Thirty six years ago, a book that evoked a national, and then a global revolution began with Chapter One entitled "The Problem That Has No Name." The book was The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. The revolution was the women's movement. Since the book' publication in 1963, that gender-based movement has spread to all corners of the globe. The problem that had no name back then was the unmistakable but deeply buried issue of women's lost creativity and their absence of significant work roles in government at all levels and their significant exclusion from the professions and leadership roles in corporate America. Put in one word, women's issue in the culture in 1963 was powerlessness. The fuel for building their movement was giving responsible voice to their anger.
I invite you to consider that in April 1999, the problem that has no name is a deeply wounded masculinity -- a masculinity so wounded it transcends the age of the men, their cultures, religions, their social class and their nationalities. Put in one word, men's issue in the global culture of 1999 is numbness. A failure to express feeling. Numb men do not exhibit or release the normal range of human emotion. They stockpile their frustration until it becomes anger then rage. They bury their sadness and embarrassment until it becomes deeply frozen grief.
We all have paid too high a price for the stockpiled feeling in Mr. Milosevic over the ungrieved losses of his parents suicides and no doubt many other life defeats we yet have no knowledge about. We have paid too high a price for the two young white upper middle class men in Littleton, Colorado who stuffed their anger and humiliation until, like Milosevic, it erupted with full force in uncontrollable rage on the front stage of human history.
General Noman Swartzkof was quoted during Operation Desert Storm as saying he could not trust a man in combat who could not cry over the loss of a fellow soldier. President Lincoln visited both Confederate and Union hospitals and wept openly at the tragic wounds he saw in other men. Mature men participate in the suffering and sorrow of this world and experience the pain of others as their own. Perhaps the first step in solving the issue of human violence in these United States is to move at long last beyond political correctness and posturing. It is time to say directly and plainly that the issue of violence in Kosovo, Littleton, Colorado and all over this planet is a MALE PROBLEM.
Deeply wounded and isolated men extract a terrible toll for finding themselves unheard, uncomforted, and ignored during their hours of youthful distress. Deeply wounded and isolated men are more easily tempted to abandon allegiance to God and drift deeper and deeper into the undertow of Evil. Metal detectors, gun control laws and school security procedures are issues. But they are also the bud of the dandelion. To remove the spread of the dandelion as a gardener knows, requires going to the root of the matter. Our root as men is our deep wounding and isolation. Our numbness and disconnection from our own hearts. The ancient alchemical principles "like cures like." The source of the wounding must be the source of the healing. Men healing men. A novel notion! The claim of history upon men is to get busy and become healers of other men -- asmentors, friends, buddies. We may yet become what God intended all along -- spiritual warriors of the heart, rather than warriors of death.
April 23, 1999
Forrest Craver has led more than twenty weekend retreats for men in D.C. Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He's written numerous articles on issues of masculine development, male initiation and men's call to compassionate action in the world. He was also a major contributor to Wingspan, the quarterly magazine of the mythopoetic men's movement and the male spirit.