Magazine September 9, 2019, Issue

American Men

Workers put the final touches on a natural gas well platform near Parachute, Colo., in 2014. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)
In the hurly-burly of politics, we usually don’t stop to note our simple, unadorned love of the things that make this country so marvelous. That’s what we’ve asked our contributors to our latest special issue, "What We Love about America," to do.

American men! Along with blue jeans (I have three pairs of real workpants from Tractor Supply) and a messy house (don’t ask), they let you be yourself and get on with things. They’re also the kindest, most decent, most loving men there are. Some, at 15, were already fantasizing about marshaling breakfast for whining, barking, yowling households. Get them drunk enough — a tough job, as a rule — and they may confess this.

They pine for smart and bitchy women. Back when I was dating, my most fascinating remarks were quotations from Juvenal. My most alluring gesture was the bird. American men make loyal and tender friends. As teachers, they champion you, putting their own reputations on the line. As older mentors, they can be too indulgent, worrying that their professional standards are getting in the way of your fresh ideas. As employers, they’re not perfectly fair to women; they’re just fairer than anyone else in the world.

It’s fashionable to run men of this country down — and, yeah, some deserve it. But even northern Europe is hardly a manhood paradise by comparison. A German professor boasted to me of his open-mindedness: He let his wife have the car one day a week, so that she could do the shopping. Tyrannical in-laws; spoiled only children; porn, mistresses, and prostitutes as erotic competitors; ruthless diet and fashion industries; and a thousand rigid traditions around domesticity steal European women’s lives. European men are okay with this.

American men — with few exceptions — treat you like a human being, in a free, natural way, because they’ve done it from the nation’s youth. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that a young American woman could make a long trip alone in perfect security — woe to anyone who touched her. That expectation endangered me in the developing world; men’s attitudes there forced me to fold in and withdraw. I was relieved to hilarity to settle in the U.S. again, where I could reclaim my whole self, public and private, for people I like and things that interest me.

During a snowstorm one year, two young men at a Pennsylvania bus station helped me cross the icy parking lot with my luggage and then stood near me under the awning, talking to each other about frontier history. I realized I didn’t have to worry how I seemed to them, young or old, attractive or unattractive, attached or unattached, well-off or poor. They had no notion of a right to either hunt me or drive me away, as a useful or useless feral creature. I shared their species.

Out at the road, a shuttle let out a blind passenger. He began to shuffle across the lot; we stared. Then a middle-aged man next to us set off wordlessly to help. The two younger ones were crushed: They hadn’t displayed an instant, full sense of their duty. “I feel like a tool bag,” one muttered. No, my friend, you’re not a tool bag. You’re one of the greats.

Sarah Ruden’s most recent work is a translation of Augustine’s Confessions.

In This Issue

What We Love About America

U.S.

American Men

American men — with few exceptions — treat you like a human being, in a free, natural way, because they’ve done it from the nation’s youth.

Books, Arts & Manners

Sections

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Five Thoughts on the George Floyd Story

After a night of riots, looting, and arson in Minneapolis to protest the police killing of George Floyd, five thoughts spring to mind: One: It is always hazardous to draw sweeping conclusions about society from individual criminal cases. Every individual case involves individual facts, and those facts often ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Five Thoughts on the George Floyd Story

After a night of riots, looting, and arson in Minneapolis to protest the police killing of George Floyd, five thoughts spring to mind: One: It is always hazardous to draw sweeping conclusions about society from individual criminal cases. Every individual case involves individual facts, and those facts often ... Read More

The Need to Discuss Black-on-Black Crime

Thomas Abt’s book Bleeding Out (2019) has garnered a fair amount of attention for its proposals to deal with gun violence in mainly black urban neighborhoods. The entire focus of the book is on interventions in high-crime locations to stem the violence, including: hot-spots policing, working with young males at ... Read More

The Need to Discuss Black-on-Black Crime

Thomas Abt’s book Bleeding Out (2019) has garnered a fair amount of attention for its proposals to deal with gun violence in mainly black urban neighborhoods. The entire focus of the book is on interventions in high-crime locations to stem the violence, including: hot-spots policing, working with young males at ... Read More
White House

There’s No Fix for Trump’s Bad Tweets

Whether social media have been good or bad for society is an open question. Whether social media have been good or bad for President Trump isn’t as difficult to discern. For even the most sober-minded and introspective figures, Twitter can serve as a dangerous temptation. For a man as capricious and mercurial ... Read More
White House

There’s No Fix for Trump’s Bad Tweets

Whether social media have been good or bad for society is an open question. Whether social media have been good or bad for President Trump isn’t as difficult to discern. For even the most sober-minded and introspective figures, Twitter can serve as a dangerous temptation. For a man as capricious and mercurial ... Read More
Economy & Business

The Spread of the Debt Virus

The current U.S. budget deficit could soon exceed a record $4 trillion. The massive borrowing is being driven both by prior budget profligacy and by a hurried effort by the Donald Trump administration to pump liquidity into a quarantined America. The shutdown has left the country on the cusp of a ... Read More
Economy & Business

The Spread of the Debt Virus

The current U.S. budget deficit could soon exceed a record $4 trillion. The massive borrowing is being driven both by prior budget profligacy and by a hurried effort by the Donald Trump administration to pump liquidity into a quarantined America. The shutdown has left the country on the cusp of a ... Read More
U.S.

Toward Justice — and Order — in Minneapolis

George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died shortly after being physically restrained by four Minneapolis police officers on Monday. His arrest on suspicion of a non-violent crime (passing a counterfeit $20 bill) was caught on a cellphone video and at least two store surveillance videos. From the videos that are ... Read More
U.S.

Toward Justice — and Order — in Minneapolis

George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died shortly after being physically restrained by four Minneapolis police officers on Monday. His arrest on suspicion of a non-violent crime (passing a counterfeit $20 bill) was caught on a cellphone video and at least two store surveillance videos. From the videos that are ... Read More
Economy & Business

Boiling Over

Andrew Ross Sorkin’s frustration over having missed so much of the post-COVID realities in markets and economic life boiled over this morning in one of the more outrageous outbursts I have ever witnessed on financial media. Perhaps this outburst was rivaled only by his behavior during the March COVID market ... Read More
Economy & Business

Boiling Over

Andrew Ross Sorkin’s frustration over having missed so much of the post-COVID realities in markets and economic life boiled over this morning in one of the more outrageous outbursts I have ever witnessed on financial media. Perhaps this outburst was rivaled only by his behavior during the March COVID market ... Read More