Where Have the Real Men Gone?

I had occasion recently to be on a college campus. Approaching my appointed destination, I was greeted by a crowd of demonstrators, who happened to be protesting against the event I was attending (that event is a story for another day). The demonstrators were leftists advancing a rainbow agenda of hyper-political correctness on a campus where various “GLBT” organizations and “gay pride” groups abound, and where one feminist women’s group recently advertised classes on “Finding the Goddess Within.”

As I walked through the crowd, I noticed that the most aggressive protesters were the women. They were the ones actively accosting people, not the men. Of the males present, only one looked at all masculine. The rest appeared biologically, chemically, mentally, and emotionally ambiguous: alternately skinny and rotund androgynes with nihilistic, non-committal looks on their faces, afraid to make eye contact, some sporting esoteric, Technicolor hairstyles. Led by a team of fearless profs and local community leaders (children of the 60’s), they were in force to denounce “hate,” i.e., the perennial Christian values of the West.

Later in the week, a gentleman, who was present with a few of his numerous children, gave me his impressions of this spectacle. His observations are of particular import because of a confrontation he had (if you can call it that) with this same group of students and faculty.

On our way out, I said to the demonstrators assembled there with their signs intended to intimidate and embarrass [name withheld], “Thank you for your demonstration of love and tolerance.”

My sarcasm was not lost on the group, because one of them said to me, “Thank you for teaching your kids to hate.”

I stopped and turned to the crowd of men from whence this utterance came and said, “What did you say?” I got no answer, so I asked again, “Who said that?”

This time I got an answer from a voice somewhere in the crowd. “It wasn’t me,” the voice said.

Now, I’m just a little old man; 148 lbs, 5’4” tall and 60 years old. Every man in that crowd was way bigger than I, so I don’t know why the oaf did not own up to his remark.

I turned to my children and asked, “Do I teach you to hate?”

My children answered together with a loud, “NO!!”

At this point, the policeman came over to me and said, “They’re not worth your time, sir.”

I said, “I think you’re right,” and began to walk away.

Not surprising, is it? Feminists and homosexual activists have done a great deal to undermine masculinity. As women abort, not only their babies, but also their very femininity — witness the alarming growth of leather-clad, “macho” heroines in violent movies — men are aborting the virtues, pastimes, rituals, and intellectual culture traditionally associated with the male. The result is the moral geldings described above. This assault on maleness has long been part of the dominant anti-culture of our national landscape, and while it’s nothing new, it is something we should fight with all the fiber of our Catholic beings.

How are the social engineers waging war on real men? By subtilely and not-so-subtilely advancing their agenda in education, entertainment, the news media, and every other possible informational outlet. Since we began with a story about a college, let’s stick to education.

Hollywood and the news media aren’t the only factories manufacturing this cultural poison. Schools are another front in the war against masculinity. Illinoisloop.org posts a list of 22 practices in grade schools that harm boys in myriad ways. Where the subject matter of genuine manhood is concerned, the site scrutinizes curricula and makes several observations. “Assigned literature,” it reports, “is skewed lopsidedly towards social issues, and away from novels of high adventure, courage, patriotism, etc.” And boys also face an “almost total absence of fact-based biography and non-fiction in literature and reading classes.”

In short, don’t give a boy The Killer Angels, a novel about the battle of Gettysburg, or a biography of Gen. George S. Patton. Let him read a story about a girl who makes the football team and the boy who shows real courage by admitting he takes ballet lessons.

In schools, masculinity is out. Commentators such as Diane Ravitch argue that reading material has been feminized. In her article “Education and the Culture Wars,” published in Daedalus, Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Ravitch described reviewing test material as one of the board members of a federal agency. She learned that reading selections on one standardized test were not only racially biased against whites but also sexually biased against boys. “In one story, a white boy in a difficult situation weeps and says plaintively, ‘If only my big sister were here, I would know what to do.’”

These paragraphs are from “Cowards, Bullies, and Killers,” an excellent article by Mr. R. Cort Kirkwood. Therein, we learn about the regnant male archetypes of post-modernity: androgynous ninnies like Michael Jackson or David Bowie on the one hand, and vicious barbarians such as Dennis Rodman or violent, porn-peddling U.S. military personnel on the other. (No slight intended to the armed forces, whose honorable members I salute — I work with admirable combat veteran Marines and Navy men — but their lesser fellows have produced gruesome spectacles of violent pornography which reviled the world and disgraced our Republic.) Sometimes the two sub-masculine extremes morph into a superpervert like Marilyn Manson, a macabre figure of dark, effete violence.

Kirkwood shows the chilling effect that these “role models” have had on men.

As a prescription for normalcy, he suggests exposing boys to stories of the real men of yore: national heroes, soldiers, statesman, and even athletic figures who embodied courage, valor, honor, loyalty, and self-control. Boys, if they are to become real men, should know what is expected of a man, and should be encouraged in manly virtue. To this end, Mr. Kirkwood has written a book which I recently had the pleasure to read: Real Men: Ten Courageous Americans to Know and Admire. In that book, we read about such men as Francis Marion, “the Swamp Fox,” known for his wily tactics against the British army; Vince Lombardi, the daily communicant who became the most beloved, feared, and respected coach of all time by instilling incredible loyalty and discipline in his players; Rocky Versace a Catholic Army Ranger whose hopes to return to Vietnam as a priest-missionary were dashed when he was he was executed in a North Vietnamese prison as he sang “God Bless America” at the top of his lungs; and Robert E. Lee, “a foe without hate, a friend without treachery, a soldier without cruelty, a victor without oppression, and a victim without murmuring.”

Not all of Mr. Kirkwood’s men are Catholics. That’s OK. We need to realize — and our boys do — that natural virtue can exist in one not possessed of supernatural virtue, and that “grace builds on nature.” (This is perhaps a subject for a future Ad Rem.) While many of the heroes of this book have their obvious down sides (which the author points out), they still embody those moral virtues we associate with a man. Let us not forget that in Latin, the word for man is vir, the root word of our English “virtue.” A real man, to the Latin mind, is one who embodies virtue.

To round out and “baptize” a Catholic boy’s masculine intellectual formation, reading the lives of great saints (such as those offered by the wonderful old Vision Books series) is a must. In my own case, I happened to be reading Godfrey Kurth’s noble volume on Saint Boniface at the same time I was reading Real Men. It was an engaging and exciting mental exercise to observe the same virtues Kirkwood’s subjects exemplify elevated to a higher plane in the Apostle of Germany. According to Saint Thomas, the ultimate act of fortitude — the “masculine virtue” par excellence — is martyrdom, and that’s how this indefatigable septuagenarian Saxon monk-bishop crowned his glorious career in sanctity.

When enough Catholic men aspire to live the virtues he embodied, and inspire their sons and students to do the same, we can restore society to normalcy, changing (or at least reducing to a tiny minority) the sad excuses for manhood I saw at that protest. It may take a horrible chastisement for such a complete conversion to happen. Even then, those men who embody the Christian virtues will show — like a Louis IX of France, a Blessed Karl von Hapsburg, or a Rocky Versace — how a Christian who is a real man suffers under adversity.