The Space that Divides Us


History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen

divisive

2016 is proving to be quite the divisive year.  With Donald Trump’s far right pandering and Bernie Sander’s constant democratic socialist message there is quite a bit of space between the leading Republican nominee and an insurgent, but clear #2 on the Democratic side. The 2016 race aside, other sociopolitical groups have popped up like Black Lives Matter, Social Justice Warriors, and 3rd wave feminists that have found a home on many college campuses to combat injustices (real or imagined) they see in society.

With that as a backdrop, the University of Massachusetts’s college Republicans hosted a panel session several months ago about how far political correctness has gone and whether or not it hurts the freedom of speech. The panel included feminist author and philosophy professor Christina Hoff Sommers (whom I’m a huge fan of) Britbart (a conservative publication) editor Milo Yiannopoulos who is also a British, flamboyant homosexual, and Trump supporter, and conservative comedian Steven Crowder. While Sommers is an academic, Yiannopoulos and Crowder are professional provocateurs and were heavy with the insults. The video was dubbed “The Triggering” so that may give you a hint of what happened.

With “PC (political correct) culture” as the topic Yiannopoulos and Crowder where aggressive in their examples of how PC culture hurts the freedom of speech and Sommers took a more scholarly route. Their discussion proved infinitely more interesting by the constant interrupting and insult throwing from the crowd, which ironically was the problem they were addressing. They were being shouted down by people who were not part of the College Republican organization and insulted because their views differed from the social justice warrior crowd. While I detested many of their views, particularly Yiannopoulos and Crowder’s I certainly supported their right to say them and present them, they were invited after all to do this. They could have just sat their and said nothing and proved their point that many of the protesters were blocking their free speech in an attempt to make everything politically correct, but it actually was a fairly interesting video.

This event, and the reaction to it is a small microcosm of what you see played out in a grand stage in America, and it’s only happened on a large scale in the past 5 years or so. Terms like “cis-gendered” “white male privilege” “the patriarchy” “Trigger Warnings” and “Safe Spaces” were not terms in the common vernacular in 2010. Now they are common place in some different groups, mainly on college campuses. I don’t want to parrot the video too much but I agree with the panelists and say the main reason for this are ultra-liberal views are being coddled and reinforced by certain professors instead of being challenged, which is what is supposed to happen to your views in college. But I digress, this post isn’t about the video.

The folks who perpetuate these views are not doing so because they are bad people, in fact they are doing it out of a seemingly noble cause. They want people to not be hurt. They want to eliminate racism, and sexism, and otherisms, which is a great. However, instead of debating ideologies or ideas that perpetuate those discrimination they simply wish to silence them, becoming regressive instead of progressive. This is harmful on 2 fronts:
1. Being silenced doesn’t make anything go away or change anyone’s mind it only entrenches people more and have the silenced side gain more sympathetic ears because they are the ones who were wronged.
2. It hurts your view. People who may have been interested in learning more from a debate have been robbed of that chance. People who share your views may start to abhor your tactics and your “side” suddenly shrinks

#2 is certainly what happened to me. As I’ve said many times on here I’m a progressive person, I certainly want to eliminate racism, and sexism, and anything else that divides people, but the thing I see dividing people the most is this massive attempt at censorship over anything that may hurt people’s feelings. The TV show South Park may hurt other people’s feelings but if people like watching it, it should exist. People who don’t can simply change the channel and I will always hold freedom of expression and speech over someone being offended, and will forever hold myself to the notion that “While I may detest what you say, I will defend to my death for your right to say it”

But of course the social justice crowd is not without their foils. On the other side you have actual bigots, and sexists and with the rise of Donald Trump, and they are all coming out of the woodwork. Some of his rhetoric includes banning the immigration of Muslims, walling off Mexico and making Mexicans pay for it, calling many of the former terrorists, and the later rapists… And this is the guy that beat 16 other challengers for the nomination of a major political party.

It’s a stark and almost comical contrast when you have on one side a large group of people who’s number 1 interest is protecting the rights of women and minorities and people of the LGBT community, who want people to check their privilege and really think about what they say as to not to offend anyone. While on the other you have people attending massive rallies to see what casually sexist, off the cuff remark a presidential candidate is going to make next. This is a man who is not only loved for saying offensive and aggressive things but advocates his followers “beat the crap” out of those who protest and have a different point of view than him. This is the same type of censorship you see with the social justice warriors, who on occasion have threatened and actually assaulted people who have attended events where the speaker is conservative.

While there are still people who don’t belong to either extreme, these people are shrinking as each side grows louder. Sometimes tribe mentality is too strong. But these too sides are obviously incorrigible. One side wants everyone to be sensitive to the emotions of everyone else and the other goes out of its way to offend people. If there was a neutral person, each side may be able to get them to understand their point of view. However, if a social justice warrior tried to get a Trump supporter to understand what a trans-gendered person is would be a major hurdle, and even if they were successful explaining that, going to the next level of explaining why the trans-gendered bathroom laws are bad would be more than they could take. In contrast a social justice warrior will stick their fingers in their ears until a Trump supporter finished his rationale about how immigrants are mostly criminals. It has reached a point past debate.

The divide first started with President Obama when congressional Republicans wanted him to fail and be a 1 term president because (depending on which side your on) “he didn’t want to work with Republicans” or “he’s black” and it’s only gotten worse from there. From having leaders openly rooting for our leader to fail, to shutting down the government, and the rise of the tea party and PC culture we’ve become more of a divisive nation that any time in recent memory. With Donald Trump heading into the GOP convention and colleges that are now graduating pro PC college students the space that divides us is bigger than ever.

Being the Hectagon


History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen

hecatohedron

This past summer I worked for the 3rd summer in a row at an overnight Christian Youth Summer Camp. One of the prized assignments is doing a “mobile camp.” This is where you and 1-2 other counselors go off site to a church in the region and run a day camp there. You’re done around 3 and the rest of the day is yours instead of working all day like at camp. Not only that instead of spending a week in a hot, smelly, cabin, with kids but you get an actual bed, with sheet, and air conditioning.

That summer I wanted to do the entire summer sleeveless. I took a bunch of silly shirts that I wouldn’t wear normally, cut the sleeves off, and that would be my summer wardrobe. It prevented a farmers tan, keep me cooler in the sun, and I enjoyed showing off my arms.

The last week of camp I got one of those prized mobile camps. Not only that, but I would have several local high schoolers help us out with the kids, and we only had 12. Should be easy, and fun. And it was. During the week though, I had to leave to go on a job interview. I had to run back to camp (where I was living year round at the time) and grab my dress shirt, pants, shoes, and a tie for the interview. I walked around camp for a little while dressed in those clothes and had a lot of weird looks from some of the counselors, saying I look so different than usual. I laughed acknowledging I did, then went to the interview (nailed it) and then drove back to my mobile assignment.

Upon returning to the church with my “camp clothes” I had the following conversation with one of the high school kids that was helping:
Kid: “Hey Mr. Paul where were you this morning? I heard you had a job interview. What for?”
Me: “I was interviewing for a teaching position”
Kid: “Oh like a gym teacher?”
Me: “No, a history teacher.”
Kid: “Oh but I thought you like sports and stuff, you look like you could be a gym teacher”
Me: “Well I do, but I also like reading and writing a lot too.”
Kid: “Really… weird”

It was at that moment I learned I was being judged by how I dressed. I’m sure it happens to everyone. I also had one of my fellow counselors tell me they thought I was a total “bro” when they first met me but learned that I was more of an “enlightened bro” or “nerdy bro”

We as humans love to categorize. We categorize people by religions, politics, sports fans, economics, regions, cities, races, genders…everything. If you’re a man I can make some assumptions about you. If you’re a black man I can make more assumptions, if you’re a poor black man more assumptions, and a poor black man from the south even more…

Should I? No. Do people do it? Yes. Human beings are do not come in a one size fit all model. We have a natural fear of the unknown, so making assumptions about someone or something acts a defensive mechanism so that we fool ourselves into thinking we do know about someone or something when we really don’t.

But there’s another side to this as well. The reason why we can categorize is another human instinct: To belong to a group. We feel the need to belong so we change things about ourselves to fit into a group. There may be subtle differences in a group of “Goths” but they’re all going to want and try to be as similar as possible. Lots of white make up, black clothes, depressing attitudes, and loud music.

In high school this is the most apparent. Kids trying to be “cool” so they try fitting into a certain group by acting or dressing a certain way. It’s not always a conscious decision too. A previous post I made about “group think” highlights that. One person puts out an idea that most of the group agrees with, that idea gets echoed or enhanced by others and soon the idea is echoed and enhanced so much that it becomes part of that group’s identity.

I was able to see this from the outsider perspective in high school. It wasn’t that I didn’t have any friends, I did, but I didn’t want to fall into any particular group. So I would float from group to group. During tennis or soccer season I would spend a lot of time with other players or if I had a class of people I enjoyed I would spend time with them. I would joke that I was just “you’re typical upper middle class white boy” which is what all my friends were despite trying to concise themselves as “preps” “jocks” “nerds” “punks” or whatever the latest trend was.

Flash forward to the future and what am I now? I teach history, I coach tennis, I do Christian ministry with kids. And that’s just my jobs. I also like to game online, read, flirt, drink, go out, stay in.. and 100 other things. So what am I? Depends what day you catch me on and what hat I decide to wear.

Predictability leads to monotony. No one should have you pegged after talking with you for 5 minutes. No one your have you pegged at all. Human beings are the most diverse species of anything on the planet. There is nothing you can compare us to. There will never be another “you” in the history of the world. There never was a “you” and there never will be another “you” so trying to make yourself like any other person for the simple reason as to “fit in” is understandable but a disservice to yourself and your “youness.”

So I would challenge you not try and be a square to fit into a square hole. Be a hectagon and have 100 sides to you. Every interaction you have with someone they should be able to find out something new about you. Surprise others with who you are and you might even surprise yourself.

Sinning Boldly and Laying it on the Line


History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen

martin-luther

There was a concept that I was taught years ago called “sinning boldly.” No, it’s not doing egregiously bad things with pride. It’s from a letter that theologian and founder of Lutheranism, Martin Luther wrote. In a letter he said to “Let your sins be bold.” Certainly he didn’t mean to only commit the most offensive sins but something else.

He meant to try. When coming across a problem there are 3 decisions that you can end up making. You can make a choice and it effectively solves the problem, you can make the same choice and it does not solve the problem, or you can do nothing.

Obviously we would all like to be in the situation where we make correct choices. But we can’t always make the right decision in life. Sometimes we go left when we should have turned right, it happens.

It may seem like the other two options are equal. Making a wrong choice or no choice both leaves us at square one, with a problem. But while they are equal in where they leave you they are not equal in character.

Let’s assume that you are offered what could be your dream job. However, this job is across the country. It’s a new company and could possibly go under if it doesn’t do well. It pays very well, has great benefits, and you would be doing something you love. You look for apartments in the area and they’re all pricey and you would have to sign a year long lease at all of them. There is a level of risk and reward with this.

You have 3 outcomes. 1. You take the job and it works out. The your high rent is no problem because of your new paycheck. the company survives and you become very successful.

2. You take the job and it doesn’t work out. The company doesn’t survive and now you’re locked in an expensive apartment and you don’t have the income to thrive. You have to find a new job fast and you know it probably won’t pay as well and you don’t know anybody.

3. You don’t go.

In option 1 and 2 you make a decision. You take a chance, and that is what life is all about. In life we have to risk things. We risk our relationships, our success, our financial Independence. We don’t do it in a reckless way. Should you risk your family by developing a heroin addiction? No. But we have to risk some things sometimes to get the reward. I wouldn’t think highly of someone if they told me they had a chance to take a dream job but decided not to go because it might not work out.

Sometimes the best thing we can do it put ourselves out there. To lay it all on the line. Maybe it’s telling someone how you feel about it. Consequences be damned, tell someone how you feel and if it doesn’t work then at leas you tried. Maybe it’s taking that next step at work to be considered for a promotion if it becomes available. To put out everything you done for it to be criticized in the hopes of your work being good enough. Artists do it all the time. Being able to quit a “normal” job and entering the competitive field of music/acting/show business is one of the hardest decisions to make.

The biggest thing people are afraid of is being vulnerable. That’s because it’s so precious. Relationships grow the fastest when people allow themselves to be vulnerable with each other. My friends and I have grown the fastest together when we cope after a tough break up, the death of a family member, and with other tragedies. We are there to listen, to cope with, and when the shoe it on the other foot, to reciprocate. The same can be said for my romantic relationships, show each other through spending time with each other that we care so we can let our guard down. Would a relationship last if there was a constant emotional wall up? Could one even be started?

Sinning boldly means to put yourself out there.  Laying it on the line. It’s not a guarantee of success and it may blow up in your face but… you won’t live a life of regrets. Laying it on the line with someone you hope to be a significant other can leave them laughing at you. You drop out of college and enter the NFL draft but you blow out your ACL in your 1st game. These decisions will burn but you won’t lay awake at night wondering “what if”

Sinning boldly (and responsibly) will leave you with 2 results. Success and or living free from regrets.

A Farewell to Jon Stewart


History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen

jon-stewart

When I first saw Jon Stewart I remember it very vividly. It was 2002 when I was in the 6th grade. It was that awkward phase of life where I was starting to watch TV shows that aren’t the Disney channel and Nickelodeon. A friend of mine was at my house and put on comedy central and had some shows that I enjoyed so we kept watching. The Daily Show eventually came on. He groaned said, “I don’t get this show… it’s like news…but not, I think they tell jokes but I don’t get it.” We kept it on as we played a game but I started to realize what satire was though I didn’t know it by that name at that point in my life. From that point on I watched the show more and more. By high school I was hooked, watching it (and later Colbert) religiously every night.

The Daily Show and Jon Stewart had something so genuine about them. Even though most of what he was saying wasn’t true, it was always steeped in truth. Speaking truth to power seemed wholly American to me, starting from even before the American Revolution. This was seen explicitly as he would bash the absurdity of the Bush administration but use his talents with the same veracity, mock the Obama administration as well when it was absurd. Not to mention his epic segments on the media, talking heads, and anyone that was being disingenuous, corrupt, or oppressive.

Sometimes his bits would be more poignant than funny, others would have a juvenile joke around every corner, but would not be a deep and insightful point. He always knew which take to use on a particular issue.

As many people know now Jon Stewart is leaving his show sometime this year. When I first heard I thought it was one of those UN FUNNY fake news sites that have 0 humor in their stories but just print false stories to incite people. But, I read the comedy central statement and eventually saw him make the announcement on his show when it aired.

When it sunk in I felt a genuine sadness. Not an “oh that’s a shame” fickle sadness but The Daily Show was something that I grew up on and helped shaped my adolescent development. Even more than the personal loss I felt, was the loss to a nation. (I’m a drama Queen I know, but stay with me) Stewart would say what most news shows wouldn’t know how or weren’t allowed to say. But his show would be played in many news shows as a proxy to say what news casters were thinking. With Colbert doing a “real” late night show, and Jon Stewart leaving for “other things” I wonder who will fill his legendary shoes?

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was a show unlike any other and likely won’t come around again, though John Oliver does his best imitation on HBO. It not like he’s dead though and I wonder what comes next from Stewart but I assume it will be great. But as for The Daily Show, the best #@$%king news team, and the “Most Trusted Name in News” he will be missed by millions.

Euphemisms: Hiding from reality, or being inclusive?


History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen

245px-Sir_Winston_S_Churchill

When I was little my parents were very critical if I used the words “shut-up” “sucks” “crap” and some other PG-13 words. (Let’s forget using curse words) And that makes sense to a certain extent. What parent wants their children talking crassly? But instead of not saying things like that they gave me euphemisms to say instead. Like don’t say “dang it” (sounds too close to damn it) say “aw fiddlesticks” Fiddlesticks? As in I should just say something that is part of a musical instrument when something doesn’t go my way? That doesn’t make sense, but it was a favorite euphemism used by my parents. Unless of course something really bad happened, then sometimes a good ole “aw fiddlesticks” didn’t exactly show how they felt.

Which is true of many euphemisms. It seems that there are two reasons to use them. The first being to say a bad word by saying a nicer more appropriate word. The word “retarded” which according to dictionary.com means “characterized by a slowness or limitation in intellectual understanding and awareness, emotional development, academic progress” isn’t allowed to be used anymore, even though it is a very descriptive and precise word. But now we have “intellectually challenged” “slow” “intellectually disabled” and others which in my opinion sound worse that “retarded” but people are offended by it so I won’t say it. I don’t mind. 

This is seen a lot for different types of minorities (another euphemism) where different and better sounding terms have replaced older and more derogatory names. Which is great. The world used to be a weird place where racist and other derogatory terms were used without a 2nd thought. My mom would always tell me to get my “cotton pickin hands” out of things, only realizing it was a slavery reference years later… thanks mom.

But overall euphemisms are useful and try to get rid of a lot of ugliness in the world, like antibody for diction.

But in some cases the antibody goes to far and diseases like Lupus occur. And just like with antibodies, euphemisms are liked so much they start showing up in silly places at best and sad places at worst.

It happened to make things sound nicer that reality itself has started to get warped.

The word “adult” has become a great one, always meaning something bad.

If I’m going out for evening to enjoy some “adult beverages” …I’m out getting hammered on alcohol all night, and when I come back If I catch my roommate enjoying some “adult film” …he was watching porn.

I don’t want to think about my grandfather dying… he’s just “asleep with Jesus” But it’s okay because he wasn’t old he was just “chronologically challenged.”

During the Bush administration we didn’t torture anyone, or even water board and make people seem like they were drowning…he just had some highly special “enhanced interrogation tactics.”

So… are these euphemisms a form of lying? Wait..The word “lying” sounds harsh. It should, because lies are hurtful. “Spinning” sounds less harsh. Ah much better…

But “spinning” constitutes “lying,” so why not call it what it is?
Why don’t we call a lot of things what they are? Again, not saying that we go back to the days where women, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and others used to be called derogatory names as their only names. Euphemisms are great there.

Imagine if I wrote this without any euphemisms? I doubt I’d have many friends left.

But since when are dumps landfills, motels are motor lodges, house trailers are mobile homes, used cars are previously owned transportation, doctors in hospitals are health care professionals in wellness centers…

Is it any wonder when we see a group of lesbian motorcyclists term themselves “Dykes on Bikes.” and Eve Ensler titles her play “Vagina Monologues.” and we stop and gawk at such “bold terms?” When in fact the only reason they are bold is because they are calling things what they are…and being a little crass.

Comedians become famous for speaking plainly. Where for an hour or two you get to watch somebody calling things what they are without a censoring society that forces us to call things in their “nicest” (or silliest) forms?

I’d write a letter to my congressmen but our government is our biggest users of euphemisms. We no longer have a “Department of War” because that would be too true and too harsh. Now it’s the dept of defense (yet somehow all of our wars are on foreign territory)

They trim “pork” because needless waste isn’t what the people want to hear, it takes them too long to connect the dots that pork = wasted tax dollars.

They were also behind “freedom fries,” “freedom toast,” and “freedom kissing” as some sophomoric euphemism to “stick it” (another euphemism) to the French.

Freedom kissing isn’t the only “nice” term for something sexual. We’re so afraid of sex and drugs that there are literally THOUSANDS of things we could say to convey that sexual intercourse was engaged or drugs were used. We’re so afraid or weirded out by sex and drugs that we will write books just to avoid saying the plain truth. Urban dictionary is full of colorful and creative terms if you’re ever struggling for a euphemism.

Not everyone is afraid to speak the truth though so I’ll leave you with this story.

Once during a dinner party, British statesman Winston Churchill asked the server for a breast of chicken. A woman sitting next to Churchill scolded him for uttering the vulgar word “breast.” Churchill wondered how he should have phrased the request to the server. “White meat,” came the reply. The next day, Churchill sent the woman a corsage along with the message “Pin this on your white meat.”

Laughing Gas


History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen

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Ever hear the saying “laughter is the best medicine”? I don’t know if I’d ever surrender myself to say the “best” medicine but it certainly can cure what ails you. What is laughter anyway? It’s a mystery to most people. No one can pinpoint and say “this is universally funny” some people have hacky humor, some have dark humor, some have a sexualized view on humor. What’s funny to you may not be funny to your friend and that’s okay, but also kind of weird…

What kind of things do we laugh at? Everyone laughs at something but no one laughs at everything. If you see an elderly person fall in the street, is your first instinct to laugh or to help them? If you read Shakespeare’s MacBeth’s scene with the guardsman, do you chuckle or do you fall asleep? (Did anyone even get that reference?)

To me humor is a coping mechanism. What we’re coping with, is usually awkwardness. How often is humor based off a misunderstanding, a mismatching or words, or daily/societal weirdness? The reason why Jon Stewart and Colbert are successful satirists are because they target the absurdness in politics. (Which is hugely absurd) 

When there is an awkward pause or silence what is the natural inclination? To crack a joke right? Maybe to comment on the awkwardness in a half joking way, or to say something humorous on whatever was previously said. We don’t like awkwardness or silence so it’s only natural to try and kill those moments with laughter.

It’s more than just awkwardness though. We enjoy laughing. A laugh is a smile + x. No one can describe x or knows what it is. However, we definitely know when we see it. And some people know it better than others at an early age. These are our class clowns. They made later turn into great stand up comics or just your normal smart asses but they understand humor more than your average Joe. They use it to gain notoriety among their peers and can turn it into a career. The number 1 thing a girl usually looks for in a guy is if he can make her laugh. We love funny people. They are usually easy to get along with and we love companionship.

We even take drugs to make us laugh easier. Marijuana and alcohol are two of the most commonly used drugs in America. Is is any coincidence that they also make us laugh the easiest? Someone who is drunk or high will more likely have less inhibitions that can help laughter be more easily released. It also gives meaning to shows like “Adventure time” and a slew of Adult Swim shows. Laughter is something we crave just for simple pleasure.

Then there is a third reason for laughter. It’s where laughter really is the best medicine because there are not other alternatives. As WWI began to get into full force all the countries involved realized how much the death toll would be. 600,000 – 700,000 Americans died in the entire American Civil War, the bloodiest war in American history. That was exceeded by just the first year of WWI, and exceeded every year after. No one in the world had ever seen a death toll of a war in the millions. No one had ever seen what we now know was post traumatic stress disorder, in the numbers that they had at the time. People would go mad from the constant drumming of shells, the horrid stench of death and feces from their trenches, and the sights of their fellow comrades being blown to bits. The only way soldiers made it through those dark days was comedy. When building a trench they often used body parts, and say things like “oh, here’s Bill’s arm, ah we’ll fill a sand bag here with his feet, oh and here guys, I found Bill’s ugly mug! Hahahaha” …As they would throw his decapitated head around. It was dark and it was macabre but it was the only time the soldiers found a retreat from the hellish reality they had to gabble with on a daily basis. 

I once knew a woman who would go to chemo therapy when I would visit her she wouldn’t want to talk about her life, or the cancer, or how she might die…she just wanted a good conversation and a good laugh. Laughter is what helped her threw it. Even laughing at her cancer and talking about how lazy she was for not going to work, worked for her. Some may take that as heartless but everyone takes things in different ways. She found it funny so we stuck through that and eventually she beat the cancer. Was it because of laughter? Probably not, but who’s to say it didn’t help her get through her treatments?  

Humor is how we deal with things where all hope seems to be nonexistent.

Because sometimes, whether you’re on an awkward date, looking for a cheap thrill, and even when your world is falling apart… the best thing you can do it laugh. 

The fall of the American (TV) dad


History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen

A year ago I attended a teaching seminar how our expectations in mothers and fathers are largely based the mothers and fathers we see on TV. Looking at “dads” in various shows the summations go as follows.

The 50’s/60’s dad.
The show: Leave it to Beaver 
The dad: Ward Cleaver

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In this era the typical dad was the bread winner. He was good looking, had good morals and ethics, successful, and people aspired to be him. He is the unquestioned leader of the family. Discipline/lessons were dealt out by the dad after work and the mother was a maintainer of the family, a housewife who didn’t work but ran errands. 

The 70’s dad: 
The show: All in the Family
The dad: Archie Bunker

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In this era that dad was still the head of the household. He worked hard but was the bud of the joke, and disrespected by his wife, daughter, and son in law. He was a conservative, no nonsense man and it was his way or the high way and had standards. His life was still seen as desirable but other options were also valid. This is seen in other 70’s TV dad’s like That 70’s show’s Red Forman. Even Bill Cosby’s Dr. Huxtable showed the foundations of a firm father loosening. 

The 80’s/90’s dad:
The show: The Simpsons
The dad: Home Simpson

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The father role now, is still the bread winner, but a bumbling fool. Fathers are now seen as a joke, sure they’re useful sometimes but he was often more trouble than he was good. Al Bundy in Married with Children is another perfect 90’s dad. Beaten down, out smarted and disrespected by his wife and children. 

The 21st century dad:
The show: Modern Family
The dad: Phil Dunphy

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Here the father has gained some ground. Still quirky, still foolish, but still the bread winner, but no longer the clear leader. Belittled by his father in law and out smarted by his kids and wife. He is effeminate to a certain extent, and knows others look down on him because of it.  

All of these were hit shows of their times and were broadcasted to millions of people. America also declined during this period and the dysfunctionality was reflected in our TV shows as “a changing of the times” The change wasn’t all bad. Who’s to say Ward Clever was more or less conservative than Archie Bunker? Archie was just more vocal about it. But the respect that father’s has decreased in the past 60 years. 

They have been heroes of families to, (in some cases,) just sperm donors. 

It begs the question though, have we created our TV fathers to mirror real fathers, or do our real fathers take their cues from TV? Did fathers see that less was expected of them so they produced less, or did they produce less so people families came to expect of them?  It’s kind of the chicken v egg dilemma. 

Not only did respect and expectations for fathers go down hill but American families went south as well. Depending on what your view’s of a healthy family are (and there are many) it’s pretty universally agreed that things like an increase in the number of babies out of wedlock, an increase single parents raising children, are higher divorce rates are all less preferable than the those numbers falling, but all have risen since 1950. This has also led to more intelligent people not having kids or marrying which can lead to things like the movie idiocracy. (Great film)

But this is something that we’ve all known for awhile. A family without a father suffers. (Not a stab a lesbian moms but you get the point)  Sometimes the damage is minimal, sometimes is dramatic. There’s been government reports on it (see the Moynihan  Report) and society crumbles without one. 60 decades of more and more failing fathers have led to more and more flawed children who grow up to be flawed adults who raise even more flawed kids. What else could be blamed for men being of such poor quality these days if there are less fathers to teach them how to be a man. A man who provides, protects, supports, nurtures, educates, and loves his family. 

It’s widely accepted by many educators I’ve met that kids are at an all time high in misbehaving. At all time high rates they disrespect authority, feel entitled, and exercise dangerous behaviors, and there is no father figure to teach them otherwise. Keep in mind that I’m speaking mostly about boy’s. Many psychologists agree that the most influential member on a child’s life is their same sex parent. Not that dad’s aren’t good for daughters too or mom’s for sons. But there is a special bond between a father and son, for the son to have a role model, and something to aspire to be, or ideally to be greater than. 

In the beginning of time, fathers were the destroyers of societies, and American society may prove to be no different due to their flaws and absence. But fathers were also the creators and builders of society. The time of Ward Cleaver is dead, and it’s probably for the best when you consider all the gender and racial inequity of the 50’s. But that doesn’t mean that the time is dead for fathers to be prominent or at (least present) again where we can show strong fathers, and strong families.