Gratitude

I tried to be a perfect husband in an imperfect marriage. Our mutual friends sometimes commented on it. I loaned money to each of my wife’s siblings to help them get on their feet. If I dutifully cleaned her windshield and kissed her goodbye every morning as she set off to compete in a man’s world. I opened our house to her father in the last four years as he was dying of Parkinson’s. I did the little things, like digging the holes for her new garden flowers, raking leaves, and shoveling the snow. Nonetheless, my wife never fell in love with me, nor even trusted me.  She resolutely sought to be self-sufficient.  She courted the children’s affection by undercutting my efforts to give them structure and discipline as they grew up.

Once they were grown, I left. She didn’t love me, and then they weren’t talking to me. They bought the evil white man story they learned in school hook line and sinker. To the extent she gave it any thought, my wife seems to have done so too.  It jibed with the mainstream media story.  The kids wouldn’t even argue with me – apparently, even to think there was anything meritorious about Western civilization made me morally deficient. End of story.

I left in the least obtrusive way. We had a brief conversation, and three days later the movers brought me to a new house. I came back twice for stuff I had forgotten, and we saw each other a dozen times or so over the course of a no-fault divorce. I had brought a portfolio of five rental properties and a fair amount of stock into the marriage; she had brought a half paid for Toyota Corolla. She left the marriage with a million-dollar house and half of everything else. That’s how it works. At 64, I got the freedom to look for true love and maybe sire some appreciative children. It was a considerable gamble, but better than sure defeat.

All this was all seven years ago. The thing that surprises me most is how much the single fact that I left my wife trumps everything else. Her family, and our mutual friends, do not care to think about the state of the marriage, our mutual contributions, and our failure at raising children. They see only one fact. I left her. That makes me evil, by the lights of contemporary America. Few of them care to talk to me, including the woman to whom I gave a job after her husband died and the relatives who benefited from our generosity.

This is not sour grapes. I got lucky. I moved to Ukraine, learned Russian and integrated into Ukrainian society, married and have a new son. I have more friends here than I did in the United States. I still have my health. For a guy in his eighth decade I’m doing extraordinarily well. I have a lot to look forward to, and many plans for my son’s future.

Still and all, I am perplexed and disappointed by the unfairness of it all. Women have truly taken over America. They dominate the educational process and the intellectual zeitgeist. By merit or by force, they have come to dominate many aspects of the workplace. They have changed the perception of the male role from “father knows best” to “father knows squat.” Men are universally branded as unreliable layabouts, philanderers, and incompetents. It is useless to attempt to fight this mindset.  Our mutual acquaintances forced the facts into accordance with this template as an explanation of how the marriage ended.

To me this is part of a larger sea change in Western thinking, part of the progressive project. All of the forces that expanded Western culture throughout the world have been challenged. Masculine leadership in business, the father’s role in the family, heterosexuality itself, and the very Enlightenment thinking that underlies all modern Western thought. The modern generation has looked over its shoulder at those who brought them as far as they have come, only to shun and disown them, without creating anything approaching the merit of their ancestors’ creations.  As a straight white man, I am prima facie bigoted, out of touch and ineffectual.

Here in Kiev I encounter a traditional society, one in which men are men, women are women, diversity for all intents and purposes does not exist, gays are tolerated but quiet, and extended families remain robust. It is rather like the world I was born into. Meanwhile, it appears that the Western world is rushing headlong into collapse. There is too much debt, both too little work and too little will to work, and far too little desire to have children, much less raise them in any sort of tradition. My hope is that the collapse will be complete by the time my new son comes of age, and that the intellectual currents which swept over my first family and rendered them unwilling and unable to form families or, for the most part, make a constructive contribution to society will be in thorough disrepute.

Perhaps manly virtues will again become fashionable by the time my son becomes a man.  As I write, those virtues are being tested here in downtown Kiev.  I hope they prevail, and provide a model to the West.  And I hope that my son, the descendant of thirteen generations of Americans, becomes the proud patriarch of generations of proud and independent Ukrainians.

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