March 8, 2010

The Boys Are Back... for Good

Justin Katz

George Will is concerned that real men are a fading gender in our society:

Although [Penn State University History Professor Gary] Cross, an aging academic boomer, was a student leftist, he believes that 1960s radicalism became "a retreat into childish tantrums" symptomatic "of how permissive parents infantilized the boomer generation." And the boomers' children? Consider the television commercials for the restaurant chain called Dave & Buster's, which seems to be, ironically, a Chuck E. Cheese's for adults—a place for young adults, especially men, to drink beer and play electronic games and exemplify youth not as a stage of life but as a perpetual refuge from adulthood.

Personally, I'm hopeful that the back-swing of the cultural pendulum will bring back some of the self-reliance, chivalry, and, well, manliness to modern manhood, without erasing some of the intellectual and emotional gains that represent some necessary softening around the edges. Of course, such an outcome is only possible if people begin to acknoweldge — and talk about — what's been lost.

Which is not to say that it's been thoroughly erased. Some of the old guard are still around, overlapping with the vanguard of a new breed, but I'm talking about a sort of cultural average. There's also a degree to which manliness has persisted as a sort of thematic lore in films and fiction; it's the translation into action, without sinking into senseless violence and abuse, that is wanting.

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I think that the Booomers were the first generation to enjoy "extended adolesence", and had to make up the rules as they went along. Naturally, they made up rules that satsfied themselves.

Look up an old tape of the Mickey Rooney "Andy Hardy goes to College", circa 1939. You may notice that students are referred to as "college men and women". They wear coats and ties. This has long since become "colege boys and girls". I think there is a message in there.

There is also the ridiculous "political correctness" in bringing up boys. They are boys, it is time to cowboy up. Let them fight, let them play "guns" and "war". They are boys, "that is what they do". Maturity will mellow them, but I hope not too much.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at March 8, 2010 4:09 PM

One of the discussion points frequently brought up on the libertarian/anarchist talk show Free Talk Live is that many laws meant to "protect" young adults actually reinforce extended adolescence and bad behaviors. There does seem to be a period (12ish-15ish) when young adults are clearly no longer children and would benefit from having a job with meaningful hours and responsibilities, but are not yet allowed to do so by law. No surprise that many of these young adults are left with nothing to do after school as a result and turn to miscellaneous mischief and self-destructive behaviors as an alternative, which can have long-lasting negative effects into adulthood. Does anyone here really think that 13 year-olds are not physically or mentally ready to operate a cash register?

Posted by: Dan at March 8, 2010 4:30 PM

"Does anyone here really think that 13 year-olds are not physically or mentally ready to operate a cash register?"

or, perhaps, white wash a fence?

I think a lot of chores around the house would teach responsibility.

Seriously, I suppose I can see where a lot of parents would not want their kids being "out in the world" having a job. I like to think I would be proud, but I also remember thinking I was failing my daughter when I went to bed while she was still studying. How much could I have asked of her?

Posted by: Warrington Faust at March 8, 2010 5:38 PM

"Real Men"
Mr George Will, who is a pro-war draft-dodging, chicken-hawk COWARD, just like Carcieri, Cheney,Romney,Bush,Gingrich,
Tancredo,Ashcroft,Clarence Thomas,Scalia
Roberts Alito and Savage

And most,not all, of the Right-WingNuts
None of these cowards are real men

Posted by: Jeff at March 8, 2010 9:55 PM


Politicians and warfare may be oil and water. Particularly the Viet Nam war where no one seemed to have a straight idea of what was going on, while it was going on. Maybe many of the people who served there were disinclined to enter politics. After WWII, Congress was full of veterans.

But what do you say about George Bush, the first? Youngest pilot in the navy and shot down by the Japanese. How about LBJ who got himself a relatively safe plane ride in order to obtain a conbat decoration. Or, John Kerry who brought his own cameras.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at March 8, 2010 11:50 PM

I'm not so sure I was able to operate a cash register at 13 and I was a highly motivated and mature 13.

On the first day I could legally work at 16, I had a job. My parents always instilled in me that you get nothing for free and that hard work leads to success. I think America has been emasculated on many fronts as we all try to sing the political correct chorus in unison.


I'm teaching my kids that sometimes they will win and sometimes they will lose, dodge ball is not "the devil's" game, and everyone gets knocked down but it's if you get back up that counts.

In our entitlement pseudo-reality world some of the aforementioned concepts are as foreign to many as black is to white.

And that makes me ask, what happened to America's soul?

Posted by: don roach at March 9, 2010 8:17 AM

Jeff-I know you harp on this topic a lot.Try to control your broad brush.I don't think Roberts or Alito were old enough for the draft.
How about Bill Clinton,who ordered more military interventions than any previous President?He dodged Vietnam era service.
If you get all hot and bothered smearing right wingers have at it.
What you said,however,about MOST right wingers being draft dodgers is bullshit.
I don't give damn about "pundits"like Savage or limbaugh,who are,relly self-promoters.Seems like a lot of them just like to sell books.
A good military record doesn't guarantee good perfromance as a politician.Randy Cunningham was a legit hero,and unfortunately a crook. Same with Charley Rangel,a highly decorated unethical sleaze.One doesn't cancel out the other.
Bob Dole was certainly no draft dodger.
Both Republicans running for US Congress,John Loughlin and Mark Zaccaria,served as military pilots.
Obviously,Langevin couldn't serve,but NONE of the Democrats announced for the seat vacated by Kennedy have served,okay?
See,we can do this all day long.I don't know what it proves.
I am pretty much a right winger all my life and joined the military at 18 and served in Vietnam.I have no political aspirations.Most of my conservative friends have served in the armed forces.I also know left wingers who served honorably.There is no "one size fits all" here.
I'm not saying it's wrong to point out when someone is beating the war drum for questionable reasons that their military service,or lack thereof, is relevant.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 9, 2010 8:59 AM

Let's be clear about those right wingers and military service - it is the POWERFUL ones who often avoided the fray.

I cannot critique them for that - you'd really have to be a fool or quite ambitious (Kerry) to have volunteered for Vietnam! Skipping out on that duty was probably the smarted move GW Bush, Rummy and Cheney every made in their entire lives!

After all, my friends who went there often ended up dying from cancer (agent orange) or succumbing to depression and suicide, etc.
Real men? You decide!

One of the problems with our society is the definition hereof. Things have changed - IMHO. The taking up of arms for aggression 1/2 way around the world is not, IMHO, a manly act. And, to quote someone who got fired for saying so, sitting in a missile cruiser off the coast and pushing a button does not exactly equal the Charge of the Light Brigade or Gettysburg.

I think it is time we stop defining the perpetration of violence as being a "man".
A REAL Man, IMHO, is one who take responsibility for himself and those around him (when and if he is the strongest in terms of body and mind). But these things go in cycles also. The protector becomes the protected.

I like the idea of a "gentle man" as being what a "real man" is. As an example, those dudes who sat on the Titanic and smoked cigars while letting the women and children use the lifeboats - those are MEN.

Oh, and Joe - I assume you are talking about Gore, who was a journalist in TN and Vietnam.....for a long time. Kerry was an officer in the fight. I think you are getting your right wing talking points mixed up - very typical of those who support swiftboating and other attempts to discredit a MAN who actually went.

As usual, righties change things around to fit their world view. GW is now a hero for flying onto the flight deck in a manly flight suit - while Kerry and even Gore who actually did more than going AWOL and doing drugs were vilified. What else is new in Backwards Right Wing World?

If a rightie does it, it is ultimate heroism. If a centrist or a lefty does it, it is treason or worse. Yeah, I get it....I think.....

Posted by: Stuart at March 9, 2010 9:12 AM

--"And that makes me ask, what happened to America's soul?"

The Left abandoned the overt tactics of Marx-Lenin and shifted to the covert tactics of Antonio Gramsci.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at March 9, 2010 9:51 AM

Stuart-I never mentioned Kerry or gore.Read the comments before you launch into a tirade.
I don't EVER need a lecture from you on Agent Orange,boy.I have been dealing with cancer,diabetes and heart disease,the cancer going back to 1981.All directly related to AO exposure-I handled AO contamminated refuse on a routine basis.
I'm still better off than my friends who didn't make it back,or came back crippled in mind and/or body.I have two arms,two legs,can see and hear(not that well)and was a productive person supporting my family all my life until I retired.You think those who volunteered were fools.Well,maybe you're a freeloader.Can't give anything up for this country,can you?
Stuart-I know what being a man is.Taking responsibility for those close to you,and sometimes for those you don't even know;doing your job honestly;and sometimes having to do things that endanger you.You accuse me of living in a fantasy-you so ignorant,it's difficult to believe you're serious.I think you're just trying to piss people off here.
The left wing blogs like RIF and kmareka censor what they don't like.
I wouldn't like to see that here.
FWIW,Gore served 5 months of a supposed one eyar tour of duty.He wasn't wounded like Kerry.I paid no attention to the Swift boat thing.Kerry's record in congress was enough to turn me off without any extraneous add-ons.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 9, 2010 10:56 AM

I chalk this one up to right-wing elitism, bemoaning the childish and unmanly population (who we can assume need the direction and paternal admonishment from macho conservatives like Will). As for "childish tantrums?" Look no further.

For the record, imho real men don't need to prove their self-worth knocking down imaginary and cliche liberal strawmen.

Posted by: Russ at March 9, 2010 2:17 PM

Russ-why go to another site to make a point?Why not comment on this particular thread?There's enough going on.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 9, 2010 4:12 PM
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