that our current ethos of “toxic masculinity” contributed to the poor police response in Uvalde. But it’s hard to imagine how it didn’t.

Editor’s note: A version of this column originally appeared in our conservative opinion newsletter, Right Turns. It’s delivered every Saturday with a fresh take on the news and a roundup of our best center-right opinion content. Sign up here.

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