Positive Manhood Is Not a Static Goal
Being someone who fancies himself as an observer of cultural notions of manhood, I have strongly connected to the national reaction to the tragic murder of six individuals that recently occurred near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara. The story of a self-professed “good guy” who takes the lives of others partially under the ostensible motivation that his goodness has not been recognized (particularly by women) has raised many questions. Can one possibly be a good guy while harboring thoughts of harming others? Are not all men good guys until our actions prove otherwise?
I have found myself engrossed in comment boards and social media sites discussing the UCSB tragedy in order to see what America thinks. I don’t normally find myself doing this as I’m often turned off by the vitriol and lack of empathy that tends to crowd impersonal discussions such as this but I found an amazing thing in wading through voices online – consistency. If one looks through the myriad of reactions, one can actually find some strong currents of agreement. As I see it, America has overwhelmingly voiced that:
- Men’s claims to positive manhood are only as strong as our deeds and those claims can be eroded or even obliterated by a single action.
- Our reactions in the face of rejection and disappointment are often the truest tests of our claims to positive manhood.
Isla Vista gunman Elliott Rodger
I have found the entire tragedy to be sobering. I, like most men, have never considered taking the lives of others but I also, like most men, have certainly tolerated lower thresholds of harm against women and men. The unfortunate loss of life at UCSB strongly reminds me that a good guy is not something that one is. Rather, it is a standard for which one must continually strive.
The legendary Maya Angelou who recently passed took it even one step further than our deeds defining us when she said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”