Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Why Does This Bother Me? - Part One (possibly)"

Sometimes, a certain issue will bother me, and I’m not exactly sure why. It’s not an issue that affects me personally, and it’s generally of no serious concern to anyone, as in, nobody seems to care. Even cable news has given it a pass, and they’ll obsess about anything, if there’s money in it, so I guess, in this case, there isn’t.

For me, however, such issues – and there aren’t many of them – seem to churn in my turmoil mechanism and they won’t let me go. There are times when they actually keep me from falling asleep. The situation is, as they say in The King and I, a puzzlement. Maybe it’ll help if I write about it. Maybe you can explain to me what’s going on.

So what am I talking about? What turbulizing problem has me ready to risk the slings and arrows of criticism and abuse? What is this issue for which I’m, for no reason I can understand, willing to sacrifice precious readership and acceptance?

Flourishy Fanfare

Women in the military.

There it is. Four words, with, to my mind, no comprehensible explanation for why I care. Now let’s be clear here right from the top. I’m not talking about competence, concerns about unit cohesion, or the requisite courage. I have no questions about that. My issue is more fundamental.

What are women doing in the military?

The military is different from any other career choice. Here’s how. (You already know how, but indulge me here. I’m building up a head of steam.)

When I wrote the pilot for Major Dad, there was a moment in the script where one major’s complaining to the Major Dad major about an article a reporter has written concerning the Marine Corps. He quotes a line from the article:

“The Marine Corps’ primary objective is to take young men and women and teach them how to kill.”

To which the Major Dad major replies:

“Isn’t that what we do?”

Yes, it is.

You can not get away from the fact that that’s what the military is fundamentally about. This is nothing new. It’s always been that way.

“What do you do, Soldier?”

“We hand out candy bars to children.”

“You do?”

“No, are you crazy? We kill people. Why do you think they gave us these guns?”

That’s the military. That’s what they do. And that’s what, by not objecting, we’re saying it’s okay for American women to do.

I admit I’m not totally clear on this point, but I believe there are certain combat assignments that are unavailable to military women. Are the military women grateful for being exempted from these duties? No, they hate it.

Restrictions of this nature inhibit the military women’s career-advancement, making their objections totally understandable, if you ignore the killing, the maiming, the dying and the lifetime of post traumatic stress they’ve been spared.

These limitations on their duties are not the military women’s fault. They don’t make the rules. (The rules prevent them from being appointed to that job.)

Let us focus on the company they work for. What other business, besides the Mafia, requires the taking of other people’s lives as a mandatory condition for personal advancement? Can you imagine that requirement anywhere else?

“I can’t advance at Apple unless I kill a person from Microsoft.

That sounds a little extreme, doesn’t it? Not in the military. Why? Because killing people is what they train to do.

Well, but Earl, this seems to argue for allowing women into combat.

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing. (I’m being sarcastic. Have you not been reading? I don’t want them there at all!)

But what if it's the women's choice? I’ve heard it said by those who’ve experienced it, that there’s nothing as exhilarating as a bullet whizzing past your head. Isn’t it discriminatory to deny women this exhilarating opportunity?

Well, first, let’s remember: No one’s ever reported it’s exhilarating having bullets whizzing into your head. That just, you know, kills you. Or makes you forget who you are for a really long time. It should also be remembered that we are not putting men – or women – into combat to satisfy their exhilaration requirements.

As far as I know, the United States is not constitutionally bound to provide its citizens with the “rush” which can only be experienced in the nightmarish heat of battle. We don’t go to war to make daredevils happy.

You want exhilaration? Buy a motorcycle. Leave your country out of it.

Theoretically, I understand the idea of women in the military. We live in an egalitarian society. As long as there’s an institution available to men – an institution that trains them to kill people – that institution has to be available to women as well. I mean, restricting women from joining the military in an egalitarian society, what exactly would you call that?

I’d call it an exception.

Equality’s a wonderful principle. I’m for it, all the way. Minus one thing. Which is not that bad. “All the way, minus one thing” is really close to “all the way”. Perfect, minus one, is an A+ on any exam. A person who had all the qualities you love in a person except for one thing, you’d marry that person. “Everything but this” is a really high, perfect but not quite, level of equality.

Don’t worry about the “slippery slope”. No slope exists here, because there’s nothing like the military. Not even the police. The policeperson’s job is multi-faceted; there are police people who have never drawn their guns. If they have to, they have to. But that could be said of anyone in this country who owns a gun. And I’ve heard that’s quite a lot of people.

The military is soldiers. And a soldier’s job is killing people. My question is: Do we really want our American women doing that?

Think about it. We study other cultures – every one of them has its traditional cultural values. We observe them, we write papers, we don’t judge. We don’t say, “Hey, Borneo tribe, stop being patriarchal.” That’s who they are, that’s what they do. They’re not better, they’re not worse. They’re different. That’s “them”.

Okay, so who’s “us”? What are our traditional cultural values? Do we only have one – equality – and that’s it? Can we not say, “In our culture, women are equal, but, one thing – the military, whose job is to kill people – is not for them”?

Why can’t our culture make this single exception to the rule of equality? And why isn’t anyone committed to trying?

Passionate supporters of equality, invariably on the Left, seem to have no problem with women being in the military. Though generally anti-war, equality is their primary concern. Plus, there is little fear that their liberal daughters will be interested in joining up.

Conservatives are identified with a traditional sense of patriotism, and though they may prefer their daughters to engage in more "womanly" pursuits, if their daughters choose to serve their country by enlisting in the military, what are you gonna do? You chuck ‘em on the shoulder and you drive ‘em to the bus.

Liberals and conservatives. That’s all we’ve got. Meaning there’s no one left to oppose, or just seriously question, what women are doing in the military.

Except me. A man with a wife and two daughters, none of whom have expressed the remotest interest in learning the most efficient methods of gutting their enemy like a fish.

So if I have no personal stake in the matter, wherefrom comes the energy fueling my passionate disapproval?

Here’s the closest I can come to as an explanation. I’m not crazy about chaos. I didn’t look it up, but I’ll define it myself. Chaos refers to a social condition characterized by behavior that’s uncontrolled, destructive and doesn’t make sense. Insane people can behave chaotically, and sometimes, entire nations. Something happens to them, and they fly dangerously off the charts.

It is not unknown in situations of chaos, for people to get hurt. We’re getting close to an explanation here, because I’m part of “people”, which means, I could get hurt. This is no trivial concern.

There’s at least one other path I can think of that can lead to chaos. The reasonable path. How does it work? You believe in a certain principle – a good one, like, say, equality – and you follow that principle to its conclusion. Beyond where it makes any kind of reasonable sense. And you defend that principle. Religiously. No exceptions allowed.

Blind people can’t be prohibited from becoming bus drivers. No Jewish popes? Unacceptable. Nitro workers with the shakes? Let ‘em in!

And young females who – check any schoolyard – have markedly different natures when it comes to physical aggression – must be allowed to train to take lives.

A respectable road. Destination: chaos. And with chaos, as I’ve mentioned, people can get hurt, meaning, again, possibly me.

Final thought:

There’s this ancient Greek play called Lysistrata. In Lysistrata, the women go on strike, refusing to have sex with their husbands, until they agree to stop going to war. Current reasoning suggests that women would act the same way today if they were prevented from going to war.

I hate it when something doesn’t make sense and we do it anyway. Ignoring reason sets a troubling precedent.

And that, as far as I can tell, is why this bothers me.


michael said...

Perhaps you would understand it better if you talk to some soldiers. Ask a young person why he or she is in the miltary and I doubt any would answer,"Because I want to shoot something."
No, the answer nearly all would give is "I want to serve and protect my country."
In "Major Dad" did the Major join the service so he could kill something or did he have a higher reason?

sondra said...

One marine told me it interferes with his focus, knowing he has to protect a woman from danger.

If women weren't allowed in the military, we might as well begin the slow decline into wearing veils, because women without veils will really start to get your goat when we don't even get our own guns to defend ourselves and our freedoms, trust me.

The best we can do, is lure the women into an alternate lifestyle, one where being a mother, or a working woman with or without children...helps her to be all she can be, uncomplicatedly.

Most people I talk to who enter the military are looking for help to pay for college. At eighteen, none of us really understand the missions our idiot government has failed to clue us in on. We're still exploring in which God we trust.

All I can say, is there is hope. Even the sports writer in USA Today (though it was yesterday) says the Cubbies are going to heal the whole nation. Might even knock some money out of colleges.

Anonymous said...

Earl, I have to say I've had the same thoughts.

As I told one of my girls when we were discussing this one day there's that whole Joan of Arc thing...

angel said...

Hi Earl,
My son just finished 4 years of Airforce JROTC, I have watched women join and do well and I have watched some of them decide to join the real service. I have watched boys, do it too and my advice to each of them is the same. If you can not look someone in the eyes and kill them, then you have no reason on earth to join. Recruiters will lie to you and say that what you are joining up for, will have nothing to do with killing. It's so untrue, you join, chances are, you will eventually be confronted with this very scenario and you need to look inside yourself and see if you can you pull that trigger.

If someone can, in good conscious, do so and can train and perform within the accepted standards, then good luck and godspeed to them. They have every right to serve their Country and defend us from the evil that is out there. I thank every one of them.

Carlo Conda said...

Women do most military things just fine. Sure, maybe a buff female soldier they can't lug around rocket launchers and mines on their backs as easily as a buff male soldier, but there's no reason a woman cannot do military jobs. They may have a lower pain threshold as well, but certain types of men also have a tendency to get overly aggressive and berserk against their enemies, leaving him ambushed.
Women are definitely, on paper, not the ideal soldier, but it is amazing what training can do to anybody. It's scientifically proven that, within two weeks, we can all become the violent soldiers we see beating and abusing prisoners of war at Guantanamo.

Women included.

Gnasche said...

Since everyone seems to be answering a different question than you asked, I'll summarize my interpretation.

The question isn't "Why should this not bother me", but "Why does this bother me", and the true answer will not include the word "women" nor "military".

Unfortunately, I don't have that answer, but it does appear to be related to a confidence in structure (a good trait for a writer).

The chaos of freedom is fine for invention, but if you're trying to do something common and important, do it within the known structure. If you contracted someone to build a house for your family, you wouldn't hire the guy who believed in total freedom of design.

Now, I can't interpret why another person's flirtations with this chaos of freedom would bother you so much, but it's probably the same reason you risked your job and told a comedy legend that he should learn his lines.

Carlo Conda said...

Well I don't think it's our place to play "Psychiatrist" with Earl, and I don't think that's what he intended.

JeffH said...

Earl, I have to respectfully disagree. As a patriotic American who wants to see us win the war on terror, I've encouraged my wife to enlist. I'm telling you, if you heard the way she gets on me about leaving a wet towel on the bed, or how I was off a day celebrating our anniversary, you'd know that this is one woman whose nagging could drive al Qaeda out of Iraq AND Afghanistan.

hermite said...

"They may have a lower pain threshold as well." Carlo, hon, how many babies have you borne?

Ah, Lysistrata, one of my favorite stories of all time. I did the same thing. Years ago I vowed no more sex until this war is over.
Unfortunately, no one has noticed yet.

Carlo Conda said...

Women have a lower pain threshold. The fact that they give birth - a painful thing - has nothing to do with their pain threshold. :S Not sure what you're trying to say here.
If I do something very painful, like cut my arm off, does that mean my pain thresh hold rises? Hell no. It's gonna hurt like crap, and it will likely hurt a woman a bit more.

Cedric Hohnstadt said...

Terrific post. I agree with your thinking. You can call me a sexist (won't bother me a bit), but women are better at nurturing and men are better at using force. Both are necessary in life. One isn't better or worse than the other. They're complimentary.

Men and women are just different, and it goes against common sense to insist that two different things always be treated the same. Why do we celebrate "diversity" among cultures but then go out of our way to squelch the differences between men and women?

"I hate it when something doesn’t make sense and we do it anyway. Ignoring reason sets a troubling precedent."

That, to me, sums up the problem with political correctness in general. Political correctness is about intimidating people into ignoring common sense for the sake of sparing someone's feelings. Which, more often than not, is kinda crazy.

Anonymous said...

Your argument is that it is acceptable if there is an exception to equality when it comes to the military.

Part of your reasoning has to do with the inherent nature of men and women, as you see it, as a man.

Might there not be exceptions to this nature you attribute to women. Maybe those that want to join are mean killers and are ready for their job.