I missed the original hoo-ha about Rangel’s new remarks attacking the military. Most commentators are appropriately likening it to Kerry’s recent “joke” about military intelligence. I think there’s more there, though, than just an attack on the intellectual abilities of the average mil guy or gal. Here’s the money quote:
I want to make it abundantly clear: if there’s anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment. If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.
I don’t know why, but when I read Rangel’s quotation, the subtext to me was that real men don’t fight. Only uneducated louts fight.
In other words, I saw a metrosexual peeking out from under his quotation. You remember metrosexuals, don’t you? They’re feminized young men who nevertheless claim that their actual sexual orientation is heterosexual. They’re just giving free rein to their feminine side. (You can read more about this breed here.) When I read Rangel saying “If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq,” I see it, not just as a comment about “only stupid people join the military,” but also as a demasculization of men. In Rangel’s world, real men aren’t warriors, they’re desk jockies. This is an entirely new phenomenon.
There have, of course, been other times in history when men dressed in a feminized way. Just go back to the ancient Minoan civilization, to see men with long hair and tightly bound waists. Beginning in the late seventeenth century, and lasting right up until the French Revolution, European and British upper class men had long hair, wore high heels, and had elaborate floral patterns embroidered on their clothes. Those styles, though, had more to do with displaying class difference than with downplaying masculinity. A man who could afford silk embroidery, who could wear his hair long, and who tottered about in high heels was boasting about the fact that he did not need to work. These same men, however, valued their warrior status. They practiced sword fighting, rode hard, hunted animals, dueled and, if they were late 18th/early 19th century Brits, boxed.
Rangel’s comment, however, implies that this innate masculinity has no place in today’s world. Now, I’m perfectly willing to agree with him — up to a point. As a mother, I spend an enormous amount of time working with my children to teach them to control their aggression. I view as uncivilized the Muslim populations that invariably greet words with violence. Civilization demands a balance. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that men have always been warriors and that all cultures have had a warrior class. This is the first time in history, I think, that the warrior class, rather than being regarded as a protector, or a sign of masculinity, however, is viewed as a type of cretinism. Considering who our enemies our, I don’t think this world view bodes well for our future.