Recently my 17-year-old son and I enjoyed a truly great movie: “12 Strong,” which was the story of the first U.S. Army Special Forces team to deploy inside Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Having served in Afghanistan, I was struck by the director’s obvious fidelity to the technical details of the American military experience. Unique among many of the films we see coming out of Hollywood these days, “12 Strong” recognized – and justly honored – strength of character, courage, duty and sacrifice all within the context of “manly” behavior -- precisely the sort of virtuous influences most fathers (and mothers) would want for their sons.
Conversely, the movie has exposed the left's contempt for masculinity in their professed hatred of the movie, and this only serves to demonstrate why it's time for America to wake up to that contempt. Let me explain.
First, a bit of what I am referring with the left's disdain for “12 Strong.” A few days after watching and then recommending it to friends and family, I read a shocking diatribe about the alleged "toxic masculinity" I had apparently missed.
Nationally recognized New York Times Magazine writer Peter Maase penned the following critique in Intercept magazine: "[12 STRONG showed] the rugged gunslinger, the warrior in camo, good versus evil, the modern vanquishing the profane, a man at his fullest ... (that) masculine nonsense does violence to us all.”
Maase is not the only writer on the left to lambaste “12 Strong” over its masculinity, and this sort of anti-manhood has been becoming increasingly strident.
Important to note, the movie depicts the 12 men of this particular Special Forces A-team as being loving husbands and fathers. I suppose that’s part of the "masculine nonsense" to which Maase refers. The men are torn between, firstly, their duty to country after watching the towers fall on 9/11, and, secondly, their duties to their wives and children.
The audience cannot help but have admiration for their dedication to defend the nation to the death if necessary. Not so the left. Early in the movie, we see the Taliban leader killing a woman for teaching school to young girls. True to the story, the Americans ride into battle on horseback as they are advising the Afghans (also on horseback) how best to destroy those who are oppressing women and girls. Most Americans would admire this. Not the left.
Many Americans aren't aware of the vision and worldview of those on the modern left when it comes to manhood. They don't see the unique and admirable qualities of masculinity as most understand: inborn traits and characteristics resulting from testosterone, chromosomal makeup, etc. Unique from the inborn traits and characteristics of women.
The left instead views gender as something self-determined and fluid and based on choice rather than human physiology. They strongly believe gender differences should be suppressed, and in doing so a new world will be created without gender.
The ultimate nemesis to this worldview is the John Wayne man.
Barack Obama, in criticizing Ronald Reagan's policies, referred to Reagan's alleged "John Wayne, father-knows-best" manner.
The modern left wants the strong-male role model to become an oddly outdated vestige relegated to the trash heap of history. And movies like 12 STRONG are stark reminders of that nemesis.
The other aspect in the criticism of the movie’s strong-man thesis was – as Maase lamented – the movie didn't portray enough of the cynical aspects of war and men.
But many of us who have known war first-hand understand that despite war’s hardships, the sufferings and death – and the inevitable scars – we have ultimately returned better men from the experience. Life has a deeper meaning after the experience of war that those who have not experienced it will never fully grasp.
This is not war-mongering. Not in the least. As Douglas MacArthur said during his "Duty, Honor, Country" speech at West Point in 1962, the warrior, above all men, prays for peace. Still, we recognize that the veterans from World War II came back to build modern America in the 1950s and 1960s. No one can pretend otherwise, though some might try.
Not all combat veterans are wandering aimlessly in the streets as the crying, broken-down alcoholics the left likes to depict them as. Sure, some veterans have suffered and still suffer PTSD and similar – perhaps related – disorders, but many still are better citizens, fathers and husbands because of their life experiences, even if those experiences were traumatic.
Truth be known, among those who do suffer from PTSD, most by far are not emotionally wrenched to the point that their lives are ruined. War scars men to be sure. It also builds men. It strengthens character. It enables men with a far greater sense of compassion and empathy for others. And makes men appreciate what they have, and it fosters a far deeper ability to love.
Those who have experienced war know exactly what I am talking about.
The movie provided that backstory, and it is a story the left wants hidden.
I believe America is at the cusp of a newfound appreciation for masculinity and the virtues of manliness. I think most Americans will agree that it is time for more of the very things Maase ridiculed. I believe most Americans still honor "a man at his fullest."