By Rob Okun
Years ago, the pork industry ran a campaign touting its product as the â€œother white meat.â€ It was angling to ally itself with the â€œchicken-is-healthier-than-red-meatâ€ crowd. Most people saw it for what it was: a cynical ploy. Today, when it comes to white men, the sound and fury is all coming from the red meat crowdâ€”riot-endorsers Sens. Josh Hawley and flyinâ€™ Ted Cruz, and Cong. Louie Gohmert, to name a few. (No, Tucker Carlson, this is not an assault on hamburgers.)
So where are the â€œotherâ€ white men? Who wear masks, believe in gender equality (and science), raise their children, donâ€™t â€œbabysitâ€ them; workingmen volunteering in their communities? There are plenty of them below the mediaâ€™s radar, and many like them are in BIPOC communities.
For anyone who knows men like these, support them! No one can afford to remain silent about the dangers posed by white supremacist men who dominate the news. Especially in light of the insurrection at the US Capitol, we need to hear from the â€œotherâ€ white men and their allies. Now.
Consider: Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson describes the primarily white male supremacist rioters as â€œpatriotsâ€ and says he was never afraid, conveniently ignoring their violent attack on Capitol police, including murdering officer Brian Sicknick.
How is it possible that once againâ€”just as in mass shootingsâ€”few commentators state the obvious: virtually all the white supremacists in the spotlight are men, ultraright foot soldiers pledging allegiance to the United States of White America? Since Joe Bidenâ€™s inauguration, the Trumpublicans havenâ€™t gone away; nor have the Proud Boys, Three Percenters, Boogaloo Boys, and Oath Keepers, among others.
We cannot ignore a flashing caution light, especially one that turned blood red on January 6. Until or unless we acknowledge the connection between those violent men and their establishment counterpartsâ€”co-conspirators like Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, and Lindsay Grahamâ€”it will be harder for the â€œotherâ€ white men to join President Bidenâ€™s battle for the soul of America. Without men of peace modeling an alternative, insurrection supportersâ€”including those in states passing new laws to suppress the voteâ€”will continue to feel emboldened to seek fresh recruits.
It may be imprecise cultural shorthand to describe the â€œformer guyâ€ and President Biden as examples of old and new expressions of masculinity, especially since at 78 Biden is an unlikely poster boy for a kinder, gentler manhood. Nevertheless, he is a good choice, providing cover for white menâ€”and BIPOC alliesâ€”to stand behind a platform promoting a new masculinity.
In the political world, insurrection lovers Hawley and Cruz are jockeying for pole position in the 2024 presidential race, allying themselves with the former guyâ€™s base and its expression of manhood emphasizing toughness, aggression, and violence. The â€œotherâ€ white men and their allies have an opportunity to expose how extreme that posture is. To remain silent would be morally inexcusable. With COVID-19 finally being responsibly managed there is space for another kind of treatment focused on youth, particularly boys and young men.
There may not yet be a schedule for vaccinating youth, but by embodying compassion and empathy, men can be inoculated against the Trumpublican virus of callousness, abuse, and violence. Itâ€™s on us to prepare youth for “transformation of masculinity” treatments, urging parents, educators, coaches, and faith leaders to develop programs to nurture young menâ€™s emotional growth.
Iâ€™ve long advocated that the CDC pilot a program at Head Start for preschool teachers to cultivate boysâ€™ emotional intelligence. Perhaps now, with the contrast between the brands of masculinity so stark, Congress will enact a bipartisan supported bill, the Healthy Boys Initiative.
It wonâ€™t be easy. Nevertheless, there are hopeful developments. Even within the narrow world of electoral politics, the number of women winning elective officeâ€”and being confirmed as cabinet secretariesâ€”is a powerful antidote to patriarchyâ€™s poison. They are a corrective to four years of misogynous rants, still audible from Trumpublicans with smaller bullhorns.
Still, empowered womanhood is suspect, branded as feminist. Despite feminism simply denoting â€œa belief in the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes,â€ chauvinists denigrate it as a virulent virus. Now, with Kamala Harris as vice president, and early trials of a Biden healthy masculinity vaccine showing promise, conditions are ripe for men to begin receiving feminism antibodies, an essential treatment in combating the white male supremacy pandemic.