11/11/15

Veterans Day: The Political Equivalent of Valentine’s Day

Please don’t thank me for my service. Saying thanks is what you do when someone holds the door open or passes the salt. It is not engagement.

Saying you support the troops is not actual support. It’s a description about your actions. Saying I paint houses, doesn’t make it so. It’s a statement about the actions I do, namely painting houses. So if you want to support veterans, then actually do something. Join habitat for humanity and build a house because homelessness is an issue for veterans. Vote for social welfare programs that provide food, housing, schooling, training, mental health and legal support because many veterans and service members are on the supplemental nutrition assistance program. Veterans are dealing with mental health struggles. Twenty-two veterans a day commit suicide. Veterans require job training, work assistance, and improved access. Veterans are students, and programs that assist all college students assist veterans. Improved access to healthcare not tied to a job or ability to pay for everyone will also help veterans. Social welfare programs are veteran welfare programs. 

Pulling out a gigantic flag at a sporting event while we applaud veterans is not helping veterans. Sports are a distraction and when we attach political engagement about veterans and issues about war fighting to sports we equally turn these issues into distractions. Much like “thank you for your service” and “I support our troops” are distractions. Just like strong, lasting relationships are not accomplished by a box of chocolates and flowers once a year on February 14, but are built and forged through the difficult and fruitful work and love enacted each and every day, so too it is with veterans. Superficial displays of patriotism and support will not accomplish the job. Hallmark cards and edible arrangements will not do the work. We don’t need another parade. Stop having me stand before kickoff. 

Get informed. Vote. Learn about world affairs and the wars we are fighting. Don’t just thank me for the wars I have fought in. Get involved when wars begin and prevent them from happening. If you don’t, you’re only response to me should not be “thank you,” but “I’m sorry.” And you can’t just say it to me in a greeting card.

Some places you can go to learn more, get involved, and contribute to change

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans – learn about legislation directed at reducing veteran homelessness: http://nchv.org/index.php/getinvolved/

Service Women’s Action Network – learn about issues surrounding military sexual assault and service equality: http://servicewomen.org

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America – learn about ways for veteran empowerment, not just support: http://iava.org

Veterans for Peace – learn about peace movements and ways to prevent the creation of future veterans: http://www.veteransforpeace.org

12/2/13

Women in the Infantry: Rape Victims in the Making?

TRIGGER WARNING – DISCUSSIONS OF RAPE, ABUSE, AND BULLYING

Recently three female marines completed infantry training as part of the lifting of the restriction of women serving in direct ground combat units earlier this year. However, these women will not be assigned to actual infantry units despite completing the required training. You can read more about this here, here, and here. But why the hesitation to allow these women to serve in the units for which they qualified?

What is striking, if we pay attention to it, is the vast amount of comments on social media sites, many by current and prior military service members, claiming that if these women were allowed in actual infantry units, they would be violated and raped in a matter of minutes. Whenever the discussion of women entering all-male combat units arises, whether in casual conversation, on social media, or in formal political or governmental hearings, someone will inevitably bring up the great risk to the women of being harassed, abused, or raped. If we stop for a minute and think about this all-too common concern, it teaches us a lot about the current state of masculinity.

The fact that we can all talk about, hear, and respond to this obvious risk of rape to women in all-male units without really stopping to think about it, shows how rape is simply thought of as an occupational hazard for women. Everyone just states it as a given. Rape just happens. Duh. What do you expect from a group of male soldiers? Get over it. This type of thinking is dangerous, wrong, and displays a fundamental aspect of rape culture.

The military is filled with talk of honor, integrity, selfless service, courage, etc. When I was in Army infantry basic training we had to memorize the Ranger Creed, which has lines like:

Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight.

And…

I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

There was constant talk of duty and never failing to complete the mission. These core values are portrayed as the foundation of unit cohesion and effectiveness, and what separates the soldier from the civilian. Why then would a woman, who has been deemed by the command part of the unit and thus a fellow comrade, run the risk of sexual violence and rape?

This must either make us question the claims held up by military units about honor, integrity, duty, and loyalty or make us realize that maybe some other motivation overrides these responsibilities, namely the protection of a space for men to prove their manhood.

get back to the kitchen

The message seems to be, this is our place, and the pervasive “obviousness” of the threat of sexual assault and rape functions as a warning that expresses this “fact.” Stay where you belong, or face the consequences, which is not far from this:

WomenDeserveEqualRightsAndLefts

We are told to protect our comrades and never let them fall into the hands of the enemy. However, a woman in a combat unit is not viewed as a comrade. Rather the woman is seen as the enemy, which threatens this tenuous, insecure idea of masculinity. This is the true threat.