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The shocking normality of Harrison Butker
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The shocking normality of Harrison Butker

Defending the Kansas City Chiefs kicker entails upholding what, until recently, were normal social views. That is the only way to fight back against a determined enemy.

Kansas City Chiefs’ star kicker Harrison Butker sent shock waves through our ruling class earlier this month by delivering a commencement address at Benedictine College, a small Catholic liberal arts school in Atchison, Kansas. Rather than speaking about the LGBT community and its travails or the continued oppression inflicted on birthing beings by “the patriarchy,” Butker gave women graduates this inflammatory advice: “Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world. But I would venture to guess the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into the world.”

At that point tears began to well up in Butker’s eyes as he proceeded to explain: “I can tell you that my beautiful wife, Isabelle, would be the first to say that her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother. I’m on this stage today and able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation.”

No mealy mouthed compromise with the other side should even be considered.

Our woke masters, upon receiving news of this oration, went ballistic. Soon, a heap of negative letters arrived in the offices of the professional football team that Butker helped lift to a world championship. All his critics called for Butker’s termination. The Democratic mayor of Kansas City, no doubt playing to his feminist base, tore into the commencement speaker. And the harpies on “The View” stormed against the “extremist, cultlike religion” that caused Butker to express his blasphemous thoughts. Taylor Swift erupted in a spasm of anger against Butker, who quoted the lyrics from one of her songs with insufficient respect.

These critics were correct that Butker was challenging, at least by implication, the oppressive woke theocracy under which normal Americans are now being forced to live. Every human institution that until recently was considered beneficial and natural, like distinctive sex roles for men and women and the nuclear family, is now under attack. And the failure to condemn these institutions in the name of equity, diversity, and the war against the patriarchy brings swift retribution from the media, the administrative state, and corporate capitalists.

One of the striking aspects of the reaction to Butker’s defense of traditional marriage and motherhood was the mostly tepid defense that issued from the conservative establishment. The major lines of defense were as follows: Butker wasn’t saying women can’t work. He was just saying that career women might want something more, like a home life and a Mother Day’s card. Why, asks Kirsten Fleming in the New York Post, should we put down marriage and kids as a complementary vocation?

We were also told that Butker gave his address at a conservative Catholic college, somewhere in flyover county, and the people who invited him probably expected him to give the kind of homily he delivered. And finally, Butker was just expressing his opinion, and according to his presumably conservative coach Andy Reid, “We respect everybody to have a voice.” This makes Reid’s team “a microcosm of America.”

The problem with these defenses is that they’re glaringly inadequate. They are a timid pushback against the woke left, which in a few decades (and even within a few years) has made war on all those stabilizing social institutions that we once took for granted. Butker’s statements are not to be discreetly contextualized or explained away. They are to be unconditionally defended as what all sane people believed up until the wokesters began poisoning our politics and culture. No mealy mouthed compromise with the other side should even be considered.

The frequently made point that Butker was not denying women the chance to have careers is true. But he was also suggesting that the domestic role of women was indispensable for a functioning human society. Butker was also indicating that this role was a vocation ordained by God for the good of humankind. Throughout most of my life, the view of men and women jointly creating and sustaining families in different capacities was the accepted one. That started to change when the onetime communist Betty Friedan expanded her mischievous activities to subverting the family by convincing women that they were enslaved as mothers and wives.

By now it’s quite late in the day to be standing with Butker. Even an order of nuns housed at Benedictine College savaged the speaker for his opposition to abortion and his caustic comments on DEI.

Soi-disant conservatives have tried to “explain” Butker in a way that trivializes his message. In the process, they have avoided assailing the left with appropriate pugnacity. The result of this customary tactic of the conservative establishment is to surrender more and more ground to the other side. Truly defending Butker should entail upholding what until recently were normal social views. That, and not softening the shock of what he said, is the only way to fight back against a powerful, determined enemy.

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Paul Gottfried

Paul Gottfried

Paul Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.