Our nation recently mourned the death of George H. W. Bush, our 41st president. My favorite memory will be the presidential train traveling from Houston to College Station. I remember the four years of President Bush and especially how he handling of first Iraq war. He advocated for a more “gentle and compassionate world” with his emphasis on the 1,000 lights of hope. During his time in office the press would refer to the “wimp factor” in his character, claiming that he was “too niece” in his role as leader of the free world.
David French, in a column, noted, “It’s a sign of our fallen world that all too many people misinterpret the presence of manners as a lack of manliness. It’s destructive to our culture and body politic that all too many people interpret kindness as a lack of conviction.” In response to the charge of being too niece, President Bush said the following:
“I equate toughness with moral fiber, with character, with principle, with demonstrated leadership in tough jobs where you emerge not bullying somebody, but with the respect of the people you led. That’s toughness. That’s fiber. That’s character. I have got it. And if I happen to be decent in the process, that should not be a liability.”
President Bush was obviously not a “wimp.” He enlisted in the Navy at age 18, becoming one of the youngest aviators, and was shot down over the Pacific. He oversaw the Iraq war and saw the fall of the Soviet union. In public life he was a unassuming. A favorite verse was Prov. 27:2: “Let another man praise you, and not your own lips.”
I bring up the “Wimp Factor” label given to our 41st president by the media to show how a “Tough and Tender” man can be misunderstood in our culture. It is instructive to compare the public perception of president Bush to that of our current president. President Trump’s aggressive nature is often viewed as the kind of “alpha” manliness we need in the public arena. His course language in naming those who oppose him and his past behavior make him out to be a tough guy. I have been critical of this kind of behavior in past blogs.
While I agree that liberalism in general has feminized much of our public discourse, causing young men to act out when their view of maleness is being questioned, we don’t have politicians in our day like President Bush leading by example. The comparison with President Trump is a good example of the struggle in our society with what is the true masculine. The above comment by President Bush equate toughness with moral fiber, character, decency and principle. These are qualities that can be demonstrated while respecting others and being a decent person.
David was a “tough and tender” man. He played the harp, wrote heart moving Psalms and was a warrior. He was willing to face the giant with his staff and five smooth stones, having learned to kill lions and bears with his sling. He told the king, “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (I Sam. 17:36-37). Men, first face your lions and bear courageous with your five smooth stones and God will make you a “giant slayer.” President Bush learned first to kill lions and bears, before he took on his political opponents and the hostile press.