Manliness: An Unsung Trait of the Train Heroes

 

When a heavily armed man emerged from the bathroom of a European train and began what was clearly intended as a massacre of innocent, unsuspecting civilians, six men ranging in age from 22 to 62 sprang into action. A banker and a middle-aged academic, both French, were first on the scene. The sound of gunfire awakened three young American tourists: Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone, and Anthony Sadler. In a moment evocative of the Flight 93 passengers’ shining courage on 9/11, Skarlatos saw Ayoub El-Khazzani struggling with one of his guns and leapt up, saying simply “Let’s go” to his friends.

The three Americans, two Frenchmen, and one Briton who took on the terrorist were unarmed — though, thank God, in the case of two (the third was fit too), their military training prepared them for violence. That’s right. For the world to be safe for most people, good people must learn the arts of war to prevent bad people from ruling through terror. It’s true of individuals, and it’s true of nations.

The Legion d’Honneur is both richly deserved and a reminder that honor, so out of fashion in our time, is awfully handy in emergencies. Spencer Stone, already slashed in the face and neck by the terrorist’s knife and with this thumb nearly severed, nevertheless went to the aid of Mark Moogalian, who was bleeding badly from a bullet wound and probably would have died without Stone’s assistance. The others, Sadler, Skarlatos, Chris Norman, and an unnamed Frenchman, subdued and tied up the terrorist, while Stone saved Moogalian’s life.

There is more to say about the three Americans. They were childhood friends who met at a Christian middle school. They are of different races, but despite the impression you’d get from the current tone of national politics, that was irrelevant to their friendship. They also seem to have been rambunctious boys — a trait that tends to be pathologized in modern America. The Sacramento Bee recounts:

Friends from age 7, they played with their siblings and neighbors up and down Woodknoll Way, favoring games such as Airsoft, in which participants shoot each other with realistic-looking replica guns that fire plastic pellets, said Peter Skarlatos, Alek’s older brother . . .

‘We’d basically turn this neighborhood into a war zone,’ the brother said, sitting on the shady front porch of his family’s ranch house Sunday afternoon. ‘Spencer and Alek were all action-oriented kinds of guys.’

When I was raising three boys, I received a few looks askance for permitting them to use play guns and to imagine themselves as soldiers. Some of the more sensitive parents in our area disapproved of the Power Rangers, a cartoonish show featuring teenaged superheroes battling goofy villains. These parents sincerely believed that we must suppress all violent tendencies in our children, especially our sons, to make a gentler world. Our boys relished the Power Rangers, with our blessing.

I believed then and still do that violent urges cannot be completely quashed, but they can be channeled into virtuous expression. There is all the difference in the world between using violence aggressively and using it defensively. As Bill Buckley used to say: One man pushes an old lady into the path of a truck. Another man pushes her out of the path of the truck. Are we to say there’s no difference between them because they both push old ladies around?

There’s one more thing to be said of the heroes on the train. They were men. So-called “traditional masculinity” is a major target of feminists on college campuses and elsewhere. That, they teach, is what creates the “rape culture.” The Obama Administration has joined in (naturally). A government website urges that colleges “Promote an understanding of the ways in which traditional masculinity contributes to sexual assault and other forms of men’s violence against women.”

In Aurora, Colorado in 2012, when a crazed gunman opened fire on a crowded movie theater, no fewer than three young men covered their girlfriends with their own bodies and lost their lives in the process. That, and not the loutish behavior of some frat boys, is true “traditional masculinity” — or better, manliness.

Men have been defamed and devalued in our society for decades. Their high spirits are punished in schools. Their natural protectiveness has been scorned as sexism.

The passengers on that French train are surely grateful that some manliness remains indominatable.

There are 23 comments.

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  1. Shelley Nolan Inactive
    Shelley Nolan
    @ShelleyNolan

    So well said, thanks.

    • #1
  2. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    I raised all girls. They are feminine, but also ready to fight if they must. One spent six years in the Navy. However, I have no doubt that they would hope a man was there to step in if they or their children were in danger. There husbands surely would, because they are men.

    • #2
  3. David Sussman Podcaster
    David Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    Mona Charen: When I was raising three boys, I received a few looks askance for permitting them to use play guns and to imagine themselves as soldiers. Some of the more sensitive parents in our area disapproved of the Power Rangers, a cartoonish show featuring teenaged superheroes battling goofy villains. These parents sincerely believed that we must suppress all violent tendencies in our children, especially our sons, to make a gentler world. Our boys relished the Power Rangers, with our blessing.

    Thank you for this. As a Father to 2 sons, I find it sad that we seek examples of masculine virtues. Boyhood was once a time of freedom and great camaraderie, whether playing sports or exploring the woods. Today boys face hostility from a culture that says masculine traits are not unique gifts bestowed on males that allows them to become confident men, but an affront to a kinder society.

    Boys should be raised to become healthy and thoughtful men, which requires a little rambunctiousness when they are younger. If not, we end up with a society procreated by flannel pajama wearing, horn rimmed, hot cocoa sipping doormats.

    • #3
  4. Inwar Resolution Inactive
    Inwar Resolution
    @InwarResolution

    Wonderful, Mona.  Thanks.

    • #4
  5. Penfold Member
    Penfold
    @Penfold

    “Where do we get such men……”

    RAdm. George Tarrant (Fredric March) – The Bridges at Toko-Ri

    • #5
  6. Ray Kujawa Coolidge
    Ray Kujawa
    @RayKujawa

    Finally, somebody doing a thread on manliness other than the usual self-proclaimed experts. Being biased as a man, I trust what decent women have to say on the subject. Thanks for the post.

    • #6
  7. Ray Kujawa Coolidge
    Ray Kujawa
    @RayKujawa

    The lesson for terrorists and would-be despots is don’t wake the Americans.

    • #7
  8. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    My grandsons were given action hero dolls to play with when they were very young, then they graduated to bb guns, then to paint ball guns, had rockets, then to bows and arrows, and now they have hand guns and riffles. They are all manly men and I wouldn’t have them any other way. They can all ride a horse as well. I have to admit I cringed when they got the bb guns, but they were signed by Dave Saunders who portrayed Red Ryder in NM for years, and taught them gun safety.

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Mona Charen: There’s one more thing to be said of the heroes on the train. They were men. So-called “traditional masculinity” is a major target of feminists on college campuses and elsewhere. That, they teach, is what creates the “rape culture.” The Obama Administration has joined in (naturally). A government website urges that colleges “Promote an understanding of the ways in which traditional masculinity contributes to sexual assault and other forms of men’s violence against women.”

    If only there were a standard of behavior. Something that emphasizes defending the weak, honoring women, never turning one’s back on a foe… a code, maybe.

    chivalry

    Nah.  Never catch on.

    • #9
  10. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    Percival:

    Mona Charen: There’s one more thing to be said of the heroes on the train. They were men. So-called “traditional masculinity” is a major target of feminists on college campuses and elsewhere. That, they teach, is what creates the “rape culture.” The Obama Administration has joined in (naturally). A government website urges that colleges “Promote an understanding of the ways in which traditional masculinity contributes to sexual assault and other forms of men’s violence against women.”

    If only there were a standard of behavior. Something that emphasizes defending the weak, honoring women, never turning one’s back on a foe… a code, maybe.

    chivalry

    Nah. Never catch on.

    Here’s a code to believe in:

    • #10
  11. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Excellent article!  I can’t tell you how proud of those three Americans I have been.  They are super!  And yes, men are needed after all. ;)

    • #11
  12. Byron Horatio Inactive
    Byron Horatio
    @ByronHoratio

    Interestingly enough, in the same military that these fine young men are part of, the in-vogue instruction of the sensitivity commissars is that traditional masculinity is what breeds society’s rape culture. And that it is “gender socialization” that needs to be dismantled. I’ve sat through these classes myself.

    The emphasis is not on channeling men and women’s baser instincts into virtue, but on ridiculously eliminating them altogether. Thankfully these young men have not been so brainwashed.

    • #12
  13. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Right on MONA! All I ever hear these days is Red for Women, Pink for Women, women this and women that. It’s as if the world just discovered women and at the same time extinguished men. I love acknowledging women for all they have to contribute to our lives, but that doesn’t mean to the detriment of men and all they have to contribute in a manly kind of way. Got to hand it to the French…Viva la difference is a beautiful expression.

    • #13
  14. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Strange as it may seem, most conservative women like manly men, we think we can handle them or live up to them. Yah!

    • #14
  15. Gil Reich Inactive
    Gil Reich
    @GilReich

    I was so moved by your column that I wanted to thank you, and then I saw a dozen people beat me to it. There’s such a craving for this, such an appreciation, for women who openly appreciate men being men. Thank you.

    • #15
  16. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Men being men.  Happy sigh.  (And oh-so-glad that they lived through the experience)

    • #16
  17. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    This needed to be said and a woman needed to say it. You are right, and your article reminded me of another story, also penned by a woman, that speaks of men and heroes:

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB122451174798650085

    • #17
  18. Chris Johnson Inactive
    Chris Johnson
    @user_83937

    Actually, four Americans.

    http://neoneocon.com/2015/08/24/another-french-train-attack-hero-named/

    • #18
  19. George Savage Contributor
    George Savage
    @GeorgeSavage

    Mona, I am forwarding your post to my two sons, ages 22 and 19. Thanks for making the case so very well.

    • #19
  20. Rob Long Editor
    Rob Long
    @RobLong

    Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Fine, Mona.  But can we please not forget about the old dude who was also there?

    images

    Okay, maybe he didn’t rush the bad guy initially, but he did enough to get a medal.  I am not — yet — an old dude.  But I’m getting there.  Spare a moment of thanks for guys like him.

    • #20
  21. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Don’t forget the Mark Moogalian, French/American, who took the first shot.

    http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2015/08/25/professor-who-grew-up-in-virginia-tried-to-wrestle-gun-away-from-train-terrorist/

    • #21
  22. Mona Charen Contributor
    Mona Charen
    @MonaCharen

    Rob Long:Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fine, Mona. But can we please not forget about the old dude who was also there?

    images

    Okay, maybe he didn’t rush the bad guy initially, but he did enough to get a medal. I am not — yet — an old dude. But I’m getting there. Spare a moment of thanks for guys like him.

    I know for a fact, Rob, that you still have all of your hair! Unlike that fine 62 year old hero in the pic. Very reassuring to know that it’s still possible to down a bad guy at his age. But you’re a LONG way from that  . . .  :-)

    • #22
  23. derek Member
    derek
    @user_82953

    TG:Men being men. Happy sigh. (And oh-so-glad that they lived through the experience)

    Indeed. We could be reading about a large number of dead, including these young men.

    And when they jumped into the fray they knew it could go either way. But they jumped anyways.

    We celebrate these guys, and they look appropriately uncomfortable. The cult of non-victimhood. How refreshing.

    • #23

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