Why men are NOT in trouble (But folks like Bill Bennet are)When I was a kid my older brother showed me how to lay a bullet out on a stone, hit it with a hammer, and make it go BANG. The projectile part just sort of disappeared, and it was all fun. Later that summer we evolved the concept by hopping the fence and going up to the railway tracks. There, we laid out the bullets along the rail and waited for the train to come by. When it did, you could still hear the sound of the bullets exploding over the mass of the train whipping mere feet from us. Back then, this was not a ‘transgression’. It was the sort of thing that adults rolled their eyes at. ‘Boys will be boys’ they’d say, mildly chastising you.
I’ve just read several posts by CNN contributor Bill Bennet on the subject of ‘being a boy’. After explaining the burgeoning changes in gender roles in North America, he goes on to blame what he calls a ‘decline in founding virtues: work, marriage, and religion.’ According to Bennet, the new crop of men just aren’t as good as their predecessors. They don’t go to church on Sunday. Most (if not all of them) would rather play X-Box than discover fun with bullets and trains. They’re soft, selfish, and faithless. I beg to differ. In fact, I see it as a good thing.
Leaving faith behind goes hand-in-hand with the lack of marriage. After all, marriage is a religious institution. Left to their own, men and women figure out a variety of solutions to commitment, childcare, and the need to get the hell away from the other person when they need to.
As to work, it’s not always in an office. Many guys that ‘spend too much time on X-Box’ do so because they know that, with a flip of a switch, they are online and working. Gone are the days when men fantasized about being married and miserable just like their father. This generation idolizes men like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates; university drop-outs who used their own skills to create global products and services from their own home. They may not know the Iliad from the Odyssey, but ask them to write code for it and they’ll be right there.
What I think we’re really seeing in Bill Bennet’s articles is mourning. There was a time when it was assumed that ever young man would go to college, get married, and work until retirement while raising a family. But we’ve moved away from that paradigm, just as we’ve moved beyond smoking being cool, wife abuse being the norm, and the local priest being the final verdict on all things.
This is the first generation in a very, very long time that has the freedom to rewrite the classic dictates of what both manhood and womanhood is. Some will flounder, others succeed, and in the end they will hand down to the next generation the things they’ve learned. Chief among these will be the knowledge that you can’t judge a man by your own mold. Despite the warnings of the scared and religious, most of these guys will turn out to be good partners and fathers. But they’re not going to follow the failed clichés of generations-past to get there.
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