The Shubert. The Apollo. Carnegie Hall.
So the “Snapple Theater Center” doesn’t provoke the same reverent awe as do the names of those famous New York City landmarks, but hey, a gig’s a gig, right?
Maybe Christina Crawford inherited more of her adoptive mother’s trooper spirit than she’d care to admit.
It’s so easy to imagine Joan Crawford growling, “Snapple, crapple! The show must go on!”
And so it does: the longrunning “Mommie Dearest” franchise, one angry daughter’s single claim to fame — first a blockbuster 1977 memoir, then a cult movie — is back in a rather downmarket iteration: A Conversation with Christina Crawford: Live and Onstage in Surviving Mommie Dearest.
Or rather, was. The show’s very brief run at the Snapple overlapped Mother’s Day.
After more than 30 years of telling all, what possible secrets could Christina Crawford have left to reveal about her infamous mom?
Well, now she’s claiming (sort of) that Joan Crawford murdered her husband Alfred Steele, the Pepsi CEO whose position the widow snatched for herself after his death.
Here’s Faye Dunaway reenacting the power grab in the aforementioned cult flick, Mommie Dearest (1981):
One by one, they all filed into the kitchen for the family meeting. My oldest hopped onto the counter. His gangly legs dangled past the knobs on the cabinet doors below. Bouncing on his toes, the youngest stretched his arms as high as he could — the universal baby language for “pick-me-up.” I automatically lifted him. He felt twice as heavy the day before. At least, it seemed like yesterday. All of a sudden, his face didn’t look like my pudgy baby with the button nose. Instead, a full-blown toddler had taken his place. As he settled into my lap, wrapped in my arms, I looked around the room at all the faces. Curiosity framed eight pairs of big, Robinson-blue eyes. We filled the entire kitchen of that old farmhouse.
“It’s time to take a vote,” I announced.
Before I could say what we were actually voting on, squeals of delight slipped out of the girls. It’s always fun when you’re little and someone counts your vote — on anything.
“Okay,” I continued. “Daddy and I want to know… who wants Mommy to have another baby?”
All hands immediately shot into the air. The little guy on my lap raised both of his, and now all the girls were giggling.
“Well then, it’s settled. Mommy’s going to have a baby.”
“At the end of the summer.”
The entire room erupted with cheers. The big girls hugged each other, and the two boys started jumping up and down making boy-noises. The older kids narrowed their eyes and studied us. Their suspicion was plainly written all over their faces– “Wait a minute, I don’t think that’s how it works…”
Their dad shot a smile and a wink their way.
Our children were always excited about welcoming a new member. To them growing a family took nothing more than an announcement.
However, building a strong family takes more than simply adding children. It takes these three vital elements.
When news of a horrific crime like the Cleveland kidnappings and subsequent escape and rescue breaks, what follows is a media circus and 24-hour news cycle. It’s not unusual to hear reporters, in their quest to fill space and time, making vapid comments and asking extraordinarily dumb questions. We can always count on Piers “That’s Appalling” Morgan to add to the collective tomfoolery. On Friday night he asked a “man on the street” in Cleveland (in his most earnest, probing voice), “Is there a sense of collective guilt?”
Morgan was referring to all the people who certainly overlooked clues that something was terribly wrong at the house on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland. How could a man keep three young women imprisoned in his home for ten years without anyone noticing? Shouldn’t the neighbors have known that something ghastly was going on there and then done something about it? Shouldn’t service workers like meter readers and mail carriers have noticed signs that this wasn’t a normal home with one resident? And perhaps most disturbing, shouldn’t police have investigated alleged calls by neighbors who reported odd things they saw at the residence?
Somebody should have done something, right?
Although it was many years ago, the image of a young woman with a tear-streaked face and blank stare is forever etched into my memory. She sat in front of the television cameras, shredding a soaked tissue, telling her story. Once a happy new mother, now distraught and on trial for the death of her baby — the infant died in her arms. The cause of death was starvation and malnutrition.
The first-time mother said she loved her baby and breastfed her regularly. She cared for the child to the best of her ability. She claimed that she had no idea the newborn failed to get the nourishment she needed. Nevertheless, the baby languished in her arms until she became too weak to suckle. It was only then that help was sought.
Of course the outrage came quickly. Bony fingers of blame pointed in all directions. Some held the hospital responsible, believing the first-time mother got released too soon. No doubt a direct result, others moralized, of the cold, cost-calculating insurance companies. Always pressuring hospitals for earlier discharge of maternity patients. Others cast the blame on social services. The government let this poor young woman slip through the cracks. Over and over, the resounding cries filled the airways.
Their haughty laments over that young mother’s fate still echo in my mind: “Where were the pediatricians? Where were the lactation experts?”
The answers were never found. Perhaps because no one asked the right question.
Where was her mother?
“Peace will come,” Golda Meir once famously remarked, “when the Arabs start to love their children more than they hate us.” The obstacle to peace was not actually Arabs as such, but Muslims who had imbibed Islam’s doctrine of jihad and hatred of non-believers and primarily Jews — a hatred so intense that it drives people to prefer death (and murder) to life. And as we have seen recently with the monstrous grandstanding of Mama Tsarnaeva, this hatred is passed on in some Muslim families – and Zubeidat Tsarnaeva is by no means the only mother from hell.
Islamic supremacists avowedly and proudly love death. Jihad mass murderer Mohamed Merah said that he “loved death more than they loved life.” Nigerian jihadist Abubakar Shekau said: “I’m even longing for death, you vagabond.”
Ayman al-Zawahiri’s wife advised Muslim women: “I advise you to raise your children in the cult of jihad and martyrdom and to instil in them a love for religion and death.” And as one jihadist put it, “We love death. You love your life!” And another: “The Americans love Pepsi-Cola, we love death.” That was from Afghan jihadist Maulana Inyadullah.
Ultimately, this idea comes from the Qur’an itself:
“Say (O Muhammad): O ye who are Jews! If ye claim that ye are favoured of Allah apart from (all) mankind, then long for death if ye are truthful.” — Qur’an 62:6
This love of death is instilled in children. A Muslim child preacher recently taunted those he has been taught to hate most: “Oh Zionists, we love death for the sake of Allah, just as much as you love life for the sake of Satan.” This young man’s mother was probably much like the quintessential mother from hell, Mariam Farhat, or Umm Nidal (mother of Nidal), a Palestinian parliamentarian who died in March. No one more fully embodied the Hamas ethos — and the ethos of infanticide that permeates contemporary Palestinian culture as a whole — than Umm Nidal, a mother who willed the death of her own children and the children of others.
Editor’s Note: Starting today, Robert Spencer’s weekly PJ Lifestyle article analyzing stories on Jihad terror from a cultural perspective will appear on Mondays, our day focused on family, parenting, motherhood, fatherhood, and relationships. With this shift in publication date also comes a change in angle. A broader picture of the motives behind the 4/15/13 Boston terror attack is beginning to come into greater clarity. Who radicalized these once American young men? The picture that has emerged is one common throughout the Muslim world: sons drink in the hate and anti-Americanism as they would mother’s milk. The disturbing proclamations of mama and papa Tsarnaev make clear that these were not two sons led astray by malevolent outside influence.
So on Mondays Robert will explore the relevant Jihad stories of the week through a family-centric lens, considering male-female dynamics in the Muslim world and the Koran’s influence on defining the ideals of masculinity and femininity. What does Islam proscribe for how to raise children and maintain a family? What can Muslim parents in America do to make sure their sons do not become Tamerlans and Dzhokhars? And what are other parents like the Tsarnaevs secretly doing right now to prepare their children for the glory of martyrdom? How does one raise a future Jihadist who loves death more than Americans love life? I look forward to seeing Robert explore these subjects and hope you will join us each week at PJ Lifestyle.
- David Swindle
In the movie Prizzi’s Honor, Jack Nicholson plays mafia hitman Charley Partanna, who is known as “Straight-Arrow Charley, the All-American Hood” for dutifully and unquestioningly carrying on the family business in which he was raised. And as more details emerge about the family of Boston Marathon jihad bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, it’s increasingly clear that they, too, were just carrying on the family business: jihad.
Zubeidat Tsarnaeva is proud of her boys. She insists that they didn’t set off the bombs in Boston, and that in fact, the whole thing was staged. The bombings, she said, were just a “really big play” featuring “paint instead of blood.” Consistency is not her strong suit, for she also said: “What happened is a terrible thing but I know my kids have nothing to do with this. I know it, I am mother.” She claimed that her sons were targeted because they were Muslim, and said: “America took my kids away from me. I’m sure my kids were not involved in anything.”
The bombers’ father, Anzor Tsarnaev, struck a tone more of grief than accusation. He assured the world: “I am not angry at anyone,” although he hinted that he also accepted his wife’s conspiracy theory when he added: “I want to go find out the truth.” Go, that is, to the United States, although plans for the trip have since been scrapped due to the possibility that he and/or his wife could be arrested if they do come here. “I want to say that I am going there to see my son, to bury the older one. I don’t have any bad intentions.” He added reassuringly: “I don’t plan to blow up anything.”
Just as Hitler loved his dogs, Tamerlan Tsarnaev loved his mama. Just before getting into a shootout with police in Watertown, Massachusetts, he called her on his cellphone and gave her the news:
The police, they have started shooting at us, they are chasing us….Mama, I love you.
Last week I wrote about my “evolution” on guns during the Boston manhunt:
In the middle of that night listening to the Boston police scanner, I evolved. I realized right then that if I were holed up in my house while a cold-blooded terrorist roamed my neighborhood, I wouldn’t want to be a sitting duck with only a deadbolt lock between me and an armed intruder. There are not enough police and they cannot come to my rescue quickly enough. They carry guns to protect themselves, not me. I knew at that instant if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev showed up at my door while I was “sheltered-in-place” and aimed a gun at my head and only one of us would live, I could pull the trigger.
Once I made the decision that I would not be a victim, I began to research my options for home protection. I plan to share the experience of choosing my first gun in a future post but first I’d like to deal with some of the moral implications of the decision to purchase, own — and potentially use — a gun.
I wrote about one of the reasons I refrained from owning a gun for many years:
The other thing holding me back was my belief that if you’re going to own a gun, you must be willing to shoot to kill…I searched my heart and realized that in the heat of the moment of an attack, I wasn’t sure what I would do with a gun in my hand. I knew that could be more dangerous than being unarmed; it wasn’t worth the risk.
A gun is an inanimate object and as such is morally neutral. Lying on a table, tucked under a mattress, or locked in a gun safe it cannot kill, inflict harm, or protect its owner. However, the fact that a gun is in one’s home creates the potential for both danger and protection depending on many variables, including the training, skill, and temperament of the residents of the home and the mental capacity and willingness of the gun owners to use the weapon, whether in self-defense or to inflict intentional harm.
While I understand that many who grew up around guns accept them as a normal part of life, for me, it’s a decision that requires serious introspection and moral evaluation. Though I passionately support the Second Amendment, I confess that I had never taken the time to earnestly contemplate its practical applications. Perhaps this is because I’ve mostly lived in safe, virtually crime-free neighborhoods and have never experienced violent crime. Whatever the reason, it’s not an excuse to jump into gun ownership without first embarking on this intellectual exercise.
Gun control emerged as the primary political battlefront in the wake of the horrific Sandy Hook murders. While the battle to retain our Second Amendment rights remains a superior consideration, statist nannies push on other fronts as well.
A former writer for the Huffington Post, Peter Brown Hoffmeister, claims to have broken ties with the publication after its refusal to publish a piece he submitted regarding the influence of violent video games on troubled teenage males. Self-publishing on his personal blog with the provocative title “On School Shooters – The Huffington Post Doesn’t Want You To Read This,” Hoffmeister reveals his own troubled past while building a case against certain games.
As a teacher, I’ve spent a lot of time this past week [December 27, 2012] thinking about the Newtown shooting, school shootings in general, their causes and possible preventions.
It’s scary now to think that I ever had anything in common with school shooters. I don’t enjoy admitting that. But I did have a lot in common with them. I was angry, had access to guns, felt ostracized, and didn’t make friends easily. I engaged in violence and wrote about killing people in my notes to peers.
But there is one significant difference between me at 16 and 17 years of age and most high school shooters: I didn’t play violent video games.
But Jeff Weise did. He played thousands of first-person shooter hours before he shot and killed nine people at and near his Red Lake, Minn., school, before killing himself.
And according to neighbors and friends, Clackamas shooter Jacob Tyler Roberts played a lot of video games before he armed himself with a semi-automatic AR-15 and went on a rampage at the Clackamas Town Center in Portland, Oregon last week.
Also, by now, it is common knowledge that Adam Lanza, who murdered 20 children and six women in video-game style, spent many, many hours playing “Call of Duty.” In essence, Lanza – and all of these shooters – practiced on-screen to prepare for shooting in real-life.
Hoffmeister ends his retrospective with a call for government action. He encourages readers to “support the bill introduced… by U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, directing the National Academy of Sciences to examine whether violent games and programs lead children to act aggressively.”
In the wee hours of Friday morning, April 19th, I evolved on guns.
First, a confession: I’ve never owned a gun. I never wanted one in my home and, like a lot of moms, I wanted to raise non-violent children and thought keeping guns out of our home was one way to do that. When my kids were young, I didn’t want them to play with toy guns — in fact, I was rather insistent about it. Eventually, I realized that little boys will make guns out of just about anything — bananas, sticks, the dog’s paw, their fingers — nothing is safe from their imaginative minds. So I compromised and allowed squirt guns and non-gun-looking Nerf guns, but nothing that resembled a “real” gun.
My sensible (ex-military) husband indulged me in this when they were toddlers, but as they grew, he convinced me that our boys needed to learn firearms safety. He took them to firing ranges where they learned to fire weapons and even to enjoy them. Our 21 year old couldn’t wait to get his concealed-carry permit the minute he reached the legal age. I’m thankful now for my husband’s insistence that our children not be raised to fear guns.
But I never wanted a gun in my home.
It probably goes back to my childhood. My dad always kept a shotgun in the bedroom closet, along with the ammo on the top shelf. He used it for his twice-a-year hunting trip with my mom’s brothers. As a bleeding-heart animal lover from a young age, it always pained me to see skinned bunnies and squirrels on the kitchen counter. So I have some “issues” — when I saw the gun in my dad’s closet my mind went to dead bunnies. And somewhere along the way (I don’t remember a specific conversation, but he had a way of doing this), my dad put the fear of God in me about touching that shotgun. The year my brother and I peeked at our Christmas gifts hidden behind the shotgun, I was terrified the thing would go off. I never, ever touched it. Not even once.
I realize it’s a completely irrational fear and in some ways I’ve always felt it was a betrayal of my strong support for the 2nd Amendment. Last year I dipped my toe in the water and experienced shooting for the first time. I enjoyed a trip to the Hillsdale College shooting range during Parents Weekend and it turns out I’m not a bad shot. Friends never understood why I didn’t own a gun and some urged me to purchase one for my protection. But still I hesitated because of my discomfort at having one in my home.
Throughout this series I’ve questioned where the line is drawn between reflecting and affecting when it comes to the media’s relationship with real life. Either way, the determining factor is relatability. You aren’t going to imitate something unless you can relate to it, and if you can’t relate to a show, chances are it isn’t anywhere near a reflection of who you are.
So, in the interest of all things entertainment, let’s take a simple quiz to determine your relatability factor when it comes to the portrayal of “traditional family” on television using two popular prime-time family-themed shows: Family Guy and The Middle.
Family Guy: The show is apathetic, even nihilistic at times, mocks the same politically correct values it thrives on, and typifies men and women in terms taught best in Gender Studies 101. The Middle is one of a handful of shows to make it to the air that depicted exactly what its title intimated: a middle -lass, middle-of-the-road family living in the middle of nowhere, America. As working middle class as the Griffins, the Hecks are a family of five that mirrors the demographics of the Quahog clan: father, mother, two sons with a daughter in the middle.
So, what’s your relatability factor? And how does your relatability compare with the ratings? Take this simple five-question quiz to find out!
I recently wrote about an event called Occupy the DOE, where many of the speakers espoused radical views on education and society. While I disagreed with the extreme left-wing views of many of the speakers, I didn’t disagree with everything said during the 4-day event. In fact, several times I had to remind myself that I wasn’t listening to a Tea Party event or homeschool conference as speaker after speaker railed against high-stakes testing and the Common Core.
Parents and activists from across the political spectrum object to excessive testing and the implementation of Common Core in their states; there is much common ground to be found. But it’s important to dig beneath the surface and consider exactly what you’re signing up for when you join a movement to eliminate high-stakes testing or block the Common Core. Some groups have more than just the best interest of your child as their top priority and you may inadvertently be drafted into the public school monopoly-protection movement.
A group called “United Opt Out” organized the Occupy the DOE event in front of the Department of Education in April. Their mission statement claims that they are “dedicated to the elimination of high stakes testing in public education,” saying that high stakes testing is
destructive to ALL children, educators, communities, the quality of instruction in classrooms, equity in schooling, and the democratic principles which underlie the purposes of public education.
There is a lot to unpack in that statement, but hyperbole aside, many parents whose children attend public school do have legitimate complaints about high-stakes testing and its negative influence on education. In fact, the testing culture is sometimes cited as a reason parents remove their children from public schools for homeschooling or private schools. As states march forward with the implementation of the Common Core standards, teachers, parents and even many unions fear that schools will double-down on the worst aspects of the testing culture and lose even more local control, so in many aspects, parents and activists on both side of the political spectrum can find areas of agreement.
Timothy Slekar, a former teacher, is now an associate professor of teacher education at Penn State Altoona. At the Occupy the DOE rally he described a parent-teacher conference where he and his wife were told that their son had failed a writing test because of a technicality. They felt that the formulaic requirements of the writing test were stifling their son’s creativity and they decided then to opt out of all future high-stakes testing for their son. “This disastrous system was forcing his teachers to comply with the powers that be.” He said,
The [tests] were forcing Luke to parrot sentences in a pre-ordained structure so that a low-paid temp worker would be able to score it. … Our son was not going to take part in a system that forced the teachers to comply with educational mandates constructed by politicians. … We were opting out.
Poor Seth MacFarlane. The guy sings one song about boobs and suddenly he’s #1 on the Hates Women List with a Steinem next to his name. (That means if they capture him, she gets to rag on him incessantly. Who wouldn’t want a bullet after that?)
It’d be too easy to join the chorus singing, “MacFarlane hates women.” As a woman, I despise the cop-outs women often take, chiding every man as being both the desired master of her universe and the despised crafter of her fate. If we really believe in Girl Power, what’s our responsibility in all of this? Are we allowing the fate scripted by guys like MacFarlane to come true?
It took about 10 minutes to pull video for the following five most common stereotypes about women portrayed in Family Guy. The sad news is that it took about 15 to pull five examples of the same behavior from the most popular Girl Power reality television show out there: The Kardashians. Praised by some feminists as career women comfortable in their own skin, it has been observed that “50 years ago, the Kardashians could never live the way they do. It’s all thanks to the Feminist movement that they are who they are – and they embrace every benefit from it fully.”
So, culture judges that you are, tell me: Is the evidence compelling? Is MacFarlane a He-Man Woman Hater, or do the Kardashians prove that girls finally busted through the glass ceiling in the tree house and joined the club?
Watch out, ladies in the dating world: Family Guy’s prized demographic is totally Petarded.
According to the show’s creator, Family Guy’s target audience is men ages 18-34. This happens to be one of the most desirable demographics for advertisers and women looking to eventually get married and settle down.
Who hasn’t dreamed of a life with Peter Griffin?
Obviously, not all men between the ages of 18 and 34 are going to find the humor of Family Guy appealing. Yet a growing majority of them do. I long ago learned as a woman not to attempt to comment on the male psyche; why these men find Family Guy so appealing is not in my realm of interest. However, the message Family Guy sends about masculinity is so apparent that I can’t help but laugh at this not-so-subtle irony: Most women looking for men, the ladies trolling the clubs and hitting Happy Hours at the bars, are the ones who tend to stereotype men exactly the way they are portrayed on the show.
Life does not come with a reset button. That truth struck me whenever I glimpsed the face of my Nintendo Entertainment System. Reset was always there, lurking next to Power, ready to erase both my sins and the virtual world in which they had been committed. A fresh start, another try, Reset offered them free.
Moments like that, moments where some shadow of philosophical truth peaked through the veil of this childish pastime, came often over the years. The most recent occurred while I was playing Fable II on my Xbox 360. Set in a fantasy world with swords, sorcery, and muskets, the Fable series contains many game mechanics above and beyond the traditional hack and slash quest. Among them is the ability to purchase real estate and manage rental property, which maintains a steady stream of gold for upgrading weapons and other items. As I purchased one property and saved up to invest in another and yet another, I quickly realized I was mimicking a truly productive task. Why can’t I do this in real life? Oh yeah, I don’t have any money to start.
The experience of the game inspired me to revisit methods for creating wealth and fostering upward mobility. I won’t go so far as to say Fable II changed my life. After all, I’ve yet to buy that first investment property. However, it did plant a seed which may someday germinate.
Other games have offered real life lessons in ways both subtle and overt. Here are 7 for your consideration.
“Action is for mass salvation. He who sacrifices the mass good for his personal conscience has a peculiar conception of ‘personal salvation’; he doesn’t care enough for people to be ‘corrupted’ for them.” — Saul Alinsky
“The hell with charity. The only thing you’ll get is what you’re strong enough to get.” — Saul Alinsky
Parents rightly admire and appreciate their children’s teachers, but they don’t always understand the radical labor organizations running the plays behind the scenes in negotiations with their local school boards. Unfortunately, beloved teachers sometimes get caught up in the guerrilla tactics championed by Saul Alinsky and other radical community organizers.
Alinsky, considered the founder of the modern community-organizing movement, is in many ways the leader of modern-day teachers’ unions. His 1971 book Rules for Radicals has influenced negotiations between unions and school boards for 40 years, and whether parents realize it or not, their communities have often been at the mercy of his radical organizing methods. Alinsky’s main goal was to strip power from the “haves” and give it to the “have nots” based on his notion of fairness and social justice.
Gaining power is a zero-sum game in Rules for Radicals. Either you have it or you don’t. If you don’t have it all, you must continue to work until you do, using whatever means available to you, while maintaining the illusion of the moral high ground. “You do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments,” Alinsky said. More:
It is a world not of angels but of angles, where men speak of moral principles but act on power principles; a world where we are always moral and our enemies always immoral; a world where “reconciliation” means that when one side gets the power and the other side gets reconciled to it, then we have reconciliation.
Until his death in 1972, Alinsky conducted training for NEA UniServ personnel. Ten years later, during a strike in Ravenna, Ohio, that dragged on for five long months (the longest in the state’s history), strike manuals were found titled “Strategy Uniserv Directors” that outlined the Alinsky-style program for negotiations. The same strategies are still in use today.
Action movies are just as American as motherhood, apple pie, and capitalism. Movies like Unforgiven, Gladiator, Rooster Cogburn, Conan, Dirty Harry, Die Hard, The Dark Knight, High Noon, Man on Fire, Red Dawn, Tombstone, and True Grit speak to men in a primal language that transcends the story line on the screen. Men like these films because they capture qualities we’d like to think we have ourselves. We like the idea of being billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and fighting crime in our spare time, pointing a gun at a punk and asking him if he feels lucky, or responding to the question, “What is best in life?” with “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!“ While there are dozens of deserving action movies, there are seven that are particularly good at revealing parts of the male psyche.
1) First Blood
John Rambo is a damaged character. His fighting in Vietnam left him with mental problems, made him ill-equipped to fit into society, and led to him ultimately having a difficult and lonely existence. However, there are two things about him that make the character click with men. The first is this:
Teasle: Are you telling me that 200 men against your boy is a no-win situation for us?
Trautman: You send that many, don’t forget one thing.
Trautman: A good supply of body bags.
Rambo doesn’t pick the fight, but when he is backed up against a wall, he is a one-man army. This theme is repeated over and over in action movies because it’s something men aspire to all the way down in their souls.
The other, more subtle thing that makes Rambo appealing is that he shares a grievance that most men have on some level or another: his sacrifices are largely unappreciated. He went through hell to do what had to be done, paid a terrible price for it, saw his suffering shrugged off by men unfit to say his name, and was left holding the bag. There are millions of men who feel the exact same way. They’ve provided, they’ve struggled, they’ve done things they didn’t want to do for other people, and, ultimately, they found that it wasn’t valued. That makes it easy to relate to a character like Rambo, even if you’re not planning to shoot at anybody with a machine gun.
Most people think Marv is crazy, but I don’t believe that. I’m no shrink and I’m not saying I’ve got Marv all figured out or anything, but “crazy” just doesn’t explain him. Not to me. Sometimes I think he’s retarded, a big, brutal kid who never learned the ground rules about how people are supposed to act around each other. But that doesn’t have the right ring to it either. No, it’s more like there’s nothing wrong with Marv, nothing at all — except that he had the rotten luck of being born at the wrong time in history. He’d have been okay if he’d been born a couple of thousand years ago. He’d be right at home on some ancient battlefield, swinging an ax into somebody’s face. Or in a Roman Arena, taking a sword to other gladiators like him. They’d have tossed him girls like Nancy, back then. — Sin City
Ever watched a classic action flick? Of course you have. Movies like Die Hard, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lethal Weapon, First Blood, and 300 have become fixtures in the American psyche. All these movies feature either a lone man or a small group fighting in a desperate, violent struggle and yet, somehow, coming out on top. Throughout most of America’s history, the average man could more easily relate to the experiences in those movies the way someone who shoots hoops at the park could relate to watching an NBA game. Sure, they might not have been able to do what they were seeing on the screen, but they were well-acquainted with violence. Either they had inflicted it, suffered it, or seen it up close and personal. We’re a nation that was birthed in a bloody revolution, where feuds and dueling were frequent occurrences, where intermittent battles with Indians occurred until the twenties, where roughly twenty percent of the male population served in WWII, and where fist fights and brawling were relatively common.
The average man may have seen hundreds of thousands of murders on his TV screen and committed tens of thousands more playing video games, but he has also probably never struck another human being in anger in his entire adult lifetime. In other words, he may be captivated by the imagery he sees at the movies, but he goes home knowing that he will never even live out a pale imitation of what he’s just seen.
Parenting isn’t easy under any circumstances, and parents seem to be under excessive pressure today to do everything “right.” Books, classes, and websites abound to teach parents how to do what used to be a rather simple proposition. Experts are everywhere; unfortunately, some will undermine your confidence in your ability to parent your own children.
The “Expert Class” has convinced parents that they’re inept and completely incapable of completing the simplest of parenting tasks without consulting them. And it’s not just the credentialed experts. Friends, family members, and people on the street liberally dispense advice and many parents feel so overwhelmed that they lose confidence in their ability to make good decisions for their children, constantly second-guessing themselves. Worse, many parents leave the parenting up to the “experts.”
Dr. Ray Guarendi, clinical psychologist and father of ten, describes the pressures this way:
Few things can ruin the enjoyment of parenthood more surely than a fear of mistakes. Nowadays so many parents live with the daily worry that they will accidentally set in motion some emotional hang-up that will plague their youngster through childhood and maybe into adulthood. One single parent mom told me she was reluctant to discipline her strong willed son because she didn’t want him to grow up with bad feelings towards women.
It’s no surprise that parents are so skittish. They’ve been blamed for everything from Waldo’s bellyache to his dropping out of school. Somehow, some way, the finger gets pointed back at the folks. They must have miscalculated or blundered at some crucial stage along the way. Out of ignorance, inexperience, lack of sophistication or savvy, they’ve done something to create the instability or defect in Sigmund’s mental health.
Let’s begin with a basic premise: They are your children and you know them better and love them more than anyone else on the face of the earth. This doesn’t mean that you’re a perfect parent or that you’ll never make any mistakes, but it means that more than anyone on the earth, you care about the well-being and success of your children and therefore are the best qualified to make decisions on their behalf.
However, in order to be an empowered, confident parent, you must learn to recognize when others, whether they are “experts” or family members, overstep their bounds and when it may be appropriate—and better—to trust your instincts and judgement.
Manhood is not simply a matter of being male and reaching a certain age. These are acts of nature; manhood is a sustained act of character. It is no easier to become a man than it is to become virtuous. In fact, the two are the same. The root of our old-fashioned word “virtue” is the Latin word virtus, a derivative of vir, or man. To be virtuous is to be “manly.” As Aristotle understood it, virtue is a “golden mean” between the extremes of excess and deficiency. Too often among today’s young males, the extremes seem to predominate. One extreme suffers from an excess of manliness, or from misdirected and unrefined manly energies. The other suffers from a lack of manliness, a total want of manly spirit. Call them barbarians and wimps. So prevalent are these two errant types that the prescription for what ails our young males might be reduced to two simple injunctions: Don’t be a barbarian. Don’t be a wimp. What is left, ceteris paribus, will be a man.
– Terrence O. Moore, Wimps and Barbarians: The Sons of Murphy Brown
As we seem to be rushing headlong into the decision to allow women to serve in combat, a decision with wide-ranging implications, let’s consider a few inconvenient truths.
Men commit violent crimes more than three times as often as women. Ninety-nine percent of rapists are men. Serial killers are almost always men. Mass shooters are almost always men. From early infancy, boys and girls show sex-linked toy preferences.
This is not to suggest that all men are violent psychopaths, but anyone who has ever raised male children knows that they are born with an innate tendency to throw, hit, destroy, and create general mayhem.
When our boys were little we belonged to a playgroup that included girls. Quite honestly, I often found myself shocked at the behavior of my little boys compared to their angelic female playmates. My male tots, who were in no way being raised in a violent home and who watched nothing more violent on TV than Lamb Chop’s Play-Along, had an inborn propensity for violent behavior. If they could lift it they wanted to throw it. If they felt anger their natural reaction was to hit. They saw an open tub of Duplo blocks as an invitation to hoist the tub in the air and scatter the blocks across the room. Usually, their female toddler friends tried to reason with them — babbling incoherently, no doubt scolding them for their barbaric behavior. When that didn’t work, they just stared at them as if they were space aliens (the toddler version of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus).
Psychologist James Dobson wrote about this natural propensity in Bringing up Boys:
[O]ne of the scariest aspects of raising boys is their tendency to risk life and limb for no good reason. It begins very early. If a toddler can climb on it, he will jump off it. He careens out of control toward tables, tubs, pools, steps, trees, and streets. He will eat anything but food and loves to play in the toilet. He makes “guns” out of cucumbers or toothbrushes and likes digging around in drawers, pill bottles, and Mom’s purse. And just hope he doesn’t get his grubby little hands on a tube of lipstick. A boy harasses grumpy dogs and picks up kitties by their ears. His mom has to watch him every minute to keep him from killing himself. He loves to throw rocks, play with fire, and shatter glass. He also gets great pleasure out of irritating his brothers and sisters, his mother, his teachers, and other children. As he gets older, he is drawn to everything dangerous—skateboards, rock climbing, hang gliding, motorcycles, and mountain bikes. At about sixteen, he and his buddies begin driving around town like kamikaze pilots on sake. It’s a wonder any of them survive. Not every boy is like this, of course, but the majority of them are.
“Stunning … a wonderful read … a page-turner … a handbook for life.” Those words of advance praise from another celebrated author scarcely convey just how powerfully mesmerizing is the latest book by New York Times best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Larry Elder.
To be released by WND Books Nov. 13, 2012, “Dear Father, Dear Son” is a personal memoir of Elder’s troubled — one might even say tortured — relationship with his father, and the astonishing outcome that develops when Elder, at long last, confronts him.
Says Elder: “A man’s relationship with his father — every boy, every man lucky enough to have a father in his life has to figure that out. My own father? I thought I knew him — even though he seldom talked about himself. And what I knew I hated — really, really hated. Cold, ill-tempered, thin-skinned, my father always seemed on the brink of erupting. Scared to death of him, I kept telling myself to find the courage to ‘stand up to him.’ When I was fifteen, I did.” After that, said Elder, “We did not speak to each other for ten years.”
“And then we did — for eight hours.” The result can’t be described. It has to be experienced.
As reflected in the book’s subtitle — “Two Lives … Eight Hours” — one extraordinary, all- day conversation between Elder and his long- estranged father utterly transformed their relationship. It is no exaggeration to say the book will likewise transform readers.
Indeed, calling it “stunning,” Burt Boyar, co-author of the bestselling autobiography on Sammy Davis, Jr., says of “Dear Father, Dear Son”: “Above all it is a wonderful read. I am tempted to call it a page-turner but in my case I hated to turn every page because that meant I was getting closer to the end and I did not want it to end. … The book is filled with emotion. It is, of course, a handbook for life. I guess it is that above all things. Any kid who reads it and follows the advice of how to live his life just has to come out well.”
“Dear Father, Dear Son” is the story of one man discovering a son he never really knew. And of the son finding a man, a friend, a father who had really been there all along.
Related on fatherhood at PJ Lifestyle:
One of the best parts of the holiday season has to be Christmas movies. There are hundreds of them and a few dozen classics among them. As a father of two, I’m always interested to see how popular films portray dads, so it makes sense to find the best papas in favorite Christmas flicks who can teach us all how to be better parents.
Let’s focus on five who would make Father Christmas proud.
5. Clark Griswold, The Do-Whatever-It-Takes Father
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the third film in a series following the hilarious Griswolds. The family patriarch is the lovable goof Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), whose greatest desire is for his family to have the perfect Christmas. How many dads can relate to a guy with Christmas cheer who can’t catch a break in trying to make the season bright? Clark’s frustrations abound as he just tries to give his family a “good old-fashioned family Christmas.” Clark forgets the saw when finding the perfect Christmas tree, he can’t figure out how to get his million lights to light up (been there), he can’t make annoying in-laws happy (won’t say I’ve been there), and he buys a huge gift for his family and then doesn’t receive his Christmas bonus to pay for it. He struggles and fails, but he keeps on fighting for that wonderful family Christmas.
Time rightfully put Clark in their top ten list of perfect movie dads. They praised him as the ultimate example of “determination.” He was always willing to go the extra mile to provide experiences his family would never forget.
Clark makes our list for doing whatever it takes to bring joy and special memories to his family for Christmas. Yes, he fails and sometimes fails miserably, but his heart is in the right place. While many men may ignore Christmas or leave it to others in the family, Clark takes the lead to bring his family the joys of the holiday. I can relate to that and so can countless other fathers. We are kids at heart and want our families to experience the wonders of the holiday season.
Congratulations. You survived the first semester of college! You made it through the first two weeks of sitting in your son’s empty bedroom with a box of tissues, wondering how the time flew by so quickly and how that little boy you used to rock to sleep in this room grew up and moved into a dorm three states away. Pat yourself on the back for not being the stalker parent who calls three times a day and instead settling for creeping on his Facebook page and watching for Twitter updates! You’ve been marking off the days on the calendar until Christmas break, planning all sorts of family activities—a whole month of family togetherness! It’s going to be just like old times!
Before you carve those plans in stone, take a few minutes to read through some of the common mistakes parents of college students make and consider how you might avoid them:
Mistake #1 — Assuming he will want to do….anything…
Most likely your son spent the last two weeks in a sleepless blur, sustained by coffee, energy drinks, and cold pizza. If he’s a decent, conscientious student he hunkered down in the library or his dorm room writing papers and studying for finals until all hours of the night.
On top of that, he attended Christmas parties and tied up loose ends with his extracurricular activities and athletic commitments and squeezed in some last -minute quality time with his new “family” at school. When he arrives home with his duffel bag full of rancid laundry, don’t be surprised if he shows up on the verge of a complete crash or even a meltdown. He may be an emotional wreck from all the pent-up stress he’s been experiencing or he may simply be dog-tired and ready to sleep for three days straight. As a parent, if you can anticipate this possibility and allow some time for your student to unwind and recharge, everyone will be happier and the holidays will be much more pleasant. Manage your expectations and be sensitive to his feelings and energy level. If you expect your child to walk in the door and immediately jump into the flurry of family activities, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment and adding to the family stress level during the holidays. It’s best to maintain a flexible schedule, at least for the first few days of Christmas break.