An excerpt from Ladies and Gentlemen: Why the Survival of Our Republic Depends on the Revival of Honor, by Dr. Gina Loudon and Dr. Dathan Paterno.
Lady and gentleman are somewhat familiar terms, for sure. We hear them from magicians and carnival emcees. Billboard advertising manipulates those words into a twisted description of strip clubs. We sometimes view examples of them on quaint Hallmark films. Our children even study literary characters with these names (e.g., Lady Macbeth).
But rarely do we hear the terms used to teach or uphold virtues. When was the last time you heard a parent say to a child, “That was not very ladylike” or “Hold the door open like a gentleman, son”? When was the last time anyone heard a politician or actor referred to as a “true gentleman” or an actress’s behavior mentioned as “ladylike”? How many television programs lift up virtuous young men and women while decrying their polar opposites?
Modern culture is more desperate than ever for a return to solid character with uniform, universal virtues. Our nation is starved for male and female models of virtue. Recall the Michael Jordan commercial with the tagline “Be like Mike.” Right idea, wrong model. Sure, Michael Jordan inspired many to desire excellence, fame, and financial success. But he inspired few to behave with virtue (one could argue that he inspired the opposite).
Parents wander in a wilderness of disparate parenting techniques and philosophies, without adequate terms to refer to or ideals to emu- late. Mothers lack commitment to behaving like ladies; our culture does not inspire them to exhibit ladylike virtues.
And why would they? Where are these virtues modeled and glorified? Certainly not in popular magazines or television shows. Certainly not on YouTube. Certainly not in their social circles, where peers could encourage, reward, and model female virtue with the dual goals of personal satisfaction and bequeathing their values and character to their daughters.
Fathers are performing no better in this regard. Normally the parent responsible for more direct instruction of values and virtues, fathers are by and large neglecting this solemn duty. Some fathers, of course, have indeed become more involved in their children’s lives; they now bear some of the everyday burdens of driving, helping with homework, and sharing household chores. But they are quite often taking a backseat in the discipline of their children.
The inevitable consequence is that fathers are inadvertently training their children to perceive themselves as entitled, overly free autocrats. The results have been disastrous.
A generous perception of Hollywood would view them as complicit in the devolution of the American character. The unfiltered reality, however, is that they have been waging a directed assault on virtue. They seem to live under the crude assumption that moviegoers are not interested in heroes and heroines of virtue. Clearly, the vast majority of popular films centers on amoral themes or glorifies characters whose virtues are deplorable at best.
The political climate is rife with dialogue about civility, but we lack leaders who not only model civility and other virtues but the moral platform with which to demand it. There are exceptions, to be sure—some of whom we will mention throughout this book—but the overall tone of politics serves as a poor model for both national and personal virtue.
Imagine if parents, teachers, politicians, media personalities, and artists utilized the same terms to describe virtuous behavior. Imagine if they agreed to uphold and emulate models of these virtues. Imagine if they utilized the same terms to describe these ideals and the men and women who lived them.
Imagine if parents spoke with each other about the virtues they wished to instill in their children. Imagine if they encouraged each other to model these virtues and speak about them explicitly in their homes. Imagine if they praised each other when they and their children exhibited these virtues, yet lovingly rebuked each other when they frequently and inevitably failed. Imagine if Dad and Mom referred to certain parents as gentlemen or ladies. Imagine their children internalizing the desire to think and behave like these paragons of virtue.
Imagine if teachers (at private and public schools) and parents agreed to explicitly used the same language.Imagine if the education of virtue were weaved into the schools’ curricula.
Imagine if artists produced heroes whose behavior and heart made them role models for children to glorify and emulate. Imagine that these heroes were not only strong but good, kind, generous, and accountable to a higher authority. Imagine if they lived their virtues in private just as they did in public. Imagine children asking for stories about these characters and having birthday parties with themes about them.
Imagine politicians speaking to and about each other with gracious attitudes. Imagine them exhibiting true humility, admitting mistakes and ignorance. Imagine them speaking charitably about their political adversaries and chiding others from their own party who do not. Imagine them being wholly transparent about their worldview and the philosophical beliefs that inform their political positions. Imagine them with the courage to take positions that might anger a special-interest ally, even if it means evaporating financial support. Imagine that their political work reflected service of God and country far more than self.
Imagine cable television news personalities who exhibit hope, faith, and love. Imagine that the national viewership rewarded this with high ratings. Imagine that other personalities and networks followed. Imagine these personalities reinforcing each other’s efforts by referring to each other as gentleman or lady.
Our book imagines all these things. But it goes further. It believes that our culture can indeed make these things happen. We believe that individuals—parents, teachers, priests, pastors, cable television news personalities, politicians, actors, musicians, and authors—have the collective power to dramatically alter the personal, social, and political landscape. This is change we can believe in!
Ladies and Gentlemen: Why the Survival of Our Republic Depends on the Revival of Honor believes in fairy tales. This book believes that this nation was founded and made possible by the virtues and character traits found in the best, noblest fairy tales. This book recognizes that plenty of Americans believe in these virtues and long for their return. Most importantly, this book believes in a God who makes fairy tales come true.