Two profiles of courage:
1) During World War II, Swedish businessman Raoul Wallenberg is sent by his government under diplomatic cover to conduct rescue operations in Hungary to save the lives of Jews from the Holocaust. Instead of sitting behind a desk, he repeatedly risks his life to save the lives of others, often coming into contact with Nazi SS officers and Hungarian fascist thugs. Surviving several assassination attempts, he is forced to sleep in a different location every night. He manages to save the lives of more than 10,000 people. When the Red Army drives the Germans out of Hungary, Wallenburg is abducted by agents of Stalin’s brutal secret police to Moscow, where he disappears in the notorious Lubianka prison and is never seen again as a free man. Solzhenitsyn claims he refused to bargain with his captors to secure his freedom and may have languished for years in the Soviet gulag before he eventually died. By the way, Wallenberg was a slightly built man who shunned sports.
2) At Penn State University, Coach Mike McQueary witnesses the (alleged) anal rape of a ten-year-old boy by Coach Jerry Sandusky in the athletic showers on the Penn State campus. Instead of physically intervening to stop the rape from continuing, he leaves the young boy at Sandusky’s mercy and goes home to tell his father. By the way, McQueary is a big, strapping guy who had played football at Penn State.
Which of these two individuals was a “real man”? Was McQueary a hero? Was Wallenberg a wimp?
For generations in this country with its sports-saturated culture, nonathletic boys have been negatively stereotyped in the worst way. When I was young, they were called sissies. They were forced to take “sports only” P.E. classes — which provided no exercise programs for them and usually didn’t even provide any instruction in the sports themselves, as if every boy were an aspiring athlete. Nothing has changed. Today they are called wimps and fags. As were those of previous generations, nonathletic boys are likely to be bullied for no other reason than they simply are not interested in sports, as if this were a crime against nature. Before they even reach their early teens, nonathletic boys receive messages from others (actually, from the culture itself) that they are unmanly and inferior. If such boys don’t receive strong support to provide emotional reinforcement, they are likely to internalize this stigmatization and end up with self-hatred in their lives. And what is particularly aggravating is that this denigration is based upon assumptions that are demonstrably false. That means they are easily disproven, but no one cares. No one speaks up for nonathletic boys in our society. Certainly not anyone of significant social stature that I’m aware of.
As for me, don’t even attempt to stereotype me as being sedentary. For several years I’ve been working out at a local health club on a bodybuilding program. I don’t need sports to get into shape. I have no problem with anyone having an interest in ball games either as a spectator or as an athlete, as long as they are not unreasonable and intolerant about it. I respect athletic participation; but I will never accept the denigration of nonathletic boys, which is nothing less than a fom of pointless bigotry.
photo by achoice / flickr