One thing that I have noticed on the AoM is the Romanticism of World War 2. The Greatest Generation myth is forwarded here a lot.
I want to first of all say that I am not condemning the armed forces of the united states or the allied powers at the time. I am just saying that there is a myth0s that has now surrounded that time may be heavily misplaced. Nor am I saying that I do not understand things like the Dachau massacre where members of the 45th Infantry Division killed hundreds of the SS prison guards but that does not excuse them from breaking the law of war and conducting mass murder.( though they were tried general Patton dismissed the case)
Many of the testimonials of soldiers from that time contain stories about the shooting of German POWs and other war crimes against them and the civilian populations they occupied.
I say this because I recently read Black Hearts which is making the rounds on the reccomended lists of most senior officers in the army. It is about the deployment of the 1/502nd IN during 2005 and the terrible leadership that enabled the raping of a 14 year old Iraqi Girl by an american soldier and the killing of her and her family. The story is one that I made me very frustrated and I have seen many NCOs reading it throw it across their vehicles/ the range in anger and frustration for the few redeeming leaders in the whole situation.
What prompted this question was when the author pointed out that despite this and a few other well publicized incidents the United States military in Iraq/Afganistan has been a statistically much better behaved than the force that liberated western europe. See the Book Taken by Force for more statistics on it.
I understand that one big issue is that many of these crimes are not reported or investigated during the time of conflict, good upstanding moral men who have the courage to stand up to Rapists cannot be everywhere at once. I know from my experience in the Army that the Military is trying hard to fight this within its ranks.
The bottom line is I worry that we on this site try many times to cherry pick the past for bits of worthwhile manliness in the past without looking at the larger context of that manliness. I would hope that many people look at the manly Ideas proposed here as a new model that is trying to reassert masculinity in modernity while leaving behind the chauvinism Racism, violence and Sexism that had infected earlier manifestations.
Of course this site cherry picks the past for bits of worthwhile manliness. It is from those examples that we learn to be better men. Have you read any of Brett's articles on the main site? All depict the best examples of manliness throughout history. In all they display men who show respect for themselves, for other men, women, and all mankind. Many of which were unknown by today's men due to being raised in an environment where only new feminist models of masculinity were considered proper and regardless of the message, these older models were considered wrong simply because they are unashamedly from a man's perspective.
I would argue that too many other groups cherry pick the opposite so instead of showing that men in former times were both heroes and villains as all people can be, they attempt to portray traditional masculinity as a bad thing and as something that needs to be purged from society.
None of my grandparents or their fellow members of the greatest generation that I knew growing up ever appeared to be more chauvinistic or ungentleman-like to women than any raised in our current "new model" system. For all of them, I would say the opposite was true. Imagine, an entire generation raised without the "benefits" of a modern feministic upbringing yet none of them ever hurt women or showed any excessive intolerance to their fellow men.
Personally, it is views like those expressed in your final paragraph that have drawn me to AOM in the first place. Mind you, I don't say this to insult you. Nor do I have an animosity towards you. But your last few sentences resonate with how I feel about what I believe to be a serious problem in our society.
Nick H I agree with you, but I just want to make sure that we as a community are conscious toward it. Also many of the heroes we look to were womanizers and chauvenists. I don't know your grandparents, nor assume to but I know that mine have had opinions that evolved with them and sometimes have holdovers from times when domestic violence was much more acceptable and the law reflected this. This is just one example.
Yes I have read the site and I think that it does a good job of trying to manage these contradictions.
I also think that there is a attempt here, maybe not so much on the site but in the community to point the finger at femminism as the destroyer of manlihood when I personally think it is more the fault of men themselves. I look to my own self a lot as I was mostly raised by my mother and sometimes do have a hard time relating to a all male environment (Though that is what I am in oddly enough). I also find that I didn't have the kind of active mentorship that is advocated in this site by my father but had some of it from my step father and the majority from my mother. I really do reject the notion that a man cannot be a man without having had a strong father figure in his life the whole time.
I think that we can fix these problems better than some professors in a womens studies department but it will take a very engaged conversation and actual action from more community leaders.
You raise a good point about WWII and in general the past.
You cannot disregard what was accomplished because of a few a-holes. The same way you can't disregard great men who had some negative traits.
I agree that we need to acknowledge the bad things that happened, but the good FAR outweighs the bad in this instance.
No man is perfect, you have to take the good with the bad.
General Patton, for instance, was a brazen anti-semite and made some questionable appointments to lead civilian populations of seized German towns. But I'll be damned if he doesn't have more than a few dozen great inspirational quotes that really get me out of bed in the morning.
I was going to put this in the Grandfathers in WW2 posting, but I think this fit here better.
The two men in my life who were in that war were my dad and father-in-law. Neither spoke of his experiences, and I regret not pressing them as they are no longer with us.
But my father-in-law, a supplier pilot who flew "the hump" ferrying supplies to whatever theater was out there, could have easily boasted about his involvement. He didn't.
In the last years of his life, I mentioned to him that I just saw the Ken Burns series on the war, and what an eye-opener it was for me. He turned and looked at me without emotion, and coldy said "why anyone would want to put that war on television is beyond me."
Sounds like something my father would have said.
I recently learned that my uncle's greatest act of bravery in WWII wasn't for fighting the enemy, but for punching an officer who was bullying the enlisted men. He should have been court marshalled, but the Australian Navy was so desperate for men that he was redeployed to a troop ship. I spoke to one of his compatriots from the same ship who told a story about the captain going mad and steaming ahead of the fleet to engage the Japanese with a lightly armed troop carrier. He was confined to his quarters until the junior officers had navigated their way to join the rest of the fleet, as they were instructed. Captain was released, thanked his officers, and nothing was recorded.
I'm sure there are plenty of stories of bravery and cowardice, honour and selfishness, that will never make it to the history books.
I read an unusual story once about a man from my home who, despite fighting for the British, was "awarded" an iron cross in WWI. He captured a group of German soldiers and marched them at gunpoint back behind his lines to be interred. On his way he came across a British officer who took possession of the prisoners. The officer then drew his weapon on them and ordered his men to shoot them (which was illegal). The Germans, who didn't understand English but knew what was happening, panicked. The man who first brought them then drew his own rifle on the officer making it clear that if he shot a German the next death would be his. The officer backed down and considering his own actions were illegal didn't peruse it further. Seeing what happened and understanding, a German officer within the prisoners approached the man, took the iron cross off his own self, and awarded it to the man with the other prisoners saluting. Story sounds like a Hollywood myth moment but the book I read claims it was witnessed by several other men and the medal was still in a war museum in Canada.
If you need the asterisks of history articulated to you in order for you to understand that someone else realizes that these Men had flaws like any other human being, then attempting to do so is irrelevant.
P.S. Jefferson owned slaves, too.
And in the case of Sally Hemings, he did a lot more than own them.
Well if you owned a couch, you'd sit on it wouldn't you?