“In the morning, when you find yourself loathe to rise,” the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Have this thought at hand: It is to the work of a man that I arise. Shall I be annoyed to set about the work for which I was born, and for which I was brought into the world?”
What exactly the work of a man is, of course, has been a hot question ever since—and never more so than in our own era. Over at Trumpist site American Greatness, Wayne Isaac has a suggestion: the work of a man is to fearlessly and indefatigably trigger the libs.
The catalyst for Isaac’s piece is the Lincoln Memorial incident that took place last weekend, involving a group of MAGA-hatted Kentucky Catholic school kids, a handful of members of the radical Black Israelites sect, and Native American activist Nathan Phillips.
Over the weekend, you probably felt the whiplash of the reports and counter-reports: the initial charge that the students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky were racists who had surrounded and harassed Phillips, and the subsequent release of longer videos and claims by the students that they had been chanting not to mock and intimidate Phillips, but rather to drown out the hateful heckling from the Black Israelites. In conservative media, a reaction quickly solidified: Yes, some of the students had apparently behaved insensitively—in videos of the scene, one kid can be seen pantomiming a tomahawk chop—but on the whole, the reaction was pretty much what you’d expect—a bunch of confused kids behaving like confused kids.
This, to put it gently, is not Isaac’s take. To Isaac, the actions of the Covington kids are not to be excused as the actions of kids. To Isaac, they are to be celebrated—as the actions of men.
“These young men violated the sacred tenets of liberalism, to which even the Catholic Church bows and scrapes,” Isaac rails. “They dared to stand up for themselves. Instead of cowering before the freak show, they defied it. They laughed at it!”
Isaac goes on to cast the Covington youth as scions of “every great resistance movement, rebellion, and revolution” throughout human history.
“That is exactly why our elites quake at the sight of young conservative men who refuse to back down when attacked. They’re used to the bow-tied, soy-male, David French-brand of conservatism that insists the highest virtue is being nice to people who utterly despise you. For too long, conservatives retreated in the face of the mockery and intimidation of the Left. No more. It is time that we, like these young MAGA men, looked our opponents dead on, with a smirk on our faces and a twinkle in our eyes, refusing to cower. Twitter lynch mobs and freak show screeching be damned.”
Setting aside the silliness of the gratuitous jab at National Review’s David French—nothing says “soy-boy” like signing up to fight in Iraq!—it’s important to point out that Isaac is using the Covington students to make a point that the Covington students themselves are deliberately disputing. “I was not intentionally making faces at the protestor,” Nick Sandmann, the student at the center of the video, said in a Sunday statement. “I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated, or be provoked into a larger confrontation. I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me—to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence.”
“To remain respectful of others?” “To take no action that would lead to conflict or violence?” Too much talk like that and a guy like Isaac will start looking through your dresser for bow ties.
There is something undeniably commendable about Sandmann’s putting himself forward with a public statement of his side of the story. Sure, the kid probably workshopped the thing with a PR professional first. (Wouldn’t you?) But to put his own name out there of his own accord, to act to correct the record before the howling fury surrounding the incident had hardly had a chance to dim—that means something of its own.
Isaac wouldn’t know anything about that either. Read all the way through to his bio and you’ll learn that “Wayne Isaac” is only a pseudonym. Conscripting a batch of unawares teen-age boys to be part of the sad little culture war on your blog while staying hidden in the comfort of your own anonymity?
There’s a word for that. And it’s not “manliness.”