July 26 2012
The acts of chivalry by three young men who died to save their girlfriends in Aurora—and I call these men chivalrous without hesitation—have provoked revealing comments, interesting partly for what these reactions say about our society.
Karin Agness was the first to comment on Inkwell, and I highly recommend her post. Karin is pro-chivalry.
Not so Hanna Rosin, author of a much-discussed 2010 article headlined “The End of Men” in the Atlantic Monthly. Rosin penned a Slate piece entitled “In the Aurora Theater the Men Protected the Women. What Does that Mean?”
Papers have described what happened in the theater as "chivalry." But it's not really that. Chivalry is a code of conduct connected to social propriety. Throwing your body in front of your girlfriend when people all around you are getting shot is an instinct that's basic, and deeper. It's the same reason these Batman and Spider-Man franchises endure: Because whatever else is fading away, women still seem to want their superhero, and men still seem to want to be him.
Chivalry is obviously dead for Ms. Rosin. She doesn't seem to realize that being chivalrous in this kind of situation requires more than being a superhero. Superheroes exist on the big screen; these young men are dead. But would their sacrifices be less if we were to learn that part of their social code was a chivalrous respect for women? Social propriety is, as Rosin disdainfully notes, an aspect of chivalry—and what is wrong with that? We as a society could use a bit more of an ethic of social propriety and respect for women. Whatever their reasons, however, we honor what these men did.
The Wall Street Journal took note of an offensive tweet: “I hope the girls whose boyfriends died to save them were worthy of the sacrifice.”
What we do know is that the men were worthy. Even in a society that still values chivalry, when the trial comes, not everybody can die for somebody else.
WSJ's James Taranto wrote of the sacrifice:
What makes the stories of Jansen Young, Samantha Yowler and Amanda Lindgren especially poignant is that their boyfriends' dying acts simultaneously dealt them an unfathomable loss and gave them an invaluable gift--a gift of life. Their loss is all the more profound because the gift was one of love as well. In instinctively making the ultimate sacrifice, each of these men proved the depth of his devotion. They passed a test to which most men, thankfully, are never put--and then they were gone.
These three women owe their lives to their men. That debt can never be repaid in kind, because life is for the living and cannot be returned to the dead. The closest they can come to redeeming it is to use the gift of their survival well--to live good, full, happy lives
People live on after death in the memories of those who loved them. Sometimes when this columnist does something we consider worthwhile, our thoughts turn to our father, who died four years ago: "Dad would be proud." That is our hope for Young, Yowler and Lindgren: that in the years to come, each of them will have many opportunities to reflect that Jon or Matt or Alex would be proud of her.