Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Whither Men?

My wife is apolitical. That’s good, I suppose, because it’s not a source of conflict. She’s simply not interested in politics, and I’m passionately interested. We seldom discuss it but when we do, she can offer insights I cannot see. Once in a while, I’ll call her into the room when someone is speaking on television. I’ll ask her to watch him or her for a few minutes and then tell me what she thinks. I’m not so interested in her thoughts on what the person is saying as much as what she thinks of the man or woman as a person. That’s one of the things my wife is good at: getting clues about what people are like. Never having seen the person before, she’ll suggest personality traits he or she possesses which later turn out to be right on the money. I’ve learned to trust my wife’s instincts about these things. She’s seldom wrong.

Today’s politics is tomorrow’s history. I watch what’s happening now and study what’s occurred throughout the ages. I want to understand it all. I never will, of course, but I won’t give up trying.

I’m the one who picks the movies we rent from Netflix and they include many documentaries and historical fiction because I’m a history teacher. War movies and westerns don’t interest her, but sometimes she’ll watch a film made from an historical novel if it shows good character development. During battle scenes, she’ll often comment about how brutal men are, saying things like, “They’re the ones who start wars. Women don’t do that.”

She’s right, of course, but it bothers me to hear it. Sometimes I take it personally as a representative of manhood, especially if I identify with the character who is fighting in whatever film we’re watching. I think, what choice does he have? The guy finds himself living in a certain time and place, and circumstances pull him into conflict. He’s faced with choices ranging from bad to worse and does what he thinks is right, or whatever is the least wrong. Most often, a man uses violence after another man or group of men crowd him in some way or threaten his family, or his community, or his way of life, or his principles, and he’s forced to do brutal things. Even if he was a gentle, sensitive person beforehand, the circumstances he must work through change him.

Those are my rationalizations at least. Men are brutal, or at least capable of brutality if it becomes necessary. Maybe it’s testosterone. Maybe it’s that Y chromosome. Maybe there’s something wrong with us. Maybe. It has to be considered. If we believe we evolved into the kind of men we are, should we be trying to evolve into some other form of male human who isn’t as prone to violence? Or would that go against our nature and precipitate even more problems? I see western culture attempting to shift away from a martial approach to aggression and toward a conciliatory one and it makes me uneasy. My instinct tells me, strongly, that this is not the way to be. We don’t need any more metrosexuals. We need more warriors. We need a citizenry which recognizes that our country needs warriors and values them.

For example, I’m seeing more “War is not the answer” bumper stickers. I’d like to ask drivers of cars adorned thus: “What is the question?” For some questions, war is most definitely the answer. If the question is: What should we do about several million Radical Muslims who want to make the world Muslim and force us all to live under Sharia law? My answer is: Are you kidding? What if they’re dying to kill us the way they did on September 11th? My reaction is: Kick Radical Muslim ass. Don’t stop kicking until they surrender unconditionally. Root them out from wherever they’re hiding and kill them. After London, Madrid, Bali, Mumbai, Gaza, why is anyone still asking the question?

Over Christmas break, I spent time with several young American warriors. They’re former students, sons of friends, and relatives. They know who our enemy is, they know what has to be done, and they’re willing to risk their lives to do it - all for our sake. It troubles me that we’re becoming a country that doesn’t appreciate them enough. A majority of Americans like this just elected a new president who is about to take over as commander-in-chief. He’s a great talker, but talk is cheap. Does he have what it takes to lead these marvelous young men and thousands of others like them? I’m not confident that he does.

Vice president-elect Joe Biden told us Barack Obama will be tested by our enemies in the first six months. I have little doubt about that. Then he said: “[W]e're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right.”

Based on what I’ve heard those two guys say on the campaign trail, I believe him. It hasn’t ever been apparent to me that they’re right, and I don’t really expect that to change, but I’ll wait and see.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your support of the United States military, Tom. When you see a military man in a store or wherever you are, thank him personally for his sacrifice.

Harvey in North Baldwin
US Navy Retired

Anonymous said...

Niiiice! Great column. "Kick Radical Muslim ass." Amen to that! I know, that doesn't make me sound like much of a 'citizen of the world.' I rather like to think that I'm more of an informed citizen of the USA.

I agree with you, I don't think they've ever been right. The thought that the majority put these men into office is depressing. And if you look at the media (which I try not to) it seems America is more focused on and interested in seeing Obama shirtless on the beach, rather than how he's going to lead our country.


Anonymous said...

Is fear mongering part of war propaganda? Who and why we fight is all a matter of perspective. Over simplication to extremely complex issues such as Muslim Extremism and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict can not be summed up in a Manichaean view. Would your opinion change provided information that is not espoused by any of the major news networks such as Fox, Cnn, Msnbc or any of the other major news networks that are now owned by only six different corporations. Each of these corporations have an agenda and are beholden to their sponsors. Look into Rupert Murdoch's media monopoly. I am becoming a news junkie and no longer form an opinion based on any one news source. Instead I read books, news articles via, internet and newspapers, and I listen to the radio. I'm a progressive who keeps an open mind and chooses empathy and compassion over fear, hatred and division. I look for commonality, unity and justice. With that in mind are you aware of the growing Independent Jewish Voices opposing the treatment of Palestinians? There are so many that are never mentioned here in the U.S. press due to the suppression by AIPAC and other prominent Israeli/ Zionist Orginizations. Here are some strong intellgent Jewish scholars, journalist and activists who oppose the treatment of Palestinians in several areas, the illegal settlements, the lose of rights, electricity and now food: Amira Hass (world renowned), journalist for Haaretz, Norman Finkelstein, scholar and former professor of Middle East Policies at Princeton University, Johnathan Benartz, nephew of Bejamin Netanyahu, conscientious objector, Avi Shaliam, Oxford University professor and author of the Iron Wall, Noam Chomsky, MIT professor, etc......and so many Jewish Human Rights Organization. Why are there so many Jewish dissenting voices? A great book by John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt, called The Israeli Lobby, helps to clarify why so there is such Israeli biased in our government and news. If you can find time please read at least this book and let me know what you think.
Rose Mahanor

Tom McLaughlin said...

You left out Howard Zinn.

There are so many dissenting Jewish voices because Israel is a democracy and its press is free. There are proportionally as many loony leftists there as there are here, and they can say and write whatever they want without fear. That's why you're able to read them. Muslims, however, don't tolerate dissent. Ask Salman Rushdie or Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Even though they live(d) in the UK and the Netherlands, they cannot criticize Radical Muslims unless they want to spend the rest of their lives under armed guard 24/7.

I suggest you include a few other sources in your reading, like and just for starters.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the quick response...The point of my response to your recent articles was not to imply that there are no problems within the Muslim religon nor any other major religon, my point was to express that generalities and stereotyping leads to oversimplification of arguments. When I looked into Salman Rushdie's writing his criticism of Muslims is based on first hand knowledge and a clear understanding of what he thinks is needed within the Muslim religon, Rushdie states, " What is needed is a move beyond tradition nothing less than a reform movement to bring the core concepts of Islam into a modern age,... Broad-mindness is related to tolerance: open mindness is the sibling of peace."
We will always need reform politically, religiously, personally, etc... it is part of evolution. Do you think war will resolve Muslim 'extremism'? Extremism exists in all religons so is your answer to remove religon? Rushdie suggests tolerance. Rose
P.S. Would you at least look at the book by John Mearshiemer and Steven Walt, 'The Israeli Lobby'.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't believe it's possible to oversimplify this. The question is: are we to continue to bludgeon each other to death any time we are strong enough and feel like it? Or are we to find a vehicle wereby we can resolve the differences without it?

If we, as men, feel violence is necessary to our survival then God help us!