Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Interesting because I've been studying Byzantine history, and didn't know Kerry had such ancestors. Beyond that, I'm not interested in turning my blog into a Kerry-bashing haven. I'm going to vote for Bush, I don't think he's the best thing since sliced bread, I wish Bush were the person I'd like to vote for, and I don't much like Kerry. But I'm not going to spend my energy knocking the man. And that's as political as I'm going to get this election (I hope).
Some thoughts on Feminism
The movement seems to have begun in reaction to the prevalent bad attitude of the 19th century towards women, one which at best ignored them and which at worst held them a lower class of human. Either way, they were not held or treated as equals with men. The feminist movement seems to have attempted to right this wrong by seeking the right for women to DO What Men Do, and assumed that this will make men and women equal and everything will be fine.
This creates a problem for men, because society just happens to define manhood as What Men Do. So we grow up thinking that we'll go to college, get a job, probably get married, and therefore we'll achieve manhood. Then we see women pursuing and indeed doing exactly the same things, and we get confused. The manhood we've been seeking all our lives turns out to be identical with womanhood. Which is, to say the least, confusing. It's not that we resent women for doing well in college, for getting better jobs than we do, or for doing anything else that we do--it's just that it leaves us with nothing by which we can win our spurs, as it were.
I suppose the question that I have to answer is why men need to win their spurs anyway, or, more succinctly, I need to explain why manhood and womanhood should NOT be identical. I'm not certain what I can say save that such an identification runs contrary to everything I have observed in myself and in those around me, both men and women. We ARE different (and not only biologically), created for different tasks and roles. Equal tasks, and equal roles...but still different.
Let me get at the issue from another perspective. Only a weak man will want a woman weaker than he is himself. Only a man who feels himself insufficient and helpless wants a woman who is less than he is. A real man will not be content unless his wife is his equal in spirit, in intellect, and in strength (emotional and perhaps even physical). A weaker woman only serves to stroke the ego of a weak man.
A man desires a companion, a partner, a (dare I say the word?) helpmate. Not an advisor, not a second-in-command, not an aide-de-campe, but an equal. The ideal is that they act as a unit.
Here is my hypothesis. I contend that within the constraints of that unit, the man is--forgive me, I find it nearly impossible to find a fitting word to describe his proper role. Every word I wish to use is insufficient, and worse, has been so misunderstood as to render it useless to communicate what must be said.
Let me put it this way. If the unit errs, the man is to blame. Always. If it does well, if it succeeds, if it accomplishes something, then both man and woman are to be praised equally, but if it fails, the blame is the man's. Without exception, without excuse. The man is responsible.
That is not to say that women cannot make mistakes. Nor to say that they are by nature incapable of leadership, or responsibility, or any preeminence. It is fiercely evident that such is not so. Nevertheless, within the constraints of a relationship between a man and a woman, the man must accept the responsibility both for himself and for her. Not power over her, or possession of her, or even leadership, not as we (unfortunately) understand the word today. The man must bear the burden of the relationship and all that flows from it.
I'm not even saying that this decreases the woman's responsibility for these things. Simply that the man must (must as in: it is decreed in the nature of things), when he marries, take on more responsibility than is naturally his own when he is alone. He must devote himself to the protection of his wife, without in the least thinking less of her or thinking her incapable of protecting herself. To put it in practical terms. A good man's ideal wife will give her life for their children, and will protect them as well as he will, but he must himself stand between her and any danger. Not because he thinks her helpless, but because his life is hers. He must always give his life for her and yet always respect her as his equal (or even his better).
This, to my mind, is the essence of true manhood. Let it be underlined, italicized, put in bold and shouted from the housetops. When men fail in this, marriages fail, families fail, churches fail and society fails. And, strange but true, when men fail in this, women feel betrayed.
So this is the tale I would tell of the feminist movement. In the 19th century--no, this is a tale of all of history, not just the 19th century--too many men, individually and collectively, were complacent and selfish and failed to simply be men. They felt insufficient and inferior in their failure, and compensated for it by demanding that women be less, so that they might feel themselves to be greater by comparison. We still didn't like the result, but it at least masked the pain of self-loathing so we could live with ourselves.
In the 19th century, women got fed up with it. I'm not sure why it happened then--perhaps men got particularly bad then. Women demanded equality, because the world was going to hell in a handbasket and they were damned if they'd stand by and watch the men let it happen. Across society women stepped in where men failed and worked to fix the problems. And all the while, they despised men for making them do it, because it wasn't what they were created to do, and in their heart of hearts they knew it as well as the men did. For the men did know, but they looked around and despaired of ever being worthy to stand beside these new women, and they sighed and returned to their complacency. And far too many learned to hate or despise or resent women, though they did not understand that they resented them only for being what they themselves refused to be.
And now that it is done and woman can do anything man can do, we are all lost and confused. We both have a false ideal for ourselves--the same ideal--to excel in school, rise in business, beat the competition and bring home the bacon. The traditionalists offer nothing--they blame the feminists, tell women to stay home, tell men to be leaders, and tell children to obey. The brave new world hears in their words the fading call of an old bondage, and slavers in rage or laughs in scorn--but the laughter is forced, because nobody is any happier in the brave new world than they were in the old.
And women can't fix it, because it's not their fault. Feminism can't fix it by going away--it is itself only a symptom. The problem is the weakness and laziness and complacency of men--and we are the only ones who can fix it.
Because the world was made for women AND men. And, while a woman can do almost anything a man can do, she still can't do everything.
She cannot be a husband. She cannot be a father.
And she cannot be a man.
A belated welcome to Jen Perkins, formerly a classmate of mine at Hillsdale College, now in Missouri teaching at an all-male boarding school. Not exactly what I expected her to do. ;) Shows how much I know. Anyway, she launched her blog a little over a month ago, so I'm late in delivering this proverbial fruitcake of welcome, but here goes anyway.
I was looking at one of her first posts this morning and the brain juices started flowing, connecting the dots with a number of thoughts that have been dogging my footsteps for the past several months. The brain juices haven't flowed much lately, and I didn't want to waste the opportunity. Moreover, since I am currently in limbo between work and school, and have been spending my time sitting at home cooking, cleaning, reading cheap fiction (but no soap operas) and generally playing housewife and feeling sorry for myself because I'm not being the big strong man defending hearth and home and supporting the family, and thus actually have time to kill, I'm going to let them flow. (note: the preceding paragraph exists by way of being ironic, since I'm about to post about feminism and women in the workplace and so forth, and since I dropped my wife off earlier this morning and then came home to blog, I am fully aware of the irony--let the laughter commence)
I've always been fairly careful not to express much of an opinion about feminism--I remember thinking about it briefly while still in high school, when I was worrying a lot about what it meant to be a man, and it struck me that, even if I could figure out what manhood was, I still hadn't even the first clue what womanhood was. The thought process at the time was, "Well--I'm not a woman, so I don't have to worry about that." Followed closely by a tremendous sense of relief. In my interactions with females in the years that followed, I usually kept my mouth shut apart from saying (if asked) that I figured women could do whatever they really wanted to do, that I personally would prefer it if my future wife stayed at home with the children, but wasn't quite sure about that either necessarily, and please don't get mad at me for saying it. Then I changed the subject by telling them that they should have long hair.
Huh. What a wimp. And a stupid one at that.
But that was about all the opinion I had at the time. I now have more of one, and, being a bullheaded human specimen of the masculine variety, I will now carry on.
Please scroll up.
Monday, August 30, 2004
My legs hurt. The 14th bead of sweat that hour trickled its maddening way down my backbone. And that stupid plumb line would not stop moving.
It was my fifth week on the job. I was squatting in the belly of the newest hull with the line boss, laying out the structural grid and wishing that break would come soon. The plumb line finally stopped and I marked the next point on the grid while Tri grumbled at my clumsiness. The next time he reached down and stopped it for me--I was just too slow--but as he did his hands touched mine and I was transported across the country and back in time.
When I was a boy I lived for the days I could go to work with Dad. He would wake me early, his hand on my shoulder, and I dressed in the dark, trying to finish in only a minute so I could call myself a Minuteman. The cool air never felt so good as it did those mornings--we snuck out to Dad's messy old yellow pickup and he put the clutch in without starting it so we could coast out of the driveway without waking Mom.
We passed the dry lake bed just as the first light of dawn began to show the gray forest. I always craned my neck over the dashboard to see the log that looked like a horse and the tree that my parents had paddled a canoe around when the lake filled before I was born. And I was always watching in hopes that I might see some elk that morning.
And then we were there--the warmth of my grandmother's kitchen, the smell of coffee, eating raw oats and milk with Grandpa and Dad, listening to them talk shop and reveling in it all. I was going to work with Dad.
We finished eating and went out to the shop and Dad started work. And he let me help--he showed me how to mix the resin and how to sand or fill the flaws, but before any of that we had to get our gloves.
And oh, how I hated those gloves--they were latex and felt weird, and left gloppy white residue on my hands because my sweat made mud with the powder inside, and they were all too big for me anyway and kept falling off or getting in the way as I tried to work.
But then we started and Dad told me what to do and then, because I was young and didn't know how, he took my hands in his and guided them and showed me what to do. And the gloves weren't small on him, or gloppy, or sweaty--his hands were big and strong and warm and knew exactly what to do. They were man's hands, supporting the family, earning 88 dollars a day, keeping the wolf from the door, and they were showing me how to be a man.
And then I was back in the boat with Tri, and break still hadn't come, and as we moved towards the stern I wept for my childhood, when my father didn't make mistakes and his gloved hands upheld my world and everything was right and safe, and I felt like a man because I got to go to work with Dad.
And I realized how much I loved the feel of latex gloves on my father's hands.
Saturday, August 21, 2004
Family was always very important to my family. My parents, brothers, sisters and I put a great deal of effort throughout my childhood into making sure we were a Good, Healthy, Happy and Loving Family. In fits and spurts, we pursued a variety of avenues in order to foster the Ideal Family Life. We worked very hard for Family.
But after all this work, we were still somehow ill at ease, awkward, uncomfortable around each other. Despite all our effort, Family never quite became Home.
A couple of us decided to watch a movie (the recognized method of pretending to spend time together without actually doing so), late one night. Then we shared a bottle of Gentleman Jack and a bottle of Merlot and completely ignored the movie, talking until dawn, finally noticing that the movie had long since ended. We laughed at ourselves and went to bed.
Thus I discovered my Family. We were relaxed, comfortable, at ease, talking freely and loosely, baring parts of our souls we had ourselves forgotten about. For those few hours, we were at Home.
Perhaps it is strange that alcohol was necessary to cut to the heart of things. But, after all those years of effort, perhaps it was precisely what was needed to dissolve the facade and allow us to meet one another without pretence.
It made us real. And Family can't be fake.
Friday, August 20, 2004
Courtesy of Fox News (scroll to the bottom)
LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — A young man's passion ignited a fire this week that only his girlfriend and the Lewiston Fire Department could put out.
Police said that last Wednesday evening, Chihao Wu, a student studying English at Lewis-Clark State College (search), arranged rolled-up clothes, doused in lamp oil, in a parking lot to spell "Happy Birthday" in his native language. He then summoned his girlfriend and lit the fiery display.
When police and members of the Lewiston Fire Department arrived, they found Wu stomping on the still-burning clothing. The would-be Casanova's conflagration ended when the fire department took an extinguisher to the flames, police said.
Despite a language barrier, police officer Nick Krakalia questioned Wu.
"It was his lady friend's birthday and he lit this fire in celebration," Krakalia wrote in his report.
Wu said there was no tradition of such displays in his country, but he was trying "to show devotion to the female," Krakalia said.
Wu cleaned up the mess and was not ticketed for the incident.
When asked if she was impressed with the display, Krakalia said the girlfriend simply said "No."
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Sunday, August 15, 2004
Blame Weird Al.
I found out that it has roots in Sanskrit. Hence, I discovered for the first time in my life that Oriental and Indo-European languages influenced one another.
This was cool. This was worthwhile. This made my day. In fact, it made my week, my month, and very likely my year. This simple discovery changed a dreary boring weekend for my wife and myself into a thrilling, happy think-fest.
All this got me thinking and reminded me of T.H. White.
"'The best thing for being sad,' replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, 'is
to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails...Learn why the
world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never
exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never
dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.'"
--The Once and Future King
Thus I propose a new theory for why the last year has been such a struggle. The number of things I have really truly learned can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand...perhaps both, if I'm generous.
At Hillsdale, I learned something at least once a week, if not every day. Thus, I was happy and full of vim and vigour for life.
It is a simple theory. I think it is correct. I think I need to find something else to learn.
I think I'm a nerd or something.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
by Rudyard Kipling
THE KNIGHT came home from the quest,
Muddied and sore he came.
Battered of shield and crest,
Bannerless, bruised and lame.
Fighting we take no shame,
Better is man for a fall.
Merrily borne, the bugle-horn
Answered the warder’s call:—
“Here is my lance to mend (Haro!),
Here is my horse to be shot!
Ay, they were strong, and the fight was long;
But I paid as good as I got!”
“Oh, dark and deep their van,
That mocked my battle-cry.
I could not miss my man,
But I could not carry by:
Utterly whelmed was I,
Flung under, horse and all.”
Merrily borne, the bugle-horn
Answered the warder’s call!
“My wounds are noised abroad;
But theirs my foemen cloaked.
Ye see my broken sword—
But never the blades she broke;
Paying them stroke for stroke,
Good handsel over all.”
Merrily borne, the bugle-horn
Answered the warder’s call!
“My shame ye count and know.
Ye say the quest is vain.
Ye have not seen my foe.
Ye have not told his slain.
Surely he fights again, again;
But when ye prove his line,
There shall come to your aid my broken blade
In the last, lost fight of mine!
And here is my lance to mend (Haro!),
And here is my horse to be shot!
Ay, they were strong, and the fight was long;
But I paid as good as I got!”
Monday, August 09, 2004
Sunday, August 08, 2004
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
So I'm taking Modern Greek for the next few weeks here. So far it seems like all I'm learning is the rules of butchery whereby the beauty of ancient Greek is ravaged and left lifeless in a ditch.
I know I'm over-reacting, that flux is a natural property of language, and that I'd probably do better if I just looked at it as a completely distinct language, with no debt to pay to ancient Greek.
But they want to drop the Epsilon from Ebdomos? C'mon...
And I let a tear fall.