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Why 'Garbage People' Deserve a Second Look

4 ¼ min

Recently I met a man who could serve as the billboard for “toxic masculinity.”

It was mid-January, a Tuesday, and a deer had smashed into my Honda Accord on I-81 in Southwestern Virginia. That collision destroyed the passenger side of the car from the headlight to the door, heavily damaged the engine, and left the car inoperable. After getting safely to the berm, I made various phone calls—the state police, my insurance company, AAA, a couple of my children. AAA, whose members receive 100 miles of free towing, arranged for the car to be towed to a body shop in Tennessee, where an in-law picked me up and returned me to my home town.

The ride in the tow truck took approximately 75 minutes. The driver was a burley man about six feet tall, a native of these hills who smoked a Marlboro when we stopped for gas, chugged Mountain Dew in the cab of the truck, liked beer, NASCAR, and fly fishing, lacked the grammar and elocution of an Ivy Leaguer, talked in a loud voice, and commented frequently on the bad drivers we encountered.

He also told me several stories of his life. Perhaps the one that best sums him up came when he told me he was engaged.

“How did you meet your fiancée?” I asked.

You have to imagine his reply delivered in the rough, country voice common to men in this part of the South. “Well,” he said, “I was driving through the parking lot at the K-Mart when I saw this dude beating on a woman. I raced over to them in my truck, slammed on the brakes, jumped out, and started beating on the dude. Turns out that he was the woman’s husband. Anyway, they split up after that, and now she’s my fiancée.”

He shook his head in disgust. “I don’t care who he is or how big he is,” he said after another moment. “I see a guy hitting a woman, I’m going to whoop his a**. It ain’t right. That’s how I was raised.”

Men like this tow truck driver—and there are millions of them—are despised today. The American Psychological Association, which recently released APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men, a document stating that such male characteristics as stoicism, competitiveness, and aggression can be harmful, would doubtless label the tow truck driver disturbed. The folks who made the recent advertisement for Gillette razors would not look at this driver as one of the good guys.

Certainly some of our political and media elites would look with contempt on this man. He would belong to what Hilary Clinton called “a basket of deplorables,” what Politico reporter Marco Caputo called “garbage people.” To them, and to many others, this man is just another one of the yahoos living in flyover country, one more dumbbell in the great horde of the ignorant and the unwashed.

Time to raise some questions.

Who gave these politicians and reporters—or anyone else, for that matter—the right to smear entire groups of human beings?

How does the American Psychological Association derive the authority to categorize men rather than treating them as individuals?

Is there such a creature as “toxic femininity?” If so, can someone describe this creature?

Finally, who gets to define “toxic masculinity?”

In the weeks following the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers, the hundreds of firefighters, police, and emergency medics who had died trying to rescue people were hailed as heroes. Nearly all of the rescuers who fell that day were men. Did “toxic masculinity” cause them to race into burning buildings?

As for the tow truck driver and men like him, I only hope one of them is on the scene when a man begins beating a woman in a parking lot. I hope, too, that when your car is totaled on the highway, you get a tow truck driver who arrives at the time promised, hauls your car to a garage, and makes sure all the paperwork is complete. You know, one of the garbage people.

It’s time we dumped smears like “toxic masculinity” and “garbage people.” It’s time, as well, to quit labeling and denigrating people we never speak to except when we need them to put out fires, haul our broken cars, repair our plumbing, and do any of the other myriad tasks that keep us safe and our belongings intact. 

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Jeff Minick

Jeff Minick

Jeff Minick lives in Front Royal, Virginia, and may be found online at jeffminick.com. He is the author of two novels, Amanda Bell and Dust on Their Wings, and two works of non-fiction, Learning as I Go and Movies Make the Man.

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pharsyte
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I've always noticed this kind of thing. How "rough" people are considered immoral but end up being gold sometimes and "clean" people are considered good people but really are just superficial.
 
 

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RubySwoon
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Minick: This commentary was spot on! The moment HC labeled a huge swath of Americans "deplorables," who were "irredeemable," was the moment I dismissed her entirely as a viable presidential candidate, because of course these unwise insults smack of dismissive snottiness and hate. After a quarter century of voting donkey, in 2016, I went GOP. I have a college degree and a small biz, which I toil at to help my only son attain his own degree. (His dad is a milquetoast liberal, who spent little time teaching him how to be a man, so I made sure I exposed Junior to camping, karate, car repair, etc.) My boy is polite, respectful, honest and kind. And today, he's on his way toward completing a masters degree in engineering. Multimillions of us feel that it's Democrats who are truly the Garbage Party and therefore it's filled with filth. This trash is rarely appreciative, except when in need, of who protects their neighborhoods, grows their food, fixes their cars and homes; the blue-collar, hands-on tradeworkers. Yet without these masculine, hard-working men, wealthy elitists would be lost. But you can't eat code and words, except figuratively; tech workers and academics are massively deluded about their own worth to a free and civil society. The Gillette ad was laughable--a slanderous disgrace! How shameful it is that so many of our nation's coastal denizens (where I live too) are so full of bigotry and contempt toward their fellow, interior countrymen. Luckily, there are still millions of us who understand a MAN's true worth. Many thanks for this recognition, Minick. I prefer a virile, capable, man's man any day of the week!
 
 

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Jimconnors
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Could tell the author was a simp and "intellectual" from the jump; "a deer had smashed into my Honda Accord on I-81 in Southwestern Virginia" - newsflash smarty pants - you hit the deer at 70 mph as it was simply trying to get from point a to point b. That right there told me enough about your perspective.
 
 

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ColoradoGal
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Apparently this author doesn't understand what toxic masculinity even means. Because not a single thing he described matches the definition of toxic masculinity. If you're going to complain about something, make sure you know what you're talking about first. This is remarkably uninformed.
 
 

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