Don't, don't you want me?
You know I don't believe you
when you say that you don't need me
--Don't You Want Me, Human League
I didn't mean to hurt you,
I'm sorry that I made you cry,
I was feeling insecure,
You might not love me any more
--Jealous Guy, John Lennon
All you pretty women,
Stand in line,
I can make love to you baby,
In an hour's time.
Now I'm a man
I spell M-A-N...man
--I'm a Man, The Yardbirds
(The middle photo shows Mr. Obama trying to navigate a gate in New Orleans, 8/28/10. The L.A. Times ran a salient group of questions in the link to accompany the difficult scene.)
It plays into Ranger's experience at the recent Old Airborne Instructors Association reunion in Columbus, Georgia, where most of the usual members were in attendance, though the ranks are thinning.
The ages ranged from a 91-year-old paratrooper to the Vietnam vets, usually the youngest group. Most of these old troopers had their Master Parachute Wings before Ranger was out of the 4th grade. These are the men that trained and mentored many a young troop of my cohort.
They continue to inspire and awe, leading to today's topic:
What defines Manhood today?
Looking at and listening to the congregation of old troopers, one needn't mince words. Their manhood has slumped their shoulders and damaged their spines, demolished their knees and left behind the ravages of time, yet they still stand as tall.
But what is it that constitutes a man? Let's look at our recent top dogs: Are Obama, Bush or Clinton exemplars of manhood? What about the vaunted scholar-General Petraeus? What about the assassin McChrystal? Do our leaders have a confidence inspired by action, exuding from them like sweat on a trooper's brow?
Could anyone imagine any of our congressional leaders leading an assault on a bunkered up machine gun? There are a few exceptions -- Bob Kerrey, John Kerry, Daniel Inouye, Bob Dole, John Murtha, John McCain, Jim Webb, our own Alan Boyd -- but they are the exceptions in the upper echelons of our government.
Can you imagine President Obama humping a ruck sack or eating MRE's for six solid months? With nary a leaf of arugula in sight? In "Moral Clarity in the Age of the Metrosexual", Bernard Goldberg described Obama as "more of the risotto with green apple kind [of man]." Or, is this not the measure of manhood? Perhaps we are firmly ensconced now in the era of "feeling one's pain" versus sharing it.
A scan of manhood depicted in film and t.v. presents an abysmal portrait of inane ineptitude and buffoonery. What movie shows us how to man-up? For every film that displays manliness, there are 20 that show man to be craven and clueless.
The animated programs The Simpsons and Family Guy paralleled the come down (predominately) of the white male in other media. The popular t.v. show 2 1/2 Men features three Peter Pans -- alcoholic and clueless pussy hounds. Like the leads in Boston Legal, as often as not they conclude the program in their own company with an alcoholic beverage, sans the solace of their supposed goal, a female.
This in itself reveals a societal trend as some of the males have sired offspring, but none manages to cohere the family unit. Their lust for sexual gratification begins and ends there, their offspring becoming a chiding inconvenience, nonetheless accusatorily standing as representative of what was once a more mainstream view of manhood. For these men it is all of a piece: A woman or a drink -- something to slake their loserly essence and remove them from their resistance to mature.
Another in this genre -- Rules of Engagement -- labels men as either fey metrosexuals or boorish brutes, whom the women spend their their time either trying to model or escape. It is I Love Lucy, 2010-style, both sexes jockeying for their best position, the men usually on the losing end of the stick. This program is followed by "The Big Bang Theory" which is lacking for Big Bangs, but not short on brilliant but clueless nerds.
We suppose it is G(r)eek tragedy in action: Every man has his Achilles heel. But these men have no anchor, their manhood, unballasted. It is as though they are taking clues from fashion magazines or Marlboro cutouts on how to be a man, and the result is an unappealing thin semblance of manhood.
Programs like MI-5, 24 and The Unit, all masculine names or numbers (which are presumably, also masculine) offer the opposite extreme of ballsiness, lacking for any middle ground. Where is a man, or at least, a Hollywood facsimile of such? Where is the template that a young man can apply to his life to help him determine how to assume his manhood?
Ranger has been advised by women that a man should be macho while also possessing the attributes of tenderness and emotion. Using this definition, he concludes that women want men to behave like butch lesbians. Women want us to be both tough and feeling, and these qualities seem contradictory.
Maybe this is a moot point when Lady Gaga represents femininity (though Camille Paglia compellingly argues that she represents the Death of Sexuality.) Maybe men have been superannuated.
Nonetheless, we are game if you are: What is your definition of manliness? (this is an Equal Opportunity contest, prize as-yet to be determined.)