I have been thinking a lot about the culture of the Mountain West today. I was born here, have lived here for all but six years of my entire life. And its deeply rooted in my soul. I could not love the landscape, the people and our way of life any more than I do. It is my definition of home.
And yet, last week, a lot of the people who live here are dismissing, even joking about, a politician physically assaulting another man. He had it coming, they say. Because he was a member of "the media," because he posed pestering questions about the nuances of public policy, he "asked for it." Clearly, the reporter was the less physically powerful man in this scenario. And in the West, if you're weak and provoke a real man, you sometimes get what is coming. His glasses were broken. He didn't fight back. A real man shows others who is boss. A real man gets his way.
These sentiments arise from the same culture that turned a blind eye when my slightly built, artistic husband was tied up and thrown in the back of a pickup truck in high school and driven through the countryside for sport. He feared for his life.
Then he went to college and met Matthew Shepard, just before he was brutally murdered.
It's the same culture that had Bible study leaders in college giving him knives and berating him with lectures about "not being man enough."
And it’s the same culture in which I am raising my son. By virtue of both his genetics and our family environment he is small and has a passion for sci-fi, not football. He shirks from strangers and has a penchant for role-playing board games. Abe will not likely be a line backer, or, being raised in our family, a master hunter or sportsman.
And my momma's heart breaks a little bit at every commentator who laughs about the reporter, "running tattling to the teacher." Because that might very well be my child next year in school, physically overpowered by the other boys in his class, trying to figure out a way to be a man in a culture that thinks that violence against him is fair game simply by virtue of his stature and personality.
And I want so desperately to shelter him from this reality, to give him a different version of manhood. A manhood marked by humility, kindness, integrity and strength under control. I wish this truth could be as easy as climbing these Rocky Mountains and breathing in the abundant fresh air.