There is much debate and quarreling today concerning the attributes of a “real man”. It is an important question. The future of our culture depends on the answer. I think the plain term "man" is sufficient for this discussion and will use it throughout this essay. Before offering an answer, a more fundamental issue demands attention. How did America arrive at the point where this question needs even be posed?
1942 was truly the watershed year in modern American History. Recovering from the December 1941 sucker punch leveled on Pearl Harbor, America mobilized for war. It would never be the same. Conventional liberal wisdom gives FDR’s New Deal credit for ending the Great Depression. Conventional conservative wisdom holds it was the wartime military-industrial buildup. In fact, General Hideki Tojo cured the pernicious economic illness with his audacious attack. Unemployment dropped from 14.6% in 1940 to 1.3% in 1945 as millions of young men left the unemployment lines and entered the armed forces.
With most men in uniform America’s women left the kitchen en masse. Trading pastry gun for riveting gun they made the tools their men used to defeat The Axis. Husbands and boyfriends gone to war women learned and proved there was very little masculine work they could not do. Wearing respect and confidence earned in the crucible of wartime deprivation the weaker sex entered the post war era a force of nature non-existent on Thanksgiving Day 1941. Their daughters would remake American culture.
The men of “America’s Greatest Generation” began to de-mobilize and re-enter civilian life in 1946. They too were a new race of men. Entering the conflagration as mere teenagers and fuzzy faced young men [the average age of an army colonel in 1944 was 26 years] these “boys” returned home battle hardened grown men having experienced all the horrors Hell has to offer. Reclaiming wives and girlfriends this warrior generation was determined to fill up on that fine wine they fought and bled for. As they drank deeply, they created a grand, booming prosperity.
Days of happiness, peace and plenty were virtually unknown to the fathers and mothers of the baby boom. Born mostly in the mid to late 1920’s these men and women endured a childhood in depression scarcity and came of age just in time to go to war. Despite the affluence of wartime full employment, rationing of essentials like sugar, meat, leather and gasoline kept the home front in want another four years. Having endured poverty and travail and survived the Reaper’s great harvest, fresh faced civilian couples of 1946 to 1955 embarked on a relentless campaign to define and achieve the American Dream. The prize was now theirs for the taking and they seized it without remorse. These children of the valley of the shadow of death wanted material wealth and the warm sunshine of peace for themselves and a better future for their issue – in that order. They loved their children but having themselves grown up fast and hard in the worst of times they concentrated on giving them security and opportunity rather than overweening attention. They must have succeeded in this for the youth of the 1960’s enjoyed enough security to take it for granted and enough opportunity to throw it away.
The Civil Rights struggle of the late 1950’s and 1960’s destroyed the idea of American innocence. Televised, it brought us face-to-face with the injustice and hatefulness in our midst. A foundational myth shattered a crisis of faith ensued that saw American sons turn on their fathers, the first military defeat in US history, assassination and the resignation of a sitting President. Every standard of society went up for grabs. If the qualified working women of 1941 to 1945 stepped down willingly from the workforce as their men demobilized, their girl children grew up to demand mother’s legacy.The Feminist movement was conceived in the wartime arsenals of democracy. It was born on the college campuses of 1968.
Feminism attacks the very structure of society. Using unceasingly the agitprop of gender equality and the deadening effects of time the movement has effectively remade contemporary culture in its own image. As Delilah of old used barber shears to take Samson’s strength while he slept so modern Delilah has talked her paramour drowsy in order to take the gelding shears to him. The very question before the house today is ample testimony to the totality of the feminist victory.
Having arrived at last to the question of the hour, to answer it requires we return now from whence we have come. The characteristics of a man can be found in the heritage and DNA of the United States soldiers, sailors, marines and pilots of WWII and the men that from necessity remained stateside and sustained them. A man offers his life in defense of his women and children. He returns from fighting, picks up where he left off and builds a colossus such as the world has never seen. A man does not do his best to make a better life for his family – he does what is required. He brings his paycheck home, and is faithful to his bride; he loves his children and disciplines them according to godly principles. A man strives to model the character of Christ for his charges and leads them in the ways of The Lord. He accepts the burdens and duty of his divine commission to oversee the home. A man knows the value of freedom and doesn’t stifle his youngsters with endless pre-packaged activities. He recognizes life is cold and mean, that his sons and daughters need a hard-eyed father. The junior mother, playmate and buddy are not for him. A man stands fearlessly on his hind legs in service of justice and honor. He is ruthless in opposition to inequity and evil. Though generously fitted with the qualities noted above a man remains but a man and cannot escape his fallen nature. He sins, repents and sins again. A man is aware of his shortcomings and his excesses. He grieves over them and the damage they cause. He is intimate with failure and bears it with grace.
Three quarters of a million American graves scattered over the face of the earth testify to the masculinity of those men buried in them. It is impossible for a man not participating in the dreadfulness of war to possess the perfect fullness of manhood. Only a magnificent few born after 1945 have suffered these experiences. Nonetheless, lack of combat is no bar to genuine manhood. If you are my age, you probably grew up under the protection, provision and authority of a man. If you are under 40, you are likely to find a man in the person of your grandfather. Perhaps your father is a man. If so, pay close attention to him and remember him well for his kind is unwelcome in the Metrosexual Century and has been marked for extinction. A man today is inconvenient. He expects respect from his wife and honor from his children grown or at home. A man is too authoritarian, too independent, too frank and too unyielding for today’s estrogen softened milieu. He talks like a man and understands like a man. He will stand up when called and will not back down when threatened. A man today is one born out of time. We will likely not see his equal on American soil again.