Vox Day has a post that begins with an aphorism: good fathers hope their sons know peace, but prepare them for war. This is one of those moments when I truly love and yet loathe the internet. Day’s post leads to the Federalist, where Jesse Kelly writers about teaching his son to handle guns responsibly, and Kelly’s post links to a squalling embarrassment of a man named Will Leitch who behaves in a cringingly despicable way to his own son, also named William.
Last year, my wife and I met with my son’s teacher for a parent-teacher conference… William was one of her brightest students, reading at a third-grade level already, and he’s diligent and patient and picks the right friends…’when you think of what you would want a kid in your class to act like, it would be William.’ It was around now that I started tapping my foot uneasily and looking warily around the room. Something about this felt vaguely wrong in a way I couldn’t put my finger on, and what she said next said cinched it for me: ‘He’s just the golden boy.’
Is he? Or does he just look the part? What makes my kid so special? Oh, and: What kind of jerk am I for questioning such a lovely compliment about my own child?
But how am I supposed to feel about my children’s success when I know, deep down, in my heart of hearts, that the world around them would be a better place if more children like them won fewer of the spoils? …I want equality, and a fair playing field, and more opportunities for people who haven’t had them in centuries past…
Ick. It’s just gross to read Leitch. What a sad, repulsive man. Sorry for the imagery, but you can just imagine this man getting up every morning and slathering his balls with Vagisil as he asks his wife what he has permission to do for the day. Ugh. I truly feel sorry for his poor little boy, who will have to work his own way out of his father’s vapidity to find his own path in the world, but you know, as long as Big Will doesn’t beat the IQ out of Little Will, Little Will will be okay. His path could be easier, if he had a man for a father, but he doesn’t and he’ll have to come terms with that. I feel sorry for the lad, but he will be fine.
My own son is entering his pre-teen years, and the importance of his father has never been more starkly demarcated. I have always understood that I would be the vital influence for his baby years, and then he would slowly transfer his primary identity to his father, as he came to terms with what it means to be a man, and how he is going to negotiate that terrain. Lots of women resist that transfer fiercely or just eliminate a father altogether, and those boys are destined to struggle, but struggle or not, they will find a way to become men.
I have nothing to offer my son when it comes to learning how to be a man. Quite frankly, no woman has anything to offer a boy learning to become a man. What I can do is get out of the way and let him forge relationships with the men in his community – coaches, teachers, the fathers of his friends (and his enemies), older brothers and cousins and boys at school – his own father will guide him.
I have given him the sense of security and stability that good mothers bequeath their children, by being present for him when he was little and responding to his needs with love and kindness. Now it’s time for him to face the world, and the world won’t always respond with love and kindness.
Boys who don’t have fathers, or who have fathers that are ineffectual, weak or impaired for some reason, must seek out a father figure. Virtually all world religions offer that father figure, to meet a need that is both powerful and universal.
My son trains in tae kwan do, plays competitive sports, plays piano, has increasing jobs and responsibilities around the house, faces consequences (from his dad, not me) for failing to live up to expectations and in general is shouldering the privileges and responsibilities of burgeoning manhood, but nowhere does he face those privileges and responsibilities more starkly than in his large group shooter games.
It’s one thing to fire his Sig Sauer replica pellet gun out in the backyard at designated targets, and quite another to armor up with unimaginably powerful virtual weapons and venture onto a digital battlefield with other players who will waste him without a nanosecond of thought given to what’s fair, just or righteous. There’s no trigger discipline when you’re up against the Red Legion. Ghaul cares not for your feelings.
On the one hand, this is all just simulated battle, but on the other, there are actual human beings playing the other characters, and those human beings will behave like, well, human beings. They will be petty, cruel, treacherous, deceptive, diabolical and will murder you in a heartbeat. Sometimes they will murder you just for fun. Ha ha! Sucks to be you.
They will also be loyal, heroic, sacrificial, courageous and encouraging.
All of this is vital as my son learns to come to terms with how he will conduct himself as a man in a world that currently doesn’t have much love for men, as Big Will Leitch articulates, in his estrogen-slick way. Part of the reason feminists and leftists hate video games is because they recognize the utility to Vox’s observation: video games prepare boys for war.
The only question is which side you will be on.
Lots of love,