Some of you might remember the following scene from A Man for All Seasons, a film about St. Thomas More’s conflict with Henry VIII over papal supremacy. I’d like you to keep the following scene in mind as I discuss the fundamental flaw in the Supreme Court’s ruling.
WILLIAM ROPER: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
SIR THOMAS MORE: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
ROPER: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
MORE: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!
Watching an anime called Seraph of the End, the latest installment of the Mad Max franchise, and reading several reviews of that film spawned this post. When I see phrases like “the dangers of manliness” or “manly excess,” I wonder why anyone should fear a good thing. Of course, Theodore Roosevelt is famous for dividing “manly” from “decent” virtues–saying that the former without the latter produces a villain, while the latter without the former makes for a man who does not count. Rather the case is that neither nicety which shudders from protecting the weak nor boldness which takes from the weak are virtues. After all, the whole point of virtue is right action, which in turn forms the good character of the one who acts rightly. Manliness is the name for good character in a man in the same way as femininity is the name for a woman’s good character. Manliness itself falls in between the extremes of effeminacy and brutality or cruelty. Those extremes are what society should fear rather than manliness, which stands as the bulwark of the civilized world against the barbarians who would destroy it. Post-moderns seem to have taken the violent extreme as synonymous with manliness. This makes them afraid of true men, imagining them to be monsters, and causes them to prefer men who fall into the effeminate extreme. Why should this be so? One must remember that the post-modern has divorced himself from the West’s tradition and past. Not standing by the wisdom of their ancestors forces them to create new philosophies, which hold less wisdom than tried and true schools of thought. In the same way, a young man’s conception of reality is perforce poorer than an old man’s. In particular, post-moderns lack particular examples of what a man should be. If someone asked me who were examples of good men, I should have no trouble rattling off dozens of names: Jesus Christ, George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Joshua L. Chamberlain, Marquis de Lafayette, Padre Pio, Captain Joseph Fry, Theodore Roosevelt, Capt. Richard O’Kane, Demosthenes, the Prophet Moses, etc. What joins these men together? Virtue, which derives from the Latin word for manliness or manly excellence.