Dr. Helen Caldicott Spits on My Grandfather

By Glenn Sacks

I have my grandfather’ s war medals in a small wooden chest, along with two pictures–one of him as a young man in military uniform, and another of him as a grandfather. Also in the box is a poem about the war which he wrote to the woman who would become my grandmother. The poem is simple and about as good as one can expect from an immigrant with an elementary school education and a future as a milkman.

When the United States entered World War I my grandfather lied about his age so he could join the army, wanting to show his gratitude to the country which had allowed him to escape foreign tyranny. Wounded in the decisive Battle of the Argonne Forest in 1918, he was awarded the Purple Heart and the French Croix de Guerre.

Last week Dr. Helen Caldicott, renowned feminist and antiwar activist, spat on him.

In a speech released under the title "Men: Natural Born Killers" Caldicott told feminist antiwar demonstrators that the male of the human species has unbridled bloodlust, explaining that "young men rushed off to battle in the first World War. So eager were they to participate in the noble act of killing that they lied about their age."

In other words, grandpa didn’ t enlist out of duty, loyalty or honor, but instead because he wanted the chance to kill.

Welcome to the world of modern feminism, where everything men do is either privilege or pathology and all events and actions are seen through a sharply focused, anti-male lens. Caldicott also told the audience that the "killing reflex" came to be "located in the human (male’ s) brain" back when the "world was hostile" and "full of saber-tooth tigers, mammoth elephants and roaring tribes. While women sat in caves breastfeeding and nurturing their young, the males quickly learned to protect their genes by aggression and killing."

"Protect their genes," Ms. Caldicott? No, they were protecting the women and children they loved. They risked their lives and sacrificed themselves to protect them, as men have done to varying degrees in all human societies from the beginning of time right up to the present.

Caldicott told a story of an upscale social gathering where she described the tremendous destructive capabilities of modern weapons in gruesome detail. The crowd quickly divided along gender lines, she says, and the men (who Caldicott asserts are "almost clinically and psychologically dead") listened intently to her descriptions. The women "sat on the periphery watching my interrogation and silently agreeing with me" but "had no courage to publicly take on their men for fear of later rejection and retribution." Retribution? I suppose Caldicott thinks that on the drive home the husbands of wives who expressed disagreement over the war would take them off to the side of the road for a beating. This would fit perfectly with men’ s nature, of course.

According to Caldicott, societies dominated by "male values" approve of violence and killing, and she criticizes women for being "absolute wimps" who "condone [male] psychotic behavior by their silence." She ignores the fact that, rightly or wrongly, American women support this country’ s wars as much or nearly as much as men do. According to a Washington Post/ABC poll conducted on Sunday, March 23, 78 percent of men and 66 percent of women support the current war. When the United States went to war against Iraq in 1991, 87 percent of men and 78 percent of women approved.

Caldicott also ignores the fact that women have always played a crucial role in ensuring that men serve in wars. As men’ s issues author Warren Farrell notes, during the Civil War Southern women "hissed and groaned" at male civilians. According to historian Ken Burns, few Southern men tried to hire substitutes to fight for them because the Southern women "wouldn’ t permit it." During World War I women in the capitals of the warring cities of Europe would hand civilian men flowers to show that they viewed them as cowards for not enlisting.

An excellent illustration of women’ s power to shame men into fighting can be seen in the Australian movie Gallipoli. The movie is the story of how two young men from the Australian outback come to enlist in the army and fight in one of history’ s bloodiest battles, the Battle of Gallipoli.

Of the two main characters, one is determined to enlist, believing it is his patriotic duty. The other, played by Mel Gibson, has no desire to fight and says the war is "an English war" which has nothing to do with Australia or its interests.

However, while at a small dinner party where both Gibson and his friend interact with an attractive young woman, Gibson is shamed for his lack of martial spirit. Shortly afterwards, he tells his friend that he does not want to be treated like this the rest of his life and enlists.

Similarly, several years ago an Israeli political analyst pointed to this phenomenon to support his assertion that support for militarism and hardline policies had declined precipitously in Israel. His evidence? For the first time in his country’ s history a draft dodger could get a girlfriend, he explained.

Like many feminists, Caldicott actually has some good ideas once you get past her prejudice against men. Whether one agrees with the current war or not, certainly her concern for civilian casualties is legitimate, as is her belief that the general public understands little about the nuts and bolts and destructive capability of modern warfare. And proper respect for the men who have sacrificed their lives in the service of their country and for what they believed was right does not mean that one must endorse all wars or any wars, including the present one.

When my grandfather returned from World War I he started a family. Seventy years later my mother can still remember her tender father staying up half the night stroking the fevered brow of his sickly youngest daughter before going to work at three in the morning. As a boy I loved and revered my grandfather and I can still remember the pain I felt almost three decades ago when my mother came into my room sobbing and told me that grandpa was dead.

This magnificent man (and the millions like him) is not your punching bag, Ms. Caldicott. He’ s not a bloodthirsty warmonger, or an oppressor, or a patriarch, or an abuser, or any other of the dozens of repulsive canards which feminists have used to vilify men over the past three decades. He was instead a kind and decent human being whose masculinity was in no way inferior to the femininity whose virtues you extol.

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