It's Tuesday morning. I'm weary. I've been weary for a while now but I'm particularly weary today. I have no outline or draft for what I am going to write here today...just open my heart. But my instincts tell me I am speaking for a lot of men these days and I will get a lot of silent "Amen"'s muttered wearily under the breath of a lot of broken, weary men.
I am a dad. Nothing I do or ever will do or have ever done in all my life equals being defined as a dad. Nothing even comes close. Nothing. Being a man is hard in this society. Being a dad is even harder.
I grew up in a society where men were still manly. Where men talked politics passionately and where they eschewed evil and celebrated good. Where a man of character wasn't a big deal because it was still expected of you to have character. Where a man was an American and by God he was proud of that and he defended that ideal with a loud booming voice and the occasional clenched fist. He was disgusted by our enemies and embarrassed if we failed. They spoke of the tragedy of Vietnam not in terms of "We never should have gone there" but rather "We never should have gone there if we had no intention of winning at all costs." You can call that barbaric, or Neanderthal or whatever you want. But this country survived and thrived it's first 200 years, enduring some close calls, because men were still, by and large, expected to act like men, and they were celebrated when they did.
But then the 70's happened.
I understand that "macho" can be taken too far. I get it that dads can be seem to be too overprotective and too opinionated and too curmudgeonly. But it sure looks like they were right and the new breed was wrong. Softening up the male species wasn't an entirely good thing. Sometimes you really can get farther with a kind word and a punch in the mouth than just with a kind word. Sometimes you really do have to draw a line in the sand in your own front yard and tell the world they will have to step over your body to get to your family.
That is hard-wired into every man and it has been attacked and ridiculed by feminists since the sixties. When did we become a country where character is so rare that we have to celebrate it when we find it? Why do we have to read books about integrity?
This is a larger issue that is too big for me to tackle this morning. I want to dial it down a little. I want to go from pan to zoom.
Men are under attack in this country and by this administration.
It has been almost four years since Barack Obama took office. Four years of waiting for things to change. Four years of trying to squint to see dawn in this miserable darkness. Four years of seeing the only thing getting bigger is the debt. Four years of watching as we get our noses rubbed in poop by little crappy countries that we should be flicking off us like so many fleas. Four years of looking at our kids and promising them that this will be the year. This year we'll go on a vacation together like we used to. This year we can spend more time together like we used to. This year.
It's been four years like that and we only get worse. The only movement we've made is backwards. Unemployment rates drop because people give up looking and this man celebrates that like it's a victory. That's like being the last car to survive a crash in Nascar race and celebrating your driving abilities. You didn't win anything. You were just the last loser.
There is a war on men being waged. A real man loves his family and wants the very best for them. There are the odd exceptions to this rule but for the most part this is true of all men. Nothing breaks our hearts more than not being able to give our family what they desire and what they need. A man will endure anything to take care of his family. I know. I endured four years of homelessness so that I could stay in the same town as my daughter. I slept in my car and lived like a vagabond in many ways so that at least she would go to sleep at night knowing I was in the same town as she was and that I could still come running if she needed me. That she would still look out in the audience during a violin recital and see my face, smiling at her. That we could still spend time together.
I paid for her braces $100 a month over 4 years while I lived like this. Because she needed them and that's what dads do. I worked odd jobs and side jobs to make sure there was at least Christmas each year and her birthdays never went unnoticed.
I maintained hope when hope was free-falling. But I am weary.
There are no good jobs. There are barely any decent jobs. There are scant few lousy jobs. Men are hurting in this economy in ways they don't reveal easily. A man takes pride in caring for his family and when he can't do that, it breaks his heart and his spirit. It renders him tired. Tired in ways that he doesn't bounce back from easily. You render enough men tired and you start having a populace without resistance. You start emasculating men without them realizing it. It's hard to stand up to tyranny when your heart aches because you don't feel manly. It's hard to fight oppression when you live each day in fear of which utility is going to be turned off this week if you don't scrape the money together fast enough. It's hard to stand for what's right when you feel like you aren't even right because you can't take care of basic things for your family. Men are being broken and I don't think it's an accident.
There is value in a days work. But a days work is not a career or a calling. It's piecemeal. That's okay for a college kid with no responsibilities besides himself. But a dad needs to be able to say "Here is my plan and here is how we're going to get there...". The biggest part of that, outside of having a clear vision, is having the financial questions answered. Without jobs a man can't dream. His vision for his family is rendered a pipe-dream. His heart breaks and his manliness fails.
I don't think this fact is lost on this administration.
We hear endlessly about how women are struggling. How women are living in poverty. How there is a war on women because we won't pay for their birth control. But none of those things break a woman's spirit the way it does a man.
This is a nation of broken men and that is a dangerous thing. A year of poverty will make you uncomfortable. A second year of poverty will make you mad. A third year will frustrate you but beyond that you give up. Your fight is gone. Your soul is so weary that you just don't care anymore. If I know this then I'm sure the powers that be know this too.
We are a nation of weary, broken men with spirits waning. We are under attack.
I am weary. I am so tired. I...the hopeless romantic, endlessly optimistic, dreamer of dreams, can only see black and white now. The color is fading fast. Men with fire in their eyes are disappearing. In their place are a nation of men of vacant stares.
If it's like this at year 4...what will years 5-8 bring?