Sam Burnham, Curator
Being a dad is, by far, the most rewarding roles I’ve ever been blessed to fill. Over the past week I’ve found myself going through so many emotions as I say goodbye to my oldest son for his first deployment with the US Navy.
Due to operational security, I can’t really say where he’s going. Suffice to say it’s far away and in every way different than his home here in Georgia. He’ll be immersed in a different culture, a different climate, a different topography, different everything. It will be hard for him to find anything that reminds him of home.
What I can say is that he is committed to duty. He is well trained, well equipped, and well prepared. He knows what is expected of him and he is eager to serve his country. While I still think of him as my little boy. I now see in him the man he has become. He has a confidence that soothes my nervousness. He treasures the camaraderie he has built within his group. For the better part of two decades it was my job as his dad to see that he had a safe and secure place to sleep at night. In the coming months I’ll lay my head on my pillow with the knowledge that I can sleep peacefully because he and his crew stand the watch. The roles have reversed exponentially.
I would be lying if I said I had no apprehensions about this. I can’t help but worry with my child in another hemisphere and in harms way. I can’t protect him from anything. I pray for his safety. I hope he never needs to use the skills he has so effectively developed. I hope he never has to take action to take the life of another. And I hope his life is never endangered. I hope he has a peaceful deployment and returns with nothing but fun stories and a pivotal life experience.
And so my son begins a grand adventure. He will return a changed man. He’ll be wiser, more educated, more experienced, and a bit more prepared to face this world as a man. He will always be my son but he’s a man now.
Sam Burnham, Curator
About that Gillette ad...
I think I'm seeing what they were trying to say. There’s a standard that we as a society should hold men to. There is an expectation for the conduct of a man that does often go unmet.
I think there is a communication breakdown when it comes to the topic of masculinity and proper male role models. With the presence of a radical feminist movement who frequently uses misandry and a definition of “toxic masculinity” that leaves no place for strong and effective men in our society, people react when they see yet another assault on men.
I think Gillette could have communicated their message better and I think people could have listened better.
My takeaway at this point, after some thought and reflection is this: Not all criticism of male behavior is intended to drag all men down. Not all feminists are radical misandrists. Not all masculinity is toxic. In fact, true masculinity is never toxic.
Masculinity is about strength, leadership, and being a role model for young men. It’s about using strength in a constructive and protective way. The men who stormed the beaches of Normandy weren’t bullies coming to harass the Germans. They were there to defend Western Civilization from a toxic usurper. There’s a line that separates playful roughhousing and malicious bullying. There’s a line between the idea of dating and courtship and the menace of sexual harassment- and BOTH sides on the argument need to understand that.
I’ve spent almost half my life, thus far, raising three men. Just yesterday the oldest became a United States Navy sailor. He and his brothers make me proud beyond words. They are strong, have courage in their convictions, expect the best from others, despise bullying, respect ladies, and offer help to those in need. They are gentlemen.
They're gentlemen because we’ve raised them that way.
I have a guide that I follow. It was composed using the teachings of Christ, the understanding of what should be expected of a man, and by a man who was tasked with mentioning and leading men. He’s often demonized today. His effect on the American left is so strong they take a few associative flaws and attempt to discard him as a whole. It is striking that when held up against him, any male leader in the American left pales in comparison.
General Robert Edward Lee, who was born on this day in 1807 gave us his timeless Definition of a Gentleman. It is the standard I’ve held my boys to. It is the standard we need to hold all American men to today. It is the line between true masculinity and the toxic pseudo-masculinity that would poison our entire society. No matter how far they march, how hard they try, this issue will never be solved by feminism. It can only be solved by men who fit this definition expecting other men to fit it as well. I’ll conclude with his definition in its entirety:
"The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.
The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly--the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light
The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others."
Sam Burnham, Curator
Christmas Day is when we recognize the birth of Christ. And while many critics are quick to point out that Jesus would not have been born on December 25, we worship Christ and not the day. He is the focus and that we recognize the 25th as His day is the only thing that gives that particular day any significance over any other.
It is no no big secret that this is my first Christmas with my oldest son away from home. He is in a very cold and windy Illinois learning the ways of a sailor. This has been a long term goal for him and a sacrifice he has freely made. With him so far from home and with only minimal communication, it is a sacrifice our family shares with him.
And so on this Christmas, more than any before it, I am reminded of what Christmas truly is.
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
Over the last 18+ years, God has taught me more about Himself through my children than by any other means. Through being a father, I have gained that εριγνωσις, that experiential knowledge of all those Scripture passages about The Father. Words on the page have walked along beside me and I now know them as trusted friends and not just memorized ideas.
I have tasted, ever so slightly, of the pride and the pain of a father whose son has chosen to go far from home because he places the welfare of others before his own. I know the fear of a father whose son’s comfort, well-being, and very life now rest in the hands of a cruel world.
I don't say this to equate myself with God, my son with The Son, boot camp with the Incarnation, or Naval Service with the Crucifixion or Resurrection. I say it to show how I came to the realization of the true meaning of Christmas. While we celebrate the birth, we know what must come:
“And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried:”
Christmas, for all its cheer and goodwill, is about the sacrifice of a son. It was that very sacrifice of the Son that created the redemptive forces that make the cheer and goodwill of Christmas possible. I’m not sure I would have completely grasped this until this year, this distance, this silence. But I have a much better understanding of it now.
I hope you spend this holiday with those you lave. If you can't, I pray for your peace and comfort as I pray for my own.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire