A Response to the Art of Manliness

History's most underrated asshole.

I take offense to the underlying premise of this article while still supporting the general thesis.  Men are fragile, shallow, tepid creatures these days.  Not to say there weren’t problems in the “good old days” but I’ll get to that.   But religion plays a central role in all three given aspects in this article: education, family and religion.  Do you really need to include discussions of religion in the other two if it has it’s own category?

Skyrocketing divorce rates have birthed this whole post-modern perspective of the American family – see, Infinite Jest, “American Beauty”, etc.  Changes in the way families earn income have eviscerated a normalized family.  Men and women are working outside the home, simultaneously.  Often, one partner gives up a career to raise children and then tries to claw back into economic relevance once the child is capable of being alone without somehow killing itself.  People who are not parents are raising the kids.  These are either family members or strangers, but almost always women.

I don’t take offense to that.  That women raise kids.  I like to say that I didn’t meet my dad until I was 16.*

So the premise rings true.  But religion has no business in what a real man should be.  Brett (the article’s author) calls out the muscular Christians as emblematic of true manliness.  Without having to dwell on it, you’ve given me the turn of the 20th century and Christians with muscles and I think of Teddy Roosevelt.  History’s most underrated asshole.

For all his laudable progressive politics, he abandoned his daughter after his wife and mother died.  He abandoned his alcoholic brother in a mental institution, who later died. His wife, Roosevelt’s sister-in-law, shortly thereafter died of grief and pneumonia**.  Roosevelt’s children from a second marriage fared no better.  His son Kermit went to Panama to work on his canal.  While there he contracted malaria, and regularly fell ill to it throughout the rest of his life.  Kermit, feeling indebted to his father’s protection, attended to Roosevelt on his trip down the Rio da Duvida (River of Doubt) in 1914 instead of returning to marry his fiancée.  On the River of Doubt, Roosevelt and his son almost died, and at least half a dozen South American porters who attended them did die.

Roosevelt’s overwhelming manliness compelled him to seek a commission during World War I .  He was not granted one but his son Quentin was.  He was a heroic pilot, honoring his father’s wishes and ambitions of manliness.  Quentin was shot down in 1918.  According to the books I’ve read, this loss so disturbed Roosevelt that he never recovered and seemed to regret his lifelong insistence on manliness.  Roosevelt was a super Christian, by the way.  His Christianity compelled him to admit his brother to a mental institution and his Christian compassion was all he offered to his widowed sister-in-law as she slowly died from grief.

So don’t you tell me manliness and Christianity are synonymous.  I can think of no two more dissimilar principles than a man: upright, sure of himself, with reason and established Enlightenment principles at his disposal and a Christian. ***


*That’s not true.  He was usually home by 6 p.m..  But, when a mom takes off work early everyday at 2 p.m. to pick up her kids from elementary and middle school.  The dad showing up at 6 or 7 and then occasionally going on a work-related hiatus for whole weeks at a time, yeah, that doesn’t cut it.

** I think (if anyone wants to call me on this I’ll pick the fucking book off the shelf to double check).

*** And if you want to know the states with the highest incidence of things like divorce, incest, child pornography or even regular pornography viewership, and other very un-Christian crimes, go read Fuck the south.  If you demand more unbiased statistics, you’ve got a mouse and keyboard, find them yourself.  They’re out there though.


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