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The northern corner of New York state that I call home is famous for the rustic beauty of its lakes and mountains and forests, for its pivotal role in the underappreciated War of 1812, and for its long, snowy, and sometimes brutal winters. Being an indoorsy kind of guy with little interest in military history, it’s this last feature that bears most directly upon me.
I’ve been blessed with a robust frame and exceptional physical strength, a product (I suspect) of French peasant ancestry and hybrid vigor. Members of my extended family have tended to be healthy, long-lived, and embarrassingly fecund, which no doubt accounts for the absurdly large number of us. For all that, I’m no longer young. Recognizing this, my grown children decided, a couple of years ago, that it was time I stopped shoveling the new-fallen snow from my 300-foot driveway, a task that always left me sore and winded but that I’ve stubbornly resisted contracting out or delegating. So they gifted me a snowblower.
The snowblower is, without a doubt, the best invention of the past 200 years. I enjoy using it; I’ve just come in from an hour spent clearing the accumulation of the last few days.
When snow is frequent and winter is long, repeated snowblowing of the driveway creates a considerable mountain of snow on either side. There’s a natural tendency for the width of the cleared area to slowly decrease, because it’s easier to run the machine through the new-fallen snow than it is to cut into the older, piled snow along the sides, and so tempting to leave just a little bit more at the margins with each successive clearing. But, unless one is willing to gradually surrender the navigable portion of the drive to the encroaching banks, one must resist this temptation and invest the time in fully clearing, or even broadening, the path with each day’s effort. This must be done continually, lest the bordering banks compress and refreeze into impenetrable glaciers.
We are being hemmed in today by two interlocking but distinct aspects of progressive politics: the gender identity movement, and resurgent racism. Each of these seeks to redefine the boundaries of civil discourse, to preclude criticism of frankly noxious ideas by equating such criticism with intolerance and hate. Each has been largely successful at achieving this illiberal end – certainly within our institutions, and increasingly among the broader public.
A consequence of the radical left’s reinvigoration of racism will be, I’m sure, more racism. It seems inevitable that endorsing discrimination based on skin color must, ultimately, harm those whom it has historically harmed, which is those in the racial minority. As one who condemns racism wholeheartedly, I deplore this foolishness and will continue to call for an institutionally color-blind society. Racism is stupid and ugly, but I can think of no way to push back against it except to call it out and condemn it at every opportunity.
Sexism, on the other hand, is a very different matter. Sexism, unlike racism, is rooted in reality. Sexism actually makes sense.
The gender identity movement is the inchoate fusion of disparate and sometimes self-contradictory things. It combines the nonsensical ideas of gender fluidity with an explicit rejection of the reality of sexual identity itself. It’s a fashionable bunch of horse feathers hanging its hat on a rare sliver of genetic abnormality. It’s silly, sometimes sad, often pathetic, but at its heart is something that’s actually damaging, the continuation of a decades-long effort to obliterate womanhood by turning women into men and denying the real differences between the sexes.
I’m sexist, in that I think the differences between the two sexes actually matter quite a lot, and I’m happy to generalize about men and women based on those characteristic differences. Far from decrying toxic masculinity, I call for more expressions of masculinity – some of which will no doubt seem toxic to many of my sissified and overly sensitized fellow Americans, and some of which actually will be unpleasant and, occasionally, harmful.
There is a place for feminine sensitivity and sensibility, but there’s also a place for masculine insensitivity and boldness. We have too little of the latter, and so we spend a year huddled in fear of a virus that kills mostly the elderly and infirm and represents little danger to most people. We tolerate a year of wanton destruction as petulant brats trash our cities and mock the rule of law. We let ourselves get cowed into pretending that the correct pronouns aren’t self-evident in virtually every case. We accept rolling brownouts and the banning of internal combustion engines in order to calm the thumping hearts of eco-doomsayers who have never been right and are almost certainly wrong now.
Unfortunately, we’ve allowed the nonsense to get pretty deep. There are all sorts of things we’re not supposed to say, all kinds of ideas that are now considered deplorably reactionary and beyond the pale. Reclaiming that space, the space in which we can acknowledge the differences between men and women and begin living our civic life more boldly and fully, is going to require digging into the embankments and pushing back. And that, I think, begins with our becoming a bit less sensitive, a bit more reckless, and a lot more male.
The spirit of America is bold, rough, ambitious, and masculine. It’s time to acknowledge that and reclaim it.Published in