The world is catching on.
The New York Times ran an editorial last week that ponders the health of our nation’s boys. In the days since it hit the press, our inbox has been filled with notes from readers.
“This is what you’ve been saying,” they tell us.
“They’re finally hearing what you’ve been shouting,” they write.
It’s too bad, we say, it took another crazed young man to get the nation’s attention.
While we applaud the overall thesis of the piece penned by Michael Ian Black, we don’t agree with how the B-list actor and author gets to it.
In fact, his ideas perfectly pinpoint so much of what’s wrong with the recent arguments.
Right Problem… Wrong Answer
It’s no surprise that somebody who’s made his career in Hollywood would turn to stereotypes and typecasting to make his argument. After all, the media and its on-screen brethren thrive on evangelizing the notion of a neat little bucket for all of us.
White… black. Boy… girl. Straight… gay. Good… bad.
There’s a spot for everybody – and America buys it.
Sorry to break it to the folks who haven’t bothered to think, but the world doesn’t work that way…
From Black’s editorial titled “The Boys Are Not All Right”…
Men feel isolated, confused and conflicted about their natures. Many feel that the very qualities that used to define them – their strength, aggression and competitiveness – are no longer wanted or needed; many others never felt strong or aggressive or competitive to begin with. We don’t know how to be, and we’re terrified.
Oh my, we beg to differ.
Men don’t feel isolated or conflicted. No way. It’s our society’s perception of manhood – and the sort of stereotypes Black nurtures – that hangs out there all by itself.
It’s this notion that man is changing that’s so conflicted… because it is simply so wrong.
It doesn’t fit, so of course the folks preaching the idea say something is broken.
History Reveals the Truth
But here’s the thing they won’t acknowledge. Men are not and have never been defined by their strength or aggression.
That’s a bogus concept portrayed only on a screen. It’s like thinking the Wild West was really run by guys like John Wayne.
Take a minute to think…
Were the great men of our nation strong? Were Franklin, Adams or Washington known for their aggression? Did Reagan thrive on competition?
They were defined by other great strengths… none of which our modern culture would toss into its botched definition of “manly.”
And so the man who feels lost but wishes to preserve his fully masculine self has only two choices: withdrawal or rage. We’ve seen what withdrawal and rage have the potential to do. School shootings are only the most public of tragedies. Others, on a smaller scale, take place across the country daily; another commonality among shooters is a history of abuse toward women.
Holy hell… call a lifeguard. Somebody’s floating in the deep end.
Black wants us to believe that the only way to keep the “traditional” form of manhood is to shoot up a school or hide from society. If we aren’t willing to wear tight jeans and cry ourselves to sleep each night as we loathe the difficulty of the world… our only option, he says, is to withdraw from society.
It’s utter nonsense.
And it’s exactly the sort of flawed logic that’s distorting this vital conversation.
It’s not men who are broken… but our twisted view of them.
The idea of manhood has nothing to do with how we portray our emotions… who we sleep with… or how we earn a living.
There are just three things that matter. They’re the core of everything we do.
Without a strong grasp on his Liberty… without healthy Connections… and without ample Know-How, a man is in trouble.
And with that, we beg Mr. Black to look in the mirror and see what’s missing.
He may just find the truth.
It’s not the boys who are broken… it’s our stereotypes.
More tomorrow… when we dive into the time we took a gun to school.