On Sunday, as images from Hurricane Harvey stunned the nation, one particular image stuck out for many Americans as indicative of the heroism of Texans in the face of disaster: a picture of a man in a baseball cap carefully carrying a woman through the water; the woman, in turn, holds close a baby curled up on her chest.

The picture struck a chord with many people because it seems so instinctively right: the woman protecting her child, the man protecting the woman, carrying them all through danger.

This is the vision of humanity that carries us through our darkest trials: men as protectors, women as guardians, children as innocents.

And yet our society has devoted itself wholesale to the destruction of this image.

First, men.

The men we look up to are protectors. As Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman writes in On Combat, in a paragraph later paraphrased in American Sniper:

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath — a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path.

But all men must strive to be sheepdogs — and that doesn’t always require violence. The sheepdog must be willing to do violence but must also ensure protection of the flock against all manner of horror. That’s the role of men in the social fabric. That doesn’t mean that women can’t participate in that task — but a society of men who refuse to protect will be a society that collapses in short order.

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