It’s vitally important to celebrate the sacrifices of the brave men who served our country, which celebration will entail having nothing to do with any of them. It’s vitally important to have a cargo-cult holiday once a month or so, and those nettlesome vets ought to be glad they haven’t been entirely eclipsed by Thanksgiving.
And thank goodness Columbus Day is there to soak up all the excess autumnal outrage, or else someone might notice that military veterans – especially the ones who died in battle – are overwhelmingly male. We can celebrate the upside of war – begrudgingly, with department store sales and family get-togethers – but we cannot openly rejoice in the fruits of masculine virtue.
That would be just, of course, but justice toward men is… Old-fashioned? Uncultured? How about sinful…?
For it is a sin in our culture to notice and praise the virtues of ordinary men. We have plenty of attention for the extreme outliers, for the best and the worst at everything. But for the just-plain-regular stand-up guy who gets up every day and goes off to do a shitty job for minor ducats, often risking life and limb in the process, we can’t even spare a yawn.
And yet that man is the backbone of Western Civilization, the get-it-done guy who actually gets things done. He produces five-times his own living costs in income, passing all of that along to his wife and kids and grandkids – assuming he is not robbed of his family. He takes all of the risks imposed upon us by perilous reality, incurring all of the resultant injuries. He defends us in wartime, and for this he is scorned and neglected in peacetime. And unless he is lucky enough to keep that family, he dies alone, with no one around to praise – or even recall – the goodness he brought to the Earth.
And through all that he is expected to smile with a grim determination and soldier on. This is a man’s fate, to be stoical even at the worst, but this is a man’s duty, too. Leadership is getting people to go where they would rather didn’t, and it’s a man’s job to say, “Suck it in, suck it up and move it on down the road.” Even to himself, when necessary.
Fish don’t notice the water they swim in, and people can be so immersed in culture as to be culture-blind: We never think to question the obviously ubiquitously unquestionable. Why would we?
There was a time, not that long ago, when the virtues of men – producing wealth, securing peace, cultivating new adults – were very highly prized, and, accordingly, men were very highly prized.
By now, the role of the father has been usurped by Big Mother – underwritten, do take note, by the surplus income of Dismissed Daddy. Big Mother’s fosterized children turn out to be progressively worse, generation-by-generation, as parents: They mature on time, but they take forever to grow up. But as a culture we are very careful to refuse to take notice of these facts and their portents, so insistent are we that we can have the proceeds of masculine virtue without paying for it – or even acknowledging that it exists.
And so young men are invisible to us – as nerds, geeks, creeps – until they turn out to be vitally important expendables in our unwinnable cargo-cult wars. When they return – if they return – we scorn them as untouchables, blaming them for what we’ve done to them. If they are gracious enough to fade into the background as reliable, hard-working stand-up guys – that is to say, as schmoos – we are more than happy to forget all about them – even as we blame them for everything we insist is wrong with the world. And if enough turns out to be too much? We sneer at them as weaklings, insufficiently stoical to bear up to our cruelty, indifference and contempt.
This is the culture that is downstream from politics, the sentiments we insist we must uphold – and the contrary notions we never dare to entertain. Where we knew once that a committed father is all that stands between civility and the void, now we pretend that a place like West Baltimore – where fathers do not defend their families – is either anomalous or unavoidable. We gaze in amazement at the ruin wrought by our underfathered children, steadfastly refusing to turn to the only people who can fix things: Fathers.
Like a fish needs a bicycle? We could not have been more wrong – about everything.
We will pay for that error.