Friday, January 10, 2014

A Reminder: It's Good To Be Tough

Have you seen this video about the damage we are doing to our young men in America by sending the wrong message -- by telling them to "be a man"? The anger this video raises in me comes from so many places, I don't know where to start. You can watch it here, but be careful in work and around the kids, because there is profanity.

First, I am angry to think that there are fathers who still operate on such a cave-dwelling level that they try to teach their sons to disregard their own emotions. Maybe I am an idiot. I thought that was a thing of the past.

Maybe I am also angry for being an idiot and not knowing that this is not a thing of the past.

I am also angry because videos like this feel so much like an attempt to capitalize on or to gain fame for their creators by exacerbating a problem. If I, in fact, am not an idiot and this type of fathering is a thing of the past, these people are making a small portion of fathers look like the majority (media's lens in the sun). (Herein lies the problem in "raising awareness." Sometimes, it raises actuality.) But I can't be sure.

If a video like this is needed, it makes me angry that it is so. If fathers can't see that is it wrong to turn out a generation of hammers, what hope is there? It makes me feel pessimistic. I see no hope in a future in which we think we can solve all problems by "raising awareness," analyzing data and "starting conversations." People only get better one-by-one. That only happens by seeking truth, not evidence. Evidence wins arguments; truth fixes hearts.

Can it really be that fathers really need to learn not to squash their sons' emotions? If this is really a necessary video, then I am more irrelevant than I thought. We're doomed.

What also makes me angry is the bad name all of the "experts" are giving "toughness." Toughness is a virtue, not a sickness. Or course, it all lies in how we define toughness. If we see it as the ability to pummel as many people as we can in a lifetime, we're animals. Of course, one should never tell his son to "stop being a _____ and man-up" if he is crying. But what about saying, "You need to pull yourself together now and get through this"?

It's good to be tough. I'm sick and tired of the pendulum-swing nature of groupthink therapy; of blanket psychology. Toughness, of course, isn't so you can tread on others; it's so you can, for example, make it through an illness; or, so you can get through hard financial times without frightening your children or withholding your affection from them because you are incapable of maintaining control of your emotions. Toughness, for man, is having strength to stand at the wheel of the ship during the storm and to have your family look up and breathe a sigh of relief when they see Dad steering into the wind.

Despite all of the chirping of all of the philosophers over all of the centuries, we still can't seem to find balance, can we? (Well, maybe we can if we make You Tube videos with repetative piano arpeggios and blurry images of kids on swings... )

What's being a man? It's petting bunnies one minute and smashing an intruder of your home to a bloody pulp the next. It's having a tea party with your seven year old daughter and waiting to cry about your misery until night, after you have laughed all day with your kids -- because their joy is more important than your pain.

So, yeah. Man up. The first step is stopping the pendulum crap.

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