A Pepper Grinder Post

Man Up

I recently heard a lecture about John F. Kennedy and the decision to launch the Bay of Pigs invasion.  The Bay of Pigs was an attempt, headed by the CIA, to start an uprising in Cuba that would overthrow Fidel Castro.  Cuban nationals who didn’t like Castro were trained by the CIA, provided with weapons, and dropped off in Cuba at a place called the Bay of Pigs.  The attempt was a miserable failure, and may well have strengthened Castro’s power and encouraged him to seek a closer relationship with the Soviet Union.  The decision to launch the invasion has been pointed to by decision-making gurus as a classic example of a flawed decision.  Kennedy may well have made mistakes, but he was also not given all the information that his subordinates knew.

KennedyI don’t know what you think about Kennedy.  Some may think he was one of the best presidents the USA ever had.  Others may think he was a man of low moral character who cheated on his wife and wouldn’t be remembered nearly so positively had he not been assassinated.  I’m not sure what I think about him myself.  However, what I heard about his behavior after the Bay of Pigs impressed me.  I was told that he made a speech publicly admitting that the failed invasion was his fault.  One of his advisors was disturbed to hear that Kennedy was going to take the blame; he protested that the president had not been given adequate information and so should not be held responsible for the mistake.  Kennedy, however, insisted that the decision had been his responsibility and so he must take the blame.

There was something refreshing to me about hearing this.  Part of it is due to my feeling that this quality is lacking, not only among modern politicians, but among the population in general.  Part of it is because I see that lack in myself, and I want to be someone who takes responsibility.

man relaxingIn our society, the picture of the passive father, spending most of his time at home sitting on a couch or a recliner watching TV, has become a stereotype.  I don’t really know how many men there are like that, though I know there are a great many homes where the man is simply not there at all.  He has checked out physically as well as mentally.  I’m not trying to be simplistic here.  I know that every divorce is a different, painful case.  However, I think it is fair to say that absent or passive fathers are an epidemic in much of the modern world, at least in America.

I am someone who has not left his wife or children, but I see that temptation to passivity very strongly.  If I feel emotionally exhausted, my natural desire is to pull away.  We don’t even own a TV, so I can’t plop down in front of that and withdraw, but I have all sorts of other ways to tune out.  Even if I am right there with my wife or children, I can be emotionally distant.  I have learned that to be engaged with people opens you up to being hurt, and there are times—more than I like to admit—that I take the easier, safer path.

young manI want to be different.  I really want to TRY to be the best husband and father I can be.  That means that I will often make mistakes.  I will sometimes hurt those I love most, and they will sometimes hurt me.  There will be times that I will be dragged into some emotional turmoil when I would so much rather relax.

Interestingly, the Bay of Pigs fiasco paved the way for the Cuban Missile Crisis about a year and a half later. In that crisis, most would acknowledge that Kennedy and his advisors made a good decision and showed a strength that prevented nuclear missiles from being installed in Cuba, just 90 miles from the Florida coast.  I would argue that this success might not have been possible if Kennedy had not taken responsibility for his failure at the Bay of Pigs.

I want to be honest and strong.  I want to admit my mistakes and learn from them.  If I have failed, I want to get up, apologize, and move on.  I want to be emotionally involved with the people God has put into my life.  I want to man up.


*Most of my information about the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis comes from lectures 9 and 10 of “The Art of Critical Decision Making,” a course taught by Professor Michael A. Roberto and published by The Teaching Company.

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