Wednesday, October 01, 2014
11:21 AM |
Charles Osgood's 'Real Men and Women'
Charles Osgood is an American radio and television commentator. His daily program, The Osgood File, has been broadcast on the CBS Radio Network since 1971. Osgood hosts CBS News Sunday Morning. He writes a biweekly syndicated newspaper column and is the author of six books. He is also known for being the voice of the narrator of Horton Hears a Who!, an animated film released in 2008, based on the book of the same name by Dr. Seuss.
Helene, a young friend of mine, has been assigned a theme in English composition class. She can take her choice: ‘What is a real man?’ or, if she wishes, ‘What is a real woman?’ Seems the instructor has some strong ideas on these subjects. Helene says she doesn’t know which choice to make. ‘I could go the women’s-lib route,’ she says, ‘but I don’t think he’d like that. I started in on that one once in class, and it didn’t go over too well.’ So, what is a real man and what is a real woman?
‘As opposed to what?’ I asked.
‘I don’t know, as opposed to unreal men and women, I suppose. Got any ideas?’
Yes, it just happens I do. Let’s start with the assumption that reality is that which is, as opposed to that which somebody would like, or something that is imagined or idealized. Let’s assume that all human beings who are alive, therefore, are real human beings, who can be divided into two categories: real men and real women. A man who exists is a real man. His reality is in no way lessened by his race, his nationality, political affiliation, financial status, religious persuasion, or personal proclivities. All men are real men. All women are real women.
The first thing you do if you want to destroy somebody is to rob him of his humanity. If you can persuade yourself that someone is a gook and therefore not a real person, you can kill him rather more easily, burn down his home, separate him from his family. If you can persuade yourself that someone is not really a person but a spade, a Wasp, a kike, a wop, a mick, a fag, a dike, and therefore not a real man or woman, you can more easily hate and hurt him.
People who go around making rules, setting standards that other people are supposed to meet in order to qualify as real, are real pains in the neck—and worse, they are real threats to the rest of us. They use their own definitions of real and unreal to filter out unpleasant facts. To them, things like crime, drugs, decay, pollution, slums, et cetera, are not the real country. In the same way, they can look at a man and say he is not a real man because he doesn’t give a hang about professional basketball and would rather chase butterflies than a baseball; or they can look at a woman and say she is not a real woman because she drives a cab or would rather change the world than change diapers.
To say that someone is not a real man or woman is to say that they are something less than, and therefore not entitled to the same consideration as, real people. Therefore, Helene, contained within the questions ‘What is a real man?’ and ‘What is a real woman?’ are the seeds of discrimination and of murders, big and little. Each of us has his own reality, and nobody has the right to limit or qualify that—not even English composition instructors.
Labels: opinion, people
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