Monday, January 08, 2007

Walk Like A Man

I've been spending some time at the Mil Blogs and you should, too. There are so many reasons: 1) The news you're watching is lop-sided, it's a caricature of what is happening 2) You'll see images that you just can't through mainstream sources 3) You'll come away from what you're reading simultaneously sobered and encouraged 4) You'll love the first-person nature of the reporting where you meet more characters and you get to feel the situation 5) You'll feel personally connected to the War. Exhibit "A", this snicker-inducing tidbit from Michael Yon:

Next morning, gaggle of five Iraqi journalists arrived for a press conference. One worked for the BBC and when I asked if he were Sunni or Shia (assuming), his hesitation was so pregnant that the room nearly burst, then he answered “Sunni” with an embarrassed and fleeting micro-grin, mindful perhaps that many Shia call the BBC “Sunni TV.” I wondered what they call CNN?
Warning, abrupt subject change: You all know I've been blogging consistently about the Duke Non-Rape case (read about the Art of the Apology taught by a man, reported by his daughter, blog hooligan). My husband asked me recently, why I seemed so obsessed about the case. He was worried that I seemed too concerned, perhaps, pathologically concerned. Injustice, in all its forms distresses me, for one. I see dire implications for anyone seeking justice wound into this case. And this case exemplifies society's anti-male bias.

My husband protests (sounding quite feminist) that women have been on the receiving end of this bias and injustice for ages. I agree. Women and minorities have been on the receiving end of unequal rights and discrimination. It has been unfair and can still be unfair. My husband, for example, didn't have to worry that his female boss would attempt to caress his breasts. She did make him work in a windowless closet ala Office Space, but that's another story.

The solution to subjugation and discrimination and breast molesting is not to subjugate and discriminate and molest. That is what I see about the Duke Rape case. The only reason it moves forward is symbolic: to mitigate past injustice by white men against minorities and women. This is gender, class, race envy at it's most fundamental. Ultimately it keeps the minorities looking minor. It also hurts the very minorities it claims to redress.

What does that have to do with Mil Blogs, you ask. Well, looking at the images, reading the quotes from soldiers, it occurred to me that the only legitimate place American society permits men can be manly is in the military. Words like honor, bravery, strength, courage are not scorned there, they are elevated. Physical prowess is encouraged. Community, collegiality, a potentially life-saving requirement.

Michael Yon reports from Iraq at the right hand of possibly the most important soldier there. No other reporter is doing this. His current post is called "Walking the Line". It's the type of post that makes you sit up straighter in your chair. It's the type of post that illustrates how very soft and very fortunate I am, blogging as I am in the comfort of my home on a globally warmed mid-January afternoon in Texas. Michael Yon:

This is now my third trip with CSM Mellinger, and he has gained a kind of iconic status among young soldiers, because he pops up in every remote and dangerous corner, from mailrooms to maintenance bays, hospitals to police stations, to combat missions and memorials.

With nearly 35 years of continuous military service, Mellinger is the senior most active duty draftee; yet he cruises Iraq like an infantryman. More than 3,000 of our people have been killed in combat here, but if it weren’t for this type of leadership, found in commands throughout Iraq, that number might be 10,000.

Grandparents should know that a grandparent is watching out for the young men and women who are fighting in Iraq. CSM Mellinger has spent three consecutive Christmases in Iraq and is going on his third straight year walking the line. One young sergeant, a team member on CSM Mellinger’s crew, told me the CSM’s team has been hit 26 times so far, and when I asked the CSM, he shrugged and said, “Sounds about right.” Five of his Humvees have been destroyed by IEDs, two that he was riding in at the time. Astonishingly, nobody in his crew has even been seriously wounded. He goes into combat, but you’d have to see how he rolls to understand why nobody has been killed so far. Experience multiplied by luck.

The military is a man's world, thank God. Women operate in and navigate through it. And this is as it should be. A man's natural inclination to serve and protect and defend, and yes fight, if necessary perfectly fits with the military's needs and purposes.

Going another direction, here. This weekend, my dear husband rented one episode of the notorious JackAss movies. Good grief, what utter stupidity. This is from a woman's perspective. But JackAss humor, a derivative of slap-stick immortalized by comedians like the Three Stooges and Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther starts young in boys.

My older son finds it deliciously delightful to jump on the trampoline and bounce his baby brother around like a ping-pong ball. He falls down laughing and then lets said baby brother walk over, jump on, and even yank, scratch, pull and bite him. It's all rather barbaric. My husband watches, amused--he bounced his younger brother and allowed his brother to seek revenge to even the score. A teen at church with two younger brothers smiled nostalgically when I asked him if he did that to his brothers and without hesitation and a tad too much enthusiasm said, "Sure!" He paused, thoughtfully, "I can't do that now, though. They're too big. It's not as much fun."

As long as no one gets hurt, I allow this rough-housing. That is not to say I'm not perplexed by this aggressive behavior. It's like watching an Animal Planet show about baby carnivores--bears, lions, tigers, wolves. They all roll around and bite and scratch. Fun, fun, fun! The JackAss movie would fit right in here. Blasted from a rocket? Check. Sit your bare butt on a block of ice? Check. The humor is disgusting and often violent. (And has a not-so-subtle homo-erotic thing going on, if I might say so.)

Men work to be civilized. My 9 month old son laughed at farts--his own and anyone else's. No one modeled this behavior for him. He now pretends to burp every time he drinks water. He's not yet two. My daughter at age eight weeks sobbed inconsolably the first time she heard my husband burp loudly (at the dinner table, I might add). She has since been brainwashed by the boys. While clothes shopping yesterday, she said loudly, while we were in the changing room,"Mom, I SMELL A FART" loud enough so that all the other changers could hear her,"Did you FART?" Ha! Ha! Very funny.

Women spend eighteen years trying to civilize their boys. And rightfully so. Look around, it is hard to argue that children these days are over-civilized. Ironically, men doing traditionally uncivilized things like killing other men protects civilization. They impose civilization in the most uncivil of ways to protect the freedoms we cherish. They have rules. They swallow their emotions. They soldier on.

While society elevates talking and emoting, the military promotes bonds through an active kind of love at which men excel. True men don't pretend at manliness. A pretense of strength elevated in the Hip Hop culture displays an insecure, pathologically hyper-masculinzed man. (The View displays insecure, hyper-feminized women. That's not pretty, either.) True men care for their families. They provide and protect them. True men can be counted on by their friends.

True men walk the line. Our society needs more good men. The military goes a long way to shaping good, strong, men. (I find that sports provides a great tutorial for shaping men, too. Bobby Knight coached at West Point and one of his players went on to a stellar military career. He said [and this is a rough quote], "I learned more about teamwork and relying on your brother from Coach Knight than from my military classes. He probably saved more lives with his discipline and tenacity than all the theory we got.") Read the Mil Blogs. They will hearten and inform you.

In the Mil Blogs, you'll find stories about plenty of men who walk like a man.

1 comment:

Ed said...

CSM Mellinger is a soldier's soldier. He made me a better soldier just by his actions. I can still see him humping around Ft. Gordon with a 50lb sand bag on his back. Delta Co. changed from a BT company to an AIT compay. Thanks CSM, I went on to airborne, ranger and sf. Wish I had a shot at Afghan. God bless you and all that you have done for our country.
SFC Ed Schroeder (Mad Dog D-1-1-2)