I think the first time I ever really took note of this was in the early days of high school. It was gym class and suddenly 30 young men/boys were put into the change room to get into our gym outfits. What I witnessed was the first of many incidents where the bigger guys deciding to use their size to intimidate the smaller guys or worse to bully them. I was one of the smaller guys.
In high school it was clear that to be accepted into certain social groups required the ability to intimidate or at least to defend yourself with a great amount of rigor. Any sign of weakness was met with a show of strength. In terms of value, intimidation rated high.
I didn’t play a lot of sports but I liked pickup hockey and I played a fair amount of that. Again in the locker room and even more on the ice, size and the ability to be “manly” was prized. If you could push others around, could use strength or size to win, then that was praised.
As a pastor I heard story after story from those in certain professions of the macho culture – especially in the fire fighting and police culture. The buildings became places where demonstrations of intimidation were common and praised. Laughing at someone who was new, less established or vulnerable seemed to be standard practice.
I’ve been thinking about all this as we’ve heard about the divisions within our culture between those perceived to be privileged and those who are not. I’ve been watching the videos of law enforcement caught in the tension of supporting the law and over-reacting. It does seem that there is a temptation to be “tough” and I suppose that it’s hard to judge unless you’re in the moment. However, the demonstrations of officers using too much force does seem to be fairly rampant.
In 1998 while living in Ottawa I had an opportunity to witness a most unusual police event. I was sitting at a red light, waiting to make a left turn when I noticed at the next light, directly ahead of me, a police car come from the east, turned to the south so that it was approaching me. The car was clearly moving fast.
Before it got to me it turned into a parking lot in a grocery store and came to an abrupt stop. The driver hopped out and began to run towards me. It was then I realized that he was in bare feet and was in hand cuffs! I did think about hitting him with the driver’s door as he ran by (but on second thought what if I miss….) and in a moment he was down the street. With no police in sight I turned the van around to follow… suddenly four or five police cars arrived. Within in seconds he was on the ground.
So here’s where I wonder about excessive force…
They put him on the ground and began to punch him – not one police officer but two or three.
I suppose you might think he deserved it. He might have had it coming. Perhaps he had hurt a police officer. My point is, that they really did not need to beat on him. He was in custody. It’s the job of the courts to meet out judgement and appropriate punishment. Not a police officer who is feeling a bit miffed.
So let me connect the dots – I sometimes wonder if this macho culture, as I refer to it, this need to be tough and in control, feeds into those moments when the police are in response to a person or an event? Because we’ve seen so much south of the border you might think it is worse there, but I am not suggesting that. I am really making comment on the macho culture, not on police culture.
This macho culture has shown up in other ways. I’ve watched men treat the women I know poorly because they were men and somehow came to a place where they believed they were more important.
Now let me finish with the word gentleman. Do you know any? Are you one? Those who are carry these two characteristics in life. First, as is in the title, they are gentle. This does not imply timid, in fact I think being gentle requires great strength. It implies walking softly but with confidence and strength. The second part is that being a man is really knowing yourself well and knowing that there is leadership for any man who wants to lead, not to be out front, but to be of service to others.
A great man sees himself as one who serves others, I may even say uses any strength or size to help and protect others. A great man is a gentleman.
I stumbled across this video from Michael Jr. You may or may not know of him, he’s a well known comedian, a wonderful Christian man and in this video articulates much of what I’m saying above.