A Country of Boys:

In our home we have a wall dedicated to the pictures of all of our ancestors who served in the military. Basic Training graduation photos of fathers, grandfathers, siblings, uncles, cousins – any relation who made the great sacrifice, allowing the armed services to transform them from boys to men. The “wall”, as we call it, serves as a great learning tool for our children, affording us the opportunity to have our children know their ancestors and it’s not unusual with people of my generation to have nearly all male ancestors from both mine and my husbands sides be represented on the “wall”.

 All different branches, ranks, and conflicts are represented on our “wall” but the one thing that each one of these pictures has in common is the pride in the eyes of the photo subjects. Some of them elected a military career while others got out as soon as they possibly could. Some were cut out for military service, some not so much. Whatever our military does during its basic training ritual one thing is clear, the process readily provides recruits with two very specific and necessary characteristics for the promise of future success; pride and self-confidence.

Now to my point— when looking at the “wall” what most concerns me is not the sacrifices and suffering endured by those represented, though both were great, but rather the loss of an appreciation for pride and self-confidence in today’s young men. We have many young men in our family, by my definition those between the ages of 18 and 30, plus many more I know, who appear to be floundering, without direction or purpose. Referred to in some media outlets as the “lost generation”, they have no pride, no self-respect, no value for what they do, and no purpose for their future.

In generations of past it was common place to serve; now it is the exception.. Young men still living at home or with relatives at ages of 25, 28, and even 30 would have been unheard of, and probably unacceptable in my fathers’ and grandfathers’ days. If you didn’t go to college, or you didn’t acquire a skill with which you could use to support yourself out of high school, then you served, plain and simple.

Today it is not uncommon for a 26 year old to be living at home while trying to “find themselves”. Of course the process of “finding oneself” does not preclude one from fathering children, or spending other’s money and taking whatever is given, while producing nothing and providing no value to the world.  Eventually their marriages will fail, if they ever even get married in the first place. Their young children will be raised without values and with no clear provider, coming from a broken family with parents more interested in planning their next social event than helping with school work and who are incapable of being civil to each other even in front of the kids. It’s a vicious cycle without an end. Someday I envision our great-grandchildren being raised in homes with out a “wall” from which to derive family pride, and no value system in place from which to derive self confidence.

And who is to blame? I blame the parents, those who mistake their role as protector versus preparer; provider versus teacher; those raising young men who are enabled versus empowered. It’s not a racial issue; it’s not a socio-economic issue. Quite simply it is a cultural issue, one that transcends all races, religions, and economic classes, and what I believe to be the most serious issue facing our nation. We are raising boys when what this country and our society desperately needs is men.

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