Soft-pedaled toxic masculinity is still toxic masculinity

Dear President Biden,

First of all, congratulations on getting the infrastructure bill passed and signed. Hopefully you all will get the other one done in quick order and then buckle down and deal with voting rights and democracy saving measures since without an at least semi-functional democracy, none of the rest of it matters much at all.

Second, although there’ll be more to come another day, I wanted to let you know that I’ve been doing some more research on the lack of police accountability data in the public sphere. You see, it finally dawned on me that I should check and see whether someone else has already addressed the concern – sort of a ‘duh!’ moment, to be sure. While this truly would have been just fine with me, so far I’ve not found anything that fits the bill so it looks like it’s a piece that still needs to be written.

Third, I’m going to circle back to something you said during the infrastructure bill signing ceremony that’s sticking in my craw. Here’s the passage (as recorded in historian Heather Cox Richardson’s daily “Letters from an American” this morning):

“For most of the 20th century, we led the world by a significant margin because we invested in ourselves. But somewhere along the way, we stopped investing in ourselves. We’ve risked losing our edge as a nation, and China and the rest of the world are catching up…. [B]ecause of this law, next year will be the first year in 20 years American infrastructure investment will grow faster than China’s. We’ll once again have the best roads, bridges, ports, and airports over the next decade. And we’ll lead the world into the 21st century with modern cars and trucks and transit systems.”

Don’t get me wrong, you do the ‘rah, rah America’ rhetoric as well as anyone and you and your team have probably thoroughly researched the kinds of messaging that will and will not fly with the general American public, but holy planet earth do I find it disturbing that you’re resorting to the same old competitive – WE ARE THE BEST – propaganda that set us on this nihilistic path in the first place. (Plus, gliding right by how our “investment in ourselves” came at the cost of the wellbeing of millions if not billions of other people on the planet and the planet itself – totally not cool.)

American exceptionalism.

Even though Word doesn’t recognize the word “exceptionalism,” which I actually think is pretty funny and apropos, we’ve been entrained to lap up the idea that we are so, so special, that we’re superior to other nations, that we have a unique (God given) mission to transform the world.

Well, we have transformed the world. But I seriously wonder how the pros and cons of that transformation work out on a balance sheet, particularly when all the teeny, tiny bits of particulate that we’ve foisted onto the rest of the world, whether in the form of microplastics or coal dust, are entered on the con side of the ledger.

Would it really have been so awful to just stay focused on the need for our own internal reckoning on taking care of what we have? To have just stayed focused on the need for us to take care of our roads, bridges, power grids, pipes, coastlines and forests because we have a responsibility to the people who depend on these things and to pass along the patch of earth we wrested from indigenous peoples centuries ago in more habitable shape than it’s currently in? Why invoke competition with another nation? What’s the point except to cater to our lowest, testosterone-driven denominator?

We have to let those old, domineering, chest-beating ways go. We just have to. Even well spoken, soft-pedaled toxic masculinity is still toxic masculinity and it HAS NOT WORKED well for any of us so please stop it.

May we all be and feel safe.
May we all be willing to drop the competition and simply take care.
May we recognize that real strength is apparent when we let go of old, toxic ways of being.
May we accept that a radically new way of being in this world is desperately needed.

Tracy Simpson

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