Last week(ish), I gave the first reason I loved being a firebrand conservative in college. This week, it’s on to reason number two: being hardcore conservative made me feel manly.
I’ve already documented my…complicated relationship with evangelicals and manliness. For those who didn’t catch it the first time, I talk about it here, here, and here.
To summarize: growing up, there seemed to be some evangelical manliness test. It was written on elephant hide, in blood, by John Eldridge and Mark Driscoll. It involved something about rescuing a beauty, jumping off waterfalls, and being a Leader of this Generation. I think bear-hunting was involved, too.
But whatever the test was, I failed. I wasn’t one of those outdoor-ministry wood-chopping beard-growing types; I was a skinny nerd with peach fuzz and a nervous smile. I had no ability to fix a car, survive in the wilderness, or ask a girl out. And forget being a Leader of this Generation–I couldn’t even lead prayer at a Bible study. If there was a skill you’d think a manly man should have, I did not have it….unless you think a manly man should be good at Nintendo.
But then I found politics.
“Makes me uncomfortable.” Robby panted, shielding his eyes from the evening sun.
“The truth is uncomfortable sometimes.” I replied, pulling alongside him. Robby and I were jogging a few paces behind the other three guys in our group. The five of us ran four evenings a week–partly to get in shape, and partly to show off our bare torsos outside the girls’ dorm.
While gasping for breath behind our fitter friends, Robby and I got to talking about airports profiling passengers in our post-9/11 world.
“I don’t like the idea that someone’s nationality makes us suspect them.” Robby said after several minutes of panting.
“Neither do I.” I replied, willing myself not to keel over. “But here, it does. Every one of the high-jackers fit the same profile–same ethnicity, same age, same gender. It makes sense to focus on that profile.1”
“But–” Robby fell a half-step behind.
“Get real. Do you really think some 80-year-old grandma from Kansas could be a suicide bomber? Then why are we wasting time pretending that she could?”
More silence while Robby and I tried catching up with the lead group as they approached the final leg of the run: the Hundred Steps that led up to the quad and was–conveniently–right in front of the girls’ dorm windows.
“But won’t airport profiling create an Other? I don’t want that.”
I shrugged. “You know what I care about more than a hurt feelings? Catching terrorists.” And with that, I set up the steps, legs and brain churning toward what had to be done. I pulled away from Robby, toward the head of the pack.
At the top, I fist-bumped the guys and let the sweat fall off my chest. I couldn’t help smiling at Robby, who was still a dozen steps from the top. Maybe some day he’d man up too.
Having never been in an actual fight, I couldn’t say for sure what it was like to beat someone up. But winning political debates seemed as close as I was going to get.
Especially when I took the conservative side.
Conservative argument seemed infused with testosterone–everything from the free market (it’s survival of the fittest–don’t cry because you can’t win!) to national defense (destroy the bad guys before they destroy us!) to attacks on welfare (stop whining and get to work!). They were the positions of the barrel-chested and meat-eating among us. The ones who shot guns and raced trucks and flew jets.
Whenever I made the conservative argument, I pictured myself swaggering to the front lines like an action hero. If nobody else is man enough to say it, then I will…
In any other scenario, I was the thin-wristed nerd who couldn’t grow a beard. But in politics, I was the alpha male, and liberals were the thin-wristed nerds. At least, that’s how I felt after my run. Arms swinging like a silverback, hair whipping in the breeze, I strode toward the rest of the pack.
That is, until some girls walked out of their dorm. Then I blushed and looked at the ground…..
1 I hope this is obvious, but I don’t subscribe to this view anymore…
Photo by Ed Dunens