I grew up in the southeastern United states, or what is commonly called the ‘Bible Belt,’ where profanity was still not uttered, at least not by those whom my family associated with. If a man swore or yelled at another man, he had insulted his honor and could expect to be immediately engaged in a fight- a physical fight- not a verbal one. Such men were quickly becoming the exception, but I knew many men whos family honor was worth fighting for.
My family heritage was one of military service. My first ancestor to arrive in America was a Scottish captain in the British Navy who sold his commission to settle in Philadelphia in the late 16oos with a young Quaker wife. Every subsequent generation of my family tree has served this country in military service.
I was a quiet boy with a stutter. I kept to myself and spent my evenings after school exploring the woods behind our home until the sun went down. Because I had mastered the art of the wallflower, I never had to fight until one day in second grade when two parts of my nature were pitted against one another; my sense of honor and my desire to be left alone.
One day a boy much larger than myself, that had already been held back an academic year, was bullying kids on the playground. This was none of my affair, until he pushed a girl down. I dont remember what I was thinking between seeing him do that and the moment that I was standing between them, but there I was.
You should not do that to a girl! I protested.
He replied with a haymaker that landed squarely on my face. The next thing I knew I was prostrate on the ground and could not see a thing for the blurriness of my eyes. I wasnt crying. I just couldnt see anything but forms and shadows.
I had a shiner. My mother still regards that 2nd grade class picture of me with a big black eye as one of her favorites. Thanks to my mothers doting, I began to take pride in my bruise. That is, until my father got home from traveling.
A man should know how to handle himself, my father lectured. You should never start a quarrel, son. But you should always be the one to finish it. And this was truly the ideal of manliness that was ingrained in me and the other boys I knew by our fathers. My father was traveling too much to see to my training himself, so he instructed my mother to enroll me in martial arts.
I studied martial arts throughout my childhood and teenage years and discovered that a lack of fear of other men kept me out of more scrapes than trying to go undetected. Those kinds of boys preyed upon the fearful. There were a few bullies around that could have wrung my clock, and bested me in a fight, but they knew theyd have a fight on their hands at least, if they picked on me, and so they usually passed me up for a softer target. In fact, the only other real fight I got into during my teen years was with a boy that was making unwelcome advances on my sister.
As soon as I turned 18, I continued our familys tradition of service and joined the US Marine Reserves. Boot Camp and Infantry School only deepened these traits in me- a strong sense of honor, defending the defenseless, coupled with an even greater level of fearlessness. The LINE training and conditioning of Leatherneck Square also made me less suited for tournament martial arts, because the Marines had taught me to put everything I had into every blow. This is called excessive contact and leads to disqualification in the point tournament circuit, as I discovered in the two tournaments I competed in after coming out of the Marines.
A few years after I was married, my first son was born. I noticed an immediate change in my behavior. I went from being a lead footed speed demon behind the wheel, to a very protective and defensive driver when my infant was in the car. I remember my wife laughing when I exclaimed, Why is everyone driving so fast! I was becoming more protective of my family, of her and my child. I even became more careful for my own wellbeing, knowing that I now had a family counting on me for provision.
A couple months later I lined up a babysitter to give my wife a break and to take her to dinner. The restaurant was soon closing so we each ordered a piece of cake and a cup of coffee. Shortly after the waitress set the our order on the table a man came out of nowhere, shoved a chair into our table and demanded that we leave, with a great many profanities pouring from his mouth.
My first reaction was to ask the waitress if this guy was serious. She shook her head in shame and walked away. I had no idea who he was but planned on filing a complaint with the owner the following day so, as my wife and I rose from our seats, I asked his name. He refused to tell me, swearing all the more and threatening to kick my ass if I had a problem with it. I helped my wife with her coat (I was leaving but was taking my time doing it). I was keeping my cool and never said a cross word or raised my voice. When we reached the door he flung it open said the words, Now get the **** out or Ill throw you out, (and sticking his finger an inch from my wifes flinching face, continued and take this piece of trash with you.
To this day I do not know what had this man in such a state. Onlookers later testified that there was absolutely no provocation for his verbal assault on my part. What I do know is that I let a fist fly the moment I saw my wife flinch at this stranger. He slid down the open door. I stepped over him and we walked to the car. I opened her door and let her in, and then walked around to mine and we drove away. I went home and put on more professional attire for the meeting I knew was coming. Sure enough, the phone rang shortly after we got home and the officer asked me to come downtown.
After checking my story out with witnesses and consulting the DA, the police department decided to drop the charges, adding that I could have filed verbal assault charges, had I not hit the man.
This was a very close call. I have a clean criminal record to this day but was almost- and rightly- convicted of assault. This despite the fact that most of the men that knew of this story thought my actions worthy of praise rather than reprimand. There was just enough of a sense of social justice left in the community to let my warrior act slide.
This close brush with a tainted record brought me to a realization. In just a few generations, our culture has demanded that man evolve. We must change our very nature. It doesnt matter that the programming of our DNA has been reaffirmed for thousands of years; this innate desire to protect and provide, to divest and defend is no longer acceptable in the modern man. In every generation of man until the industrial revolution, it has been so, that the man most able to defend hearth and home, the man most able to protect his family and their wares from those who would take it from them, was the man whos genetic contribution to humanity marched on into the future.
We are now living in an ever demasculinized and neutered society, where men are expected to be satisfied with a vicarious viewing of false portrayals of masculinity in action movies while not manifesting true manliness in their own life. And this change is being thrust upon them faster than their biology can adjust.
It is not acceptable, in any circumstance, ever, for a modern man to resort to manliness to protect his family from physical harm, much less, to settle a score of honor.
My children and I were digging snow tunnels and playing king-of-the-hill recently. My brother also was out playing with his children. He looked at me in a moment of deep reflection and said, You know, our dad never played with us the way we are playing with our children. I defended our father by saying, I dont think very many fathers in their generation did. Even fewer in Grandpas generation. Can you imagine grandpa playing like this with his kids? We both chuckled. But they werent bad fathers, just different. we agreed. Digging even deeper into the topic, my brother, who served in the US Calvary and as a policeman added, Im a CNA and Im going to school to become an RN (registered nurse). I would have laughed 10 years ago if you said I was going to enter into the nursing field.
Many men I know, struggle with the intense departure from the strong provider/protector roles men have carried for thousands of years in place of a more sedentary and domesticated role.
My advice to young men who, perhaps, come from a more traditional paradigm or for whatever reason, be it biology or no, find it hard to acclimate to the socially mandated sedated life would be as follows: find a cause worth fighting for and devote your warrior heart to it. Old men are for counsel, young men are for war as the saying goes. If you believe in your country, fight for it. If you hate civil strife, go into law enforcement. If the policemen in your town are crooked (as is so often thrown out) all the more reason for you to move into the role as a just man. If you are passionate about spiritual or political pursuits, become an ideological warrior, before you are committed to supporting a family. Because our modern society will not pay you well for this innate nature you possess. When you are at the age of counselor, settle and make for yourself a family.
And this too, I would say; if you have the mental faculties to pursue education- and I would venture to guess that any young man that has read this far without being required to do so is of a philosophic nature- dont be an enlisted man but an officer. Dont be a county deputy but run for election as the sheriff. Otherwise you will be frustrated for an inability to enact meaningful change in the world.
This advice may not be heeded by anyone reading this, but it is the advice I will give to my three sons.
In conclusion I will leave my readers with the position of Plato. In the section of his book, The Republic, that deals with the guardians he sets forth that a properly good guardian (warrior or soldier) will have the following characteristics; a philosophic disposition (love of learning), high spirited, and physical speed and strength. He went on to say that he would have the same traits of a good guard-dog; aggressive toward enemies, affectionate to friends, and with the philosophic nature to discern between the two. He concluded his thoughts by adding that such ones should be given honors and promoted to governmental leadership, and have access to marriage to the best quality women for passing these traits on to future generations.
It does not surprise me that this programming of man was so explicitly articulated twenty three hundred years ago. What does surprise me is modern cultures distaste for these qualities in all but our fictional entertainment.
I am sure this post will foster much debate among those who have endured to the end. I invite your opinions and discussion here.