I, like many of you, have heard the oft repeated phrase "Chivalry is dead." But what is chivalry? Where does it come from? Is it dead? And should we care? I shall do my utmost to answer said questions with today's blog post. For you see, just as the knights of old, I too once donned armor as I went to work. Mine was not visible as it was concealed beneath my uniform shirt. I sallied forth each day not to slay dragons but rather to fulfill the obligations of my sacred oath of office; defend the defenseless, protect the innocent, and stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. It was a solemn and sacred duty that I bore upon my shoulders. To this day I carry the scars, both mental and physical, but I do so with the knowledge that I was a man who was not afraid to face whatever dangers the world might throw my way. Police officers are modern day knights. So too are firefighters and our EMS workers. But I digress.
What is Chivalry? As with many things, it depends upon whom you ask. For such weighty questions as these, I ask the dictionary. My trusty volume which imparts definitions tells me that chivalry is one of two things. Either one can define it as "the medieval knightly system with its religious, moral, and social code" or it can be defined as "the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight; especially courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a willingness to help." Admittedly the term is an old one and so too is the definition. I do believe that the latter definition comes the closest to answer the question. But one does not have to be a knight to be chivalrous.
Note that she is a redhead! The knight who pens today's
blog post would surely come to her assistance!
As referenced in said definition, chivalry originated in the Middle Ages, growing up around the warrior class of European knights. One might draw parallels with the Japanese Code of Bushido. It was celebrated in song and verse as men of noble birth were taught the virtues of conducting themselves in a chivalrous fashion at all times. Middle Ages chivalry involved three elements; Duty to Country, Duty to God, and Duty to Women. All three were important. A knight served his country and owed a certain responsibility to his other knights. He also served his church. Last but not least, a knight served one lady in particular but owed a duty to all ladies to treat them with courtesy and respect at all times. But how do we translate that into the modern era?
A chivalrous man is polite to all. He respects himself and those around him. If a woman is carrying a heavy load, he asks her if she would like him to help. Naturally he will hold the door open for people, male or female. That is just the polite thing to do. A chivalrous man removes his hat when indoors, though this seems to be more of a Southern thing. Even when outdoors, a man ALWAYS removes his hat when speaking to a woman. You should stand when a woman enters the room, if practical. The chivalrous man treats everyone around him with dignity and respect. Dear Readers, I ask you this; How many people do you know do these things on a regular basis? Other than your humble servant who pens these lines today.
Alas, chivalry has it's critics. Some say that those who behave chivalrously do so out of a misogynistic belief that women are inferior to men and thus incapable of taking care of themselves. Those people are WRONG! Chivalry recognizes the importance of women and treats them with the dignity and honor required of their exalted position in society. You see, a chivalrous man does not hold a door open for a lady because he thinks she cannot do it herself. No. He does so as a way to show his respect for her. It matters not if said man knows the women he holds the door open or removes his hat for. You see, by treating a woman who is a stranger with such courtesies, he is also treating his own wife, mother, or sister in such a way.
My friends, chivalry is not dead but it is on life support. Today, young people prefer to hook up in bars for wild sex-capades and do not seem to care about building a relationship with someone. Young men suffer from an apparent lack of respect for women. And I'm sad to say, some young women do not respect themselves. My suggestion to my male readers is to make an effort this week to engage in at least a couple of chivalrous acts. Ladies, for those of you who are not married, DEMAND that your boyfriends treat you this way. If they don't find one who will. There are good men out there who do all of these things. When you find that man, don't let him get away.
And to my readers who have or are still working in the public safety field, go to work knowing that you are part of a proud, noble tradition of knighthood. Though you may have a Dodge Charger rather than a trusty steed and you carry a Glock instead of a sword, you are still a modern day knight fighting for justice, honor, and dignity for all. I salute you all and I ask that you keep up the good fight. Alas my body no longer permits me to stand beside you in person, but I'm with you in spirit. 6 Forever.
My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian. And note that in my case, my redhead was not a damsel in distress. It was I, the knight, who needed saving.