Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
February 7, 2010

What It Means to be a Man

Abortion's "gift" to our nation is fifty million dead. And for many years now-indeed for decades- America's NEXT most worrisome disaster is the growth, the exponential growth, in the percentage of households that are fatherless, homes where a child's biological father is nowhere in sight or is at best just a part-time parent. In certain sectors of American society a household in which, in accord with God's plan, the father is in residence as leader of the family stands in conspicuous exception to the prevailing "norm". All of which creates a problem.  In the absence of regular contact with a positive model for what it means to be a man, a boy wil find it difficult to appreciate and thus to internalize the habits of self-control that a disciplined focus on achievement demands, qualities of character that effective participation in society, not to mention the saving of one's soul, requires. Thus it should come as no surprise that there are millions of young Americans today, and more particularly young American men, who seem to be lacking any sense of social responsibility, who in consequence are classifiable as "walking wounded." For some of them enrollment in the armed forces will provide a belated -  but better late than never!- introduction to the critical importance of self-control in the service of a cause more noble than that of a childish dedication to instantaneous gratification. But for far too many an enslavement that began in childhood, unchecked in a fatherless home, to the tyranny of impulse will become a fast express ticket to imprisonment. And for still others who manage to avoid serious trouble with the law a failure to internalize the discipline that defines a real man, the discipline that is needed for success in any walk of life, will result in a tragic waste of talent, subverting potential contributions of importance to the common good. And how long can our nation afford such a waste?

On this urgent question may I share with you the continents of syndicated columnist Dennis Prager, comments that appeared in the national edition of the Washington Times for January 25, 2010.
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When American Boys Stop Growing into Men
   By: Dennis Prager
   From: Washington Times (national edition)
   January 25, 2010

Every society has to answer a few basic questions in order to succeed and even in order to survive. One of them is, "How do we make good men?"

The reason for the importance of this question is simple: Males untutored about how to control their natures will likely do much harm. Conversely, males who are taught to control themselves and to channel their drives in positive directions make the world a much better place. The good man is a glory of civilization: the bad man ruins it.

Throughout American history, American society asked, "How do we make men?' (It was understood that "man" meant a GOOD man.) Anyone who thought about the subject knew that boys who are not transformed into men remain boys. And when too many boys do not grow up into men, women suffer and society suffers.

What is a man (as opposed to a boy)? The traditional understanding was that a man is he who takes responsibility for others-for his family, his community and his county-and, of course, for himself  A man stood for ideals and values higher than himself.. He conducted himself with dignity. And he was strong.

For much of American history, making boys into men was understood to be of supreme importance, and society was usually successful. When I was a boy in the 1950s, without anyone expressly defining it, I knew what a man was supposed to be. And I knew that society, not to mention my parents, expected me to be one. It went without explicitly saying so that I would have to make a living, support myself as soon as possible and support a family thereafter.

When I acted immaturely, I was told to be or act like a man. I wonder how many boys are told to "be a man" today, and if they were, would they have a clue as to what that meant? Many families and society as a whole seem to have forgotten boys need to be made into men.

There are numerous reasons:

The distinction between men and boys has been largely obliterated.     The older males that many American boys encounter are essentially older boys, not men.  They speak, dress, and act similarly (think of men who "high-five" young boys instead of shaking their hands). And they are almost all called by their by their first names. Even when a boy (or a girl) addressed an adult male as "Mr.," many men will correct the young boy or girl--"call me" and then give the young person his first name. This is often true even with regard to teachers, physicians and members of the clergy. The two individuals have been essentially equated. Boys need men to respect. It's not impossible to do so when they call men by their first names, but it makes it much harder.

Boys today have fewer adult men in their lives. Many boys are not raised by any father. More are not raised by a father who lives in the home full time. Nearly every teacher and principal American boys have in elementary and [sometimes even in]  high school is a female...

The ideals of masculinity and femininity have been largely rendered extinct. Feminism, arguably the most influential American movement of the 20th century, declared war on the concepts of femininity and masculinity. And for much of the population, it was victorious. Indeed, thanks to the feminist teaching that male and female beings are essentially the same (note, incidentally, that no one argues that male and female animals are the same, only human beings are), untold numbers of boys have been raised as if they were like girls. They were denied masculine toys such as play guns and toy soldiers, and their male forms of play--e.g. roughhousing-were banned.

America has become a rights-centered rather than a responsibility-centered society. Aside from helping to produce a pandemic of narcissism, the rights-centered mindset is the opposite of the obligation/responsibility-centered mindset that makes a boy into a man. It is not good for either sex to be rights-preoccupied; but it is particularly devastating to developing men, as men are supposed to be obligation-directed. The baby-boomer generation helped destroy manhood in most of the ways described here. One additional example was its widespread slogan, "Make love, not war." One cannot come up with a more unmanly piece of advice. "Don't fight for your country [fornicate instead]." If the greatest generation had adopted that motto, Hitter and Tojo would have won. A few years ago, the city of Chicago named a street after Hugh Hefner, a man who has played games much of the day and night, lived in pajamas and devoted his life to sex- quite a model of manhood for American boys.

There are few places where men can bond with other men. One major way men become men is by associating with other good men. The only place left where this normally takes place are sports teams and the military. The same holds true for boys. And much of society is now working on breaking the most significant all-boys institution, the Boy Scouts.

Males no longer have distinctive roles. Men do best when they are relied upon, when needed, and they feel most needed when they do something distinct from women. This exists today in sports and military. It is symbolic-significantly so-that there are no more "men at work". Now "people" are at work. "Men" have disappeared. 

Many churches and synagogues have been feminized. This has occurred in at least three important ways: Clergy are increasingly female (and touchy-feely males)-for the first time in Christian and Jewish history, God is often depicted as androgynous and no longer either demanding or judging (He just "loves" all the time); and religion has been changed from morally and theologically demanding to a therapeutic model...

Instead of the traditional American model of masculinity, which was a rare combination of masculine toughness and stoicism with doing good (i.e., Superman), boys are now taught to be preoccupied with their feelings and with (unearned) self-esteem. They are not even allowed to lose; all boys playing a sport are given trophies, not just winners. 

Increasingly, marriage is regarded as optional.  The most obvious expression of men assuming responsibility-marrying a woman and taking care of her and their children-is no longer a male ideal. Vast numbers of men quite openly admit to having problems with the C-word (commitment) and with the responsibility of being a family's sole breadwinner.

When boys do not become men, women assume their roles. But they are not happy doing so. There are any number of reasons American women suffer from depression more than ever before and more than men. It is difficult to believe that one of those reasons is not the very emasculation of men that the movement working in their name helped to bring about. And so, a vicious cycle has commenced-men stop being men; women become man-like; men retreat even further from their manly role, and women get sadder.
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To whatever degree you may or may not agree with Mr. Prager's analysis of a major social problem, his "take" on this matter received remarkable if unintended confirmation in a single issue of the New York Times, published less than a week after his comments had appeared in the Washington Times. In the special section entitled Style (a regular feature of the Sunday Times that deals with contemporary life-styles ) for January 31st  not one but two featured stories provided dramatic illustration of what Dennis Prager was talking about, namely the phenomenon of middle-aged men habitually and deliberately behaving like boys, and of boys in their "tweens"--from age 10 to the onset of adolescence-being brainwashed to behave like girls. The following are a few excerpts from the two articles in question: first, from the story about men in their fifties going to extravagant lengths to behave and to feel as if they were "Twelve Again" (the name they chose for their group).
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Six Mississippis and Counting [a.k.a. On Sunday Morning: "Play? Si! Pray? No!"]
   By: Michael Winerip
   The New York Times, January 31, 2010

On Wednesday mornings, Andy Lupo, 51, sends out his weekly chain-e-mail message to the guys: "How we looking for Sunday?"

Mr. Lupo is counting heads for the regular Sunday 10 a.m. touch football game. And if there's one thing he has learned about keeping a pickup game going from September to April, 30 Sundays a year for 20 years-thirough rain, sleet, snow, ice as well as his own torn rotator cuff, Abrey Light's four broken fingers, Jim Sennehy's two fractured ribs and Glenn Christie's career-ending ligament tear-it's to leave zero to chance.

"If you e-mail Andy at 1 a.m., he answers back at 1:05," said Jack Hayon, 54, an Educational Testing Service vice president who has been playing "just seven years."

On Thursday of that week, Mr. Lupo reported, "Still early, but looks like a good turnout."

By Saturday, he was reporting that despite Nelson Obus's torn meniscus, "We should have 21." And they did.

Mr. Lupo, an executive at an investment bank, and Mr. Light, 51, a general manager for a software company-both present at the first game in 1990--arrive early to lay out orange cones marking the field.

Lyle Girandola, 50, soon appears out of the woods at the back of the field, a misty figure pushing a wheelbarrow with a wrought-iron firepot to keep the subs warm on the sideline.

Anthony Costa, 54, arrives on his bike after Mass at St. David the King, which makes Mr. Lupo took bad because he tells his wife, Carolyn, that he has to miss church because of the game. H. Fenster, 47, drives the farthest, about 35 minutes from Hillsborough. Everyone brings both their red AND blue jerseys since Mr. Lupo keeps it a SECRET what team they'll be on until game time.

"Andy has his black box formula for picking teams," said Karl Dentino, 53, a marketing executive. His GOAL is to make teams that are so balanced each week, the game ends in a TIE. About half of them do.[That way no one goes home humiliated].


"I play Sunday, I can't lift my arm until Thursday," said Steve Tosches, 53, a quarter-back, who coached Princeton's football leam for many years.

"We're afraid the game will end when someone drops dead, " Mr. Light said.

"That's why I have this," said Mr. Lupo, throwing open his trunk, and waving a defibrillator high in the air...

[Mr. Lupo said] We're not looking for the great triathiete. If your wife is saying: 'What are you crazy? At your age?' That's the guy we want."

Those wives. In the early years when the kids were young, it was harder. The men were working all week, then gone Sunday morning, too?

"My wife was a little bit on my back," Mr. Light said. "I was taking away our Sundays. She didn't get it. " But after 10 or 15 years, he wore her down.

"I know nothing about football," Susan Light said. "After the game, he gives me the play by play. I say that's great or that's too bad-I can just tell if it's positive or negative. The big thing-he's happy and calmer after he plays, so I'm happy."

There's a final element every sports classic needs, a legend, a Gipper, a Bambino. For the "Twelve Again" league, it's Mr. Slepman, the first commissioner, and by all accounts, a quippy, civic-minded, big-hearted guy who taught Mr. Lupo everything he knows about running a Sunday touch football league for slow old men. In October, 2001, Mr. Slepman, a banker, collapsed on the commuter train home from Manhattan. He had a brain tumor, and on January 13, 2003  he died. Every "Twelve Again" player attended his funeral. Mr. Slepman was buried in his blue jersey and today the to wn field they play on is named for him .... [Why I am reminded somehow of the words of Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who designed among other public buildings, London's St. Paul's Cathedral and who on one occasion exclaimed: If you're searching for my monuments, do but look around you!"]
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And here are some excerpts from the New York Times story about a rapidly and expanding billion dollar market that for its success depends on the feminization of boys. (And note the absence of a father figure in the household that the story highlights).
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Masculinity in a Spray Can
By: Jan Hoffman
From: The New York Times
Sunday, January 31, 2010

One bathroom in Stefanie Mullen's home in a suburb of San Diego is stocked with enough products to line an aisle in a drugstore: Body wash. Face Wash. Exfoliator. Exfoliating Wash. Body hydrator. Body Spray. Deodorant. Shaving Crearn. Shampoos and conditioner. Hair gel, of course.

All told, 18 different containers.

They belong to her sons Noah Assaraf, 13, and Keenan Assaraf, 14. They have been dousing themselves for years.

"Every day they walk out the door in a cloud of spray-on macho, " Mrs. Mullen said.

When the boys pile into her car, that's her cue to roll down her window, no matter the weather. "The smell drives me nuts."

In some respects, there's nothing new about the allure that grooming products and colognes hold for young men....

But in recent years, the products, ostensibly marketed to older teenagers, have reached into the turbulent, vulnerable world of their little brothers, ages 10 to 14 ["tweens"].

Mike Dwyer, brand development director for Axe, the bane of parental olfactory nerves, said, "We're clear that the Axe target is 18-to-24-year old guys, but we recognize that we have older and younger users"  ......

Many psychologists, parents, market researchers and middle-schoo lprincipals (with drawers full of confiscated spray cans) report a sharp surge in the last few years in the use of grooming products by TWEEN BOYS. In a December 2007 report on teenage and tween grooming products, Packaged Facts, a marketresearch firm, projected that worldwide retail sales for boys ages 8 to 19 would be almost $1.9 BILLION.

Perhaps more telling: Axe and its ilk have even become essential props in the latest tween NOVELS like Rosalind Wiseman's "Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials."

The surge is certainly due in large measure to new marketing strategies....

Boys themselves, at a younger age, have also become increasingly self-conscious about their appearance and identity. They are trying... to position themselves with their lexting, titillating, brand-savy female peers....

"More insecurity equals more product need, equals more opportunity for marketers," said Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University.

For "Gen Buy," a new book she co-authored about marketing to tweens and teenagers, Ms. Yarrow held focus groups with boys. "The 10-year-olds are copying the 14-year-olds, trying to be cool," she said. "Everything is moving down the spectrum. It's getting younger and more pronounced....

To engage boys, marketers rely.... on interactive Web sites creating communities of young fans .... What further DRIVES the boys' RUSH to the products are GIRLS themselves. Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for the market research firm NPD Group, said that in a recent survey, 41 percent of boys ages 8 to 18 said that one of their bestfriends was a girl.

"They shop with girls, and GIRLS INFLUENCE THEM," Cohen said, much as girls in the hit nickelodeon tween show I Carly" hold sway over Freddie, their hapless male buddy.

Boys are paying attention to personal brands more than ever because it's too easy to be criticized virally by a girl," said Pat Fiore, a market consultant for body image products in Morristown, N.J. 'The peer pressure is slarting from the girls...."

These girls are also becoming sexualized at earlier ages, applying lip gloss and wearing racier clothes. Boys,  a  bewildered developmental step or three behind feel additional pressure to catch up.

Ms. Wiseman, who also wrote "Queen Bees & Wannabes," a nonfiction book about the social pecking order of tween girls, speaks with students around the country. Even in rural North Dakota, she said, 12-year-old boys were highlighting their hair, a focus on appearance that was almost non-existent five years ago....

With consumer researchers pumping out reports on strategies to attract tween boys... a nd the success over all of the expanding multibillion dollar male grooming products industry, the market is hardly saturated.

A shopper browsing the aisles of a Perfumania, a discount fragrance chain, can find products that allow boys to start brand attachments and grooming habits even SOONER than the tweens. SpongeBob SquarePants Eau de Toilette Spray for Boys, anyone?
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And finally, under the rubric of men who behave like women, in the same Style section of the very same issue of the Times, ensconced amid announcements of engagements and marriages, the photograph appeared of a smiling young couple whose civil union had just been formalized by a New Jersey superior court judge. A civil union? Yep! That's what it's called these days.
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