PICKING THE TEAM: Or, Who Should Lead in the Remanning of America

So let’s get started by picking teams.  In addition, let’s offer a hint or two about what position each person on the team will be playing (without, I hope, giving away the whole playbook).

My first pick is mothers.  “What?” you ask, “mothers have something to do with the making of men?”  You bet they do.  The first and most enduring image of womanhood a boy receives is from his mother.  This is a big deal.  If his mother is a saint, the boy will grow up venerating women, wanting to serve and protect them.  If the mother is a skank (to use the scientific term), the boy will grow up thinking all women are skanks and treat them as such.  (There is a funny movie from the seventies starring Burt Reynolds called The Man Who Loved Women with this as its theme.)  Second, the boy will most assuredly inherit his mother’s outlook on life.  If the mother gets things done herself and won’t let her children whine, the boy will have a can-do attitude.  If the mother is a downer, if she thinks the whole world is against her and that nothing ever turns out right, her son will almost certainly follow in her footsteps, growing up thinking of all the things he can’t do rather than all the things he can.  Third, since in early childhood the boy will spend the overwhelming majority of his time with his mother, he will learn to play by her rules.  Will her rules turn the boy into a whiny wimp?  Will the absence of rules allow him to become a barbarian?  In short, we are not just talking about having any mothers on our team.  We are recruiting mothers who understand boys and who want real boys as sons.  These days, such women constitute a rare breed.

My second pick, obviously, is fathers.  These two picks have to go together, in fact.  So let’s hope that we made some smart trades last year and ended up with two first-round draft picks.  We shall have much to say about fathers on this site.  For now, let us make two obvious points.  First, for fathers to make their sons into men, they need to be in the home.  This is not the lesson we are taught by the culture of divorce, but it is the truth.  It is pretty hard for a father to impress upon his son lessons about life when he only sees that son on weekends.  The many challenges a boy faces growing up do not conveniently coincide with his father’s visitation privileges.  Second, for fathers to make their sons into men, fathers must themselves be men.  A milquetoast as father is only a little better than no father in the home at all.  Alas, the 1950s mantra of Father Knows Best has changed to, in the words of Roseanne Barr, “Father Knows Squat.”  Many of today’s fathers need a crash course in manhood so they can have something to teach their sons.  That’s okay.  It’s never too late to learn—if you are serious about it.

If a boy grows up with a good mother and a good father who both understand boys, the battle is more than half won.  But they need help: allies and teammates.  The sirens of the decadent culture are not to be underestimated.  And most of what the culture is doing undermines the lessons boys are taught in the home (assuming they are the right lessons).  The fight to reman America, which must begin in the home, must venture out of the home in order to take back the culture.

The next pick, therefore, must be teachers.  If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, here is the weakest of the weak.  The public schools in this nation are horrible—as we shall have occasion to observe more than once.  And, yes, that means your children’s public schools, even if you live in the nicest suburb in the country—even if you live in the most conservative suburb in the country.  While the public schools are bad for every child, they are much worse for boys.  They are plainly hostile to boys at many levels.  If you do not believe me, walk into an elementary classroom sometime.  What do you see on the walls?  Images of heroes such as Washington and Lincoln, whose portraits used to be a staple in every school in the country?  Or how about the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima or some other example of victory in a just war?  No, you will see nothing like that.  What you will see are cutesy posters of cuddly kittens or other schlock telling the kids how nice they should be or how wonderful they are.  There is nothing on those walls for boys to aspire to—no images of traditional manhood.  Nor is there anything coming out of the teacher’s mouth or out of the “lessons” she supposedly teaches that are in any way interesting or inspiring to a boy.  As a result, boys are bored in school.  So they make trouble.  That’s when nice Miss So-and-So, a year or two out of college with no children of her own, comes to tell you that your child is a problem and needs to be doped up.

My hope is that we can put something back in schools that will teach and inspire boys.  Better still, we can take our sons and daughters out of the existing public schools, create truly good ones, and teach all the children the things they need to know to become good and knowledgeable human beings and citizens.

To win, we desperately need coaches.  Coaches should already be on the right side of the Boy and Man Problem.  They’re all men themselves.  They enjoy sports and have a connection with boys through sports.  They understand winning and losing—which other folks in the culture (e.g., teachers) do not.  So the nation’s coaches should already be in the game, right?  Well, maybe not.  While doing research for my novel about boys and baseball (and more) I found some disturbing trends.  We’ve probably all heard of sports leagues in which no one keeps score.  This phenomenon, ludicrous as it may seem, is more common than you might think.  New methods are constantly being devised to water down or eliminate genuine competition in boys’ sports.  Further, there is the problem of whether sports—especially at the high school and college levels—are still in the business of teaching character.  A little research into the history of organized sports in this country reveals that the classic American sports—baseball and football primarily—were designed to train boys to become good men.  More specifically, sports were designed to teach boys to become exemplary Christian and American men.  That element of the game has been almost completely lost.  Our purpose is to recover it.

Since we are in the business of making Christian men, we need to enlist preachers, priests, pastors, or your preferred denomination for men of the cloth.  As with schools, we are confronted with an institution that used to be largely devoted to turning restless boys into good men that has become unfriendly, at times hostile, to the male nature itself.  I suspect there is a deeper cause for this hostility—most likely the failure to understand a good deal of what is written in the Bible.  Our immediate concern is to remind churches of who boys and men really are and how they are made good while still being manly.

Finally, we need to work on finding better leaders in all walks of life, but particularly in the culture.  What do I mean by “leaders” and particularly by “leaders in the culture”?  As we shall find out, the phenomenon of the man-child is not an accident.  It is the result of a century-long betrayal by our political and cultural leaders (whom we, the American people, made our political and cultural leaders).  We do not have time at the moment to explain what this means.  Yet we can get a handle on it if we confront the hard fact that the politics, arts, and information coming out of New York, Hollywood, and Washington, D. C. have not been good for men.  Of course, everyone complains about “the politics of Washington” or the “garbage on television.”  But why should the American people rest content while the country is steadily debilitated by that brand of politics and that kind of entertainment?  Are the people who are committed to true American principles and the true understanding of human good really so much less adept at politics or so much less creative at writing a movie script?  Must every innovation in politics and in the arts aim at the baser side of human nature?  Because human beings have a natural longing for the good, I actually think the political war can be won.  For that to happen, the cultural war must be won as well. That’s right. We’re fighting a war on two fronts.