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Archive for the ‘military’ Category

Ender’s Game

Moderatrix’ note: If you have not read Orson Scot Card’s Sci-Fi novel, Ender’s Game, (and why not?), this post is not for you. You man want to consider skipping it, as it will contain spoilers about key characters and plot elements.

If you don’t mind that sort of thing, Party On, Wayne.


I approached Ender’s Game not knowing what to expect, which was a good thing. I seldom venture out of my genre of fantasy reading, and I like my fiction in certain confines. I appreciate a good space opera from time to time, but they are few and far between, and usually have to be recommended by a trusted friend. “Trusted” here reads as “someone who has recommended a book to me that I have finished”. Even a good Star Wars novel must come with a stamp of approval. There are just too many to be going all willy-nilly in the book section.

I liked it. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it from a Sci-Fi appreciation perspective, viewing it with a startling awe of how accurate Card’s prediction of future possibilities were. His concepts of using video game technology are not so distant today, and the idea of a whole military school devoted to using such things is not far-fetched. I was taken aback by the idea of military super-genius children driven to a place so cold that all that mattered in life were the war games played in a school for future leaders, but the idea, in my mind, was not so out of this world that I couldn’t see a universe under threat resorting to such measures.

I added my military perspective to my reading of Ender’s Game, and for anyone who is a military person who read this novel prior to their career, I would encourage you to re-visit it now, after your training has changed your understanding of where you stand in the world and how things are done for your own good when you don’t fully realize it (much the same way I encourage you to pick up Catch-22). If, for some chance, some Very Important military person (or even a middle peep) is reading this, I reach out and say that Ender’s Game helped me appreciate rank and structure as it should be just a smidgen more.

Emphasis on “should” is important.

In my line of work there is a lack of understanding, appreciation, and even compassion for the military and its members. Our rights, needs, and causes are not championed the way that others are, even when those causes overlap and intersect with those of others in the social justice sphere. I think this has a lot to do with the perception of the military over the last decade and more. We are viewed as harbingers of destruction and violence, and rarely as we are meant to be: defenders of peace. I think that deep down some people think that we deserve the mistreatment we receive. That is probably because we haven’t been directed as ethically as we probably could have been. The flip side to this is that we are viewed as a monolith by many; the military is a huge machine that thinks and moves as a hive-mind, I think many believe. I think that we are viewed as a structure that has given up our rights, for whatever reason.

I used to call myself a pacifist, even during my enlistment, and have only recently realized that I grossly over-extended the definition of that term. I believe in seeking peaceful ends whenever necessary and not using violent force against those weaker than you for the sake of dominating someone who doesn’t threaten your life. I won’t object to the use of force to preserve your safety. I learned that one the hard way Once Upon A Time.

But Ender’s Game demonstrates, beautifully, my thoughts on military power, even only as one element of a brilliantly put-together novel.

Colonel Graff, a character than I don’t believe is supposed to be sympathetic — or perhaps that was my own perception of him — was somewhat endearing to me. I saw his actions in a light that was understandable through the lessons that I was taught in boot camp. The tearing down of certain personality traits, the intention of making a person feel isolated, the almost brutal way that training makes an individual dependent on themselves and no one else while at the same time making them fully in need of a team to accomplish their goals. These things and more are necessary in order to protect the lives of people who can’t see the broader picture from outside the frame; people who can’t know what is at stake for their own protection. Even if it pained Graff to inflict pain upon Ender the way that he did and allowed, he knew the sacrifices that had to be made in the name of what he believed to be the Greater Good. These things are seldom pretty, and I think often those of us who don’t see the bigger picture of decision making lack the perspective of how horrible and difficult those decisions are. The dramatic effect of inflicting these things on a child make it all the more shocking, and Card, I think, was brilliant in this choice.

I understand that military Chains-of-Command see and know things that civilians never will. They learn and know things that will never be seen nor heard by people lower than certain levels of security, and they will forever be the subject of hatred for it. In a perfect world they must use this to protect lives, and the people below them must answer orders without question. The training process that Ender undergoes at Battle School, and later at Command School, while far more extreme than anything I’ve encountered, demonstrates what we who have taken training and military pledges know: Whatever is necessary is what we will do to protect those we swore to serve.

In a perfect world we would need no military, because there would be no war. Perhaps we could all sit down to tea and work things out nicely and wear pretty hats. I like hats and look good in them.

But Ender’s Game expresses a theme that deep down we know to be true: Standing military forces are necessary. We must be willing to defend ourselves, or we risk going the way of The Naked Empire (and I promise never to use a Terry Goodkind reference in a way that indicates he might have been on to something ever again, mmm’kay?) from that eponymous segment of The Sword of Truth series.

Graff explains this best on page 253 of the edition I was reading, when Ender asked him, quite simply, why it was they fought the buggers. Graff’s answer is equally simple: They attacked first. They were provoked into fighting when a peaceable solution failed. They were provoked, and had to defend themselves. He said:

“Ender, believe me, there’s a century of discussion on this very subject. Nobody knows the answer. When it comes down to it, though, the real decision is inevitable: If one of us has to be destroyed, let’s make damn sure we’re the ones alive at the end. Our genes won’t let us decide any other way. Nature can’t evolve a species that hasn’t a will to survive. Individuals might be bred to sacrifice themselves, (254) but the race as a whole can never decide to cease to exist.”

I believe that people have an innate sense to defend themselves, and rightly so. If we don’t do so, then the first person strong enough to overpower and destroy us will, and we deserve to have it happen. Who else should? Along that line, if we can help someone who is being bullied, we should as well, for the right reasons, but that is another post. If we are unwilling to defend ourselves we deserve the fate handed to us by the dominating force.

This isn’t to say that military powers should run unchecked. Quite the contrary. We have a responsibility to ensure that our militaries are being engaged in just causes, and I have said this before. Even Ender, in the end, could not bring himself to wipe out the buggers completely, even as they worked, it seemed, to wipe out humans. Ender had compassion and a knowledge of what was right, and decimating a whole species to annihilation was not just. As he became the Speaker for the Dead, he did what I hold to be central to self-preservation: finding a peaceful solution if possible so that you can live with yourself when doing what must be done.

Military politics are so complex and layered, and difficult to discuss in progressive circles. I know that it can be charged and difficult. It is also tinged with a bit of personal when I consider the life-toll that I know of. It is understandable that it is. I don’t know if there is a great Karmic balance sheet the Universe uses, but I hope there is, and I hope that it really does try to set it even. I hope it is beyond what I have lived and seen.

I don’t know if Orson Scott Card intended to reach out and facilitate a sympathetic view of the military and the tough choices made by people who must decide who the sacrificial lambs are going to be, or the sacrifices made by those who volunteer. But, aside from being a guy who obviously had an affinity for the Atari, I think he gets many things right, and makes a case for the consideration that the military may not be a giant monolith at which to aim ire.


“Just A Parent”

I had an interesting experience the other day at the 8-10 year old basketball game here on the USAG. We were watching the game of the son of a friend of our family at which The Kid was cheering with her cheer squad. It was the second game we had attended that day, as Kid cheers at any or all of the games that happen during game days.

During the halftime period of the games the squad does a dance routine that they have been working on to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”, a favorite of mine, I don’t mind saying. It looks pretty sharp, and I am hoping to get a vid of it up soon(ish), and the Coach has really done a great job putting it together. Of the six and one half minutes of the halftime period they use about two or three. Most of the teams have been gracious to clear the court to allow them their two minutes to perform.

During the last game of the age group, however, one of the teams decided to run layup drills. During the cheerleaders performance the coaches of the basketball team were shouting to their kids, and the kids were running and yelling and dribbling and running back and forth from half court to the hoop. It was really distracting to the team, and in my opinion, it was incredibly disrespectful to the girls.

I took the opportunity to mention it to the director of the Child and Youth Sports Services, a man who is usually sitting in the corner of the gym. With my coffee in hand, I walked over to him at the end of the squad’s routine and leaned to him so as not to be heard by everyone, and mentioned that I just wanted to let him know that I though the team on the court had shown poor taste and disrespect to the cheerleaders.

The director kind of chuckled, and told me that he had no problem focusing on the girls, and that he didn’t think the team was disrespectful at all. I felt that this was beside my point, and a bit dismissive, but I restated my opinion, and told him that I just wanted to let him know what I thought.

He said to me, more sternly, that this was just my opinion, and that I needed to watch how I was talking to him, that it was inappropriate for me to talk to him the way that I was. I asked him what was wrong with voicing an opinion.

He stood up from his chair and leaned over me, being much taller than I am (and I am not a short woman at 67″ tall). He told me “I am the Director of this program, and you are just a parent. You will not speak to me this way, waving your hands about.”

For the record, I do gesticulate a bit when I speak, but I turn my hands in small circles, and for crying out loud, I had a hot coffee in one hand.

He proceeded to tell me just how disrespectful I was being to him, walking up to him and talking to him in front of everyone this way. No matter that he was now yelling at me in front of a gymnasium full of parents and children. He mentioned that we could continue this in his office, to which I agreed, but he never took me to his office. Instead, he moved towards where the cheerleaders and coaches stood, who were now staring at us as he yelled at me.

No matter what I said, he had a dismissive remark to silence me. If I said I had a right to voice a complaint, I was using a disrespectful tone. If I said that the cheerleaders were enrolled in an athletic program just like the basketball players that parents also came to see, he said he had waived the Winter fee (only true for some of them). When I tried to explain that I was merely advocating for them because cheerleading as a sport is disrespected from early on through professional level, he yelled that he has a 20 year-old daughter, that I don’t need to tell him about respect.

My partner came over and extracted me from the situation at this point, because we had to go relieve our friends’ babysitter soon, and my other friend had come over to make sure I was OK, but this man was already storming off, shouting about my attitude and that I could talk to his supervisor. (Believe me, I will) He left me there shaking, glad that I hadn’t agreed to go into an office alone with him.

More so than him yelling at me I was angry at the things that he had yelled at me. Dismissing my concerns outright was infuriating. He could have even simply placated me, a common military tactic (Yes ma’am, I’ll pass that along, or I’ll take that under advisement would do).

Firstly, this man’s job here at USAG would not exist if not for the parents that he seems to hold such contempt for. I got the feeling that what he meant was “mother” who dared to speak out of turn, as he had no problem chatting up the dads, either in uniform or who were volunteer coaches. Obviously I have no real worth after spitting my kid from my loin, but I really was gobsmacked by the way he spit “parent” from his mouth like it tasted bad.

Parenting is an important job. I am not going to go on about the holy sanctity of it being the most sacred of jobs, but it is not to be scoffed at. Daily, when I want to rip my hair out, or actually do, wondering if I am doing a good enough job, or am scrutinized for the job I am doing, or when I have some pre-pubescent behavior issue I am sidelined by, I know that my work is cut out for me.

But, I also know that this man looked at me and decided that I was worthless and that he was automatically nothing. He knows nothing about me, or the other hats I wear despite my womanhood holding me down. How on Earth could I be a Sailor while having ladybits? Veterans don’t have anything but good and sturdy penises, surely. I couldn’t be active in the DAV, or on the PTO (Oops, is that too close to parenting, and therefore not a real thing?) I am a writer, a blogger (but depending on who you ask that doesn’t count either), and a political/social justice activist. I am a disability rights advocate both online and off. All of these things and more, and he waved it away with the narrowing of his eyes at me, and looking down his nose at me as if my State College sweatshirt somehow put me beneath his shoes.

We are not the sum of our titles. We are people, who beings comprised of many things, and we wear titles. It is what we do that matters, how we treat the people around us, ultimately, that matters. Being a director of a program over people you hate somehow doesn’t de facto make you better.

I think I am most angry because for a few fleeting moments I let this man convince me that he was right, that I didn’t matter and that I had done something wrong. But luckily there are good people surrounding me who reminded me that standing my ground the way I did for the right reasons was in no way wrong. That is a relatively new experience for me, and at its most basic, the crux of what I was trying to accomplish. I wanted those girls to know that they have a right to be respected.



#DearJohn: Speaking of Releasing Your Privacy to Prove Rape…

National Guard members smear green and black camo paint onto their faces.So, according to the language of H.R. 3, the only way that a person would be able to have an abortion covered by any insurance covered under the new plan would be to prove rape, or incest if that person is still a minor.

This isn’t all that different from one of the military exeptioneer clauses, just strip down the uniform and still require the person to pay out of pocket. The only perk being that the rape survivor would still get to stride into a military hospital and slap the money down on the counter and say “one fetal ejection, please”. Odds dictate if this is the winning sitch, however, this servicemember has had a road, and is not in the normal range of people for whom this usually happens.

According to a Guttmacher report, the burden of unplanned pregnancy falls hardest on junior enlisted women. A junior enlisted person with three years’ experience makes about $23,000. (note: either Guttmacher is including Basic Allowances, or they are referring to E-5 personnel, according to a 2010 pay table. This is not, according to some branches, considered “junior enlisted”, but the pay amount still holds true. This would be, for some branches, a Non-Commissioned Officer, someone who holds responsibility in military rank structure, but who is still lower in the food-chain than the people above them. They are junior NCOs learning to be leaders. My point is, military people don’t make oodles of cash.)

The cost for an abortion increases with time, and a procedure that may cost about $450 dollars at 10 weeks may cost upwards of a military woman’s entire year’s salary by 20. Time is, literally, essential.

What H.R. 3 and the current policy on military abortions have in common is that they are going to (and already do) require a person to disclose and prove rape was a factor.

A military rape survivor must give up her right to a Restricted Report, telling people that she was raped in order to “prove” rape. “Forcible rape”. Whatever that means. Because you just can’t go around killin’ babies unless it was really “rape” rape. And all this time, her mental health and ability to do her job is all being questioned, and you can’t have a pregnant woman in certain places, so once she tells her commander that she was raped and is now pregnant with that rapist’s baby, she will be punished by losing her job and possibly being shipped back to the U.S. or some other unit. Maybe. Or she will just be set aside until someone can figure out “what to do with her”.

The cohesion of the unit will be disrupted, a replacement will have to be found (it costs about $50,000 to train a standard recruit from the ground up, provided they are not a specialist, like, say, a linguist!), and if that person is on a ship, or in a war zone, then they will have to be air lifted out.

If all of that manages to not happen, and she talks her commander, who is usually male and not trained in handling issues of the “lady nature”, she will be forced to disclose personal medical information to him, she will have to tell him who raped her. He will have to believe her. She will have to tolerate seeing her rapist questioned, and her whole unit taking sides (because, believe me, people talk), and she will be ostracized, even if the commander has the best of intentions.

And, undoubtedly, unit cohesion will be disrupted, and she will be trucked off to another place, because ladyfolk, we just screw up that stuff with our open legs.

Maybe she will get the chance to pay for her own abortion in a military hospital, maybe not.

Or, she may choose to stay quiet about the whole thing, beg her commander for leave if she can be spared, and spend that whole year’s salary to travel somewhere that has looser abortion laws and hope she can afford it. Like, maybe Japan. Or maybe home to the States if she can manage to go to a state that has decent reproductive health laws.

But going to another country to procure your abortion puts your life at risk, because differences in culture, medical practices, all under language barriers could cause complications. Some women may be reluctant to ask for help or escorts, and may not have extra cash for translators.

She may even try to self abort instead, if she thinks she has no other options.

The policy as it stands humiliates servicewomen, by forcing them to give up dignity that they struggle to grasp to hold onto as survivors in a world where they are already treated like they don’t belong. It prevents them from maintaining privacy. It places undue burden on them financially, and adds stress to them when they should be focused on their jobs.

Doubly (or more) so if they are rape survivors trying to prove they were “really raped”.

H.R. 3 stands to do similar to civilian women living in the U.S. It stands to harm all of us, and urging congress to say “Not in my backyard!” could help us.

But don’t forget the rest of us. The 15% of the less than one percent of the nation who are serving in uniform.

A full range of medical services, up to and including abortion, allows military women to keep their reproductive choices private and safe, and between them and their medical professionals, allowing them to get back to work more quickly and safely. It allows them to choose to whom and when they report their rapes. It allows them to exist in their world free from the scrutiny of those who would not believe them about their sexual assaults and rapes. It saves the military money, which has always been a Conservative bottom line, hasn’t it?

Except, apparently, when they can stomp on women’s rights.

As pointed out in this NARAL Fact sheet (pdf), repealing the abortion ban under the Burris Amendment would have cost no extra taxpayer money but it was stripped away. Allowing TRICARE to cover abortions is the proper thing to do. All abortions would have been pre-paid in the hospitals, and all three branches already had existing refusal clauses for medical staff (who, by the way, are already trained in abortion procedures in order to save lives, so, no extra tax dollars there).

But not even allowing military women or military dependent to pay for their own abortions with their own money in military hospitals is cruel, absurd, and sends the strong message that women’s health doesn’t matter. And that the military would rather pay for more maternity care, up to and including 18 years of pediatric medicine for an unwanted child than a simple, safe, and legal procedure.

Civilian family members, who do not have restricted reporting options for sexual assault and rape would benefit from this also while living overseas, and if the military really believes that taking care of military families is a military priority, this is a part of that plan that must be implemented.

In order to prove that the new Congress cares about more than just stomping on women, the only proper thing to do is to strike down H.R. 3 and repeal the military abortion ban, fully.

Both plans hurt rape survivors. Both strip people of their dignity. Both are fiscally irresponsible. Both send a clear message that Congress is more interested in stripping people of dignity and making their lives more difficult than solving matters of financial hardship or health care iniquity.

Follow #DearJohn on Twitter.

Photo Credit: The National Guard

#DearJohn: Military Women, Civilian Women, Shouldn’t Have to Justify Their Choices

You may have heard of this act that is attempting to sneak its way through Congress right now, with my new BFF John Boehner (don’t worry, Elaine Donnelly, I haven’t forgotten ya! XOXO) taking up the gavel as the 2011 model of Speaker. If anyone were to ask my opinion, I would say we have gone from a nice comfy, family SUV that maybe didn’t always get us from point A to point B but worked out OK, to a gas guzzler that doesn’t have enough straps for car seats. Not family friendly.

Our Dear Mr. Boehner is trying to do to civilian women living in the U.S. what has been going on with U.S. servicewomen for a very long time, as well as woman and girl family members. For all the hemming and hawing I hear about how the military enjoys its great free health care (I don’t know how “free” it is, because we certainly earn it), I think that a lot of people don’t realize how limited the choices of that health care are for women.

Just last year women in uniform and their families were able to guarantee that they could access the emergency contraceptive pill known as “Plan B” in the U.S. at every military treatment facility world wide. It is now part of the formulary, or the list of medications that must be stocked wherever medications are stocked. And everyone over the age of 17 is able to get it over-the-counter as long as they have a military identification card.

But abortion is another topic altogether. And while the fight is going on at home, I think it might be a good time for those of us in social justice who have a hand in the fight for reproductive justice to know a few things about the access to abortion in military facilities.

While the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” is trying to hack away at your reproductive justice, our reproductive rights have been held hostage for a long time. Since 1979 to be exact. That is when Congress decided that military hospitals would not be allowed to provide abortions except in cases of rape, incest or if your life was really, really, in danger. That last one there is totally up for discussion, because it is really up to whatever doctor you get strapped onto to decide to declare if your life is in danger. And “abortion” is anything from evacuating an already still fetus that is causing you to start running an infection to an abortion that could allow you to start a treatment like dialysis or cancer treatment. The doctor’s word is the final say.

If you are a rape survivor who doesn’t wish to disclose the crime committed against ou to anyone and ou wind up pregnant, you are out of luck. No abortion for you. You not only have to admit you were raped, but finger your rapist, prove you were raped, and then maybe you can have your abortion. Oh, but you still have to pay for it out of your own pocket. Given the rate at which rapists in the ranks are actually referred for NJP (hint: it’s small — about 10%) and the threat of ostracization from peers, I don’t think that it is any wonder that some women have tried to take things into their own hands rather than go that route.

In the U.S. it is all hunky dory for some servicemembers, because there is a chance that you can access an abortion clinic or other facility that will accept your insurance or that you can afford. But if you are stationed in a country where abortion is outlawed, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, or even Republic of Korea, there is no off-base abortion access waiting for you. Instead, and holy Ceiling Cat I feel like a broken record, you must first obtain permission from your command and hope that they believe whatever excuse you have come up with, hope like hell you have funds for travel to the nearest country where it is legal, and that you make it all in a time-frame that makes it still safe and legal for you to obtain the procedure. All because you can’t even use your own money in a military treatment facility.

That’s right.

You can’t even use your own damned money to access an abortion if you are in the military and stationed overseas.

We keep trying to get this repealed, and every time Republicans block this, because military women don’t deserve a full range of health care, even if it is equal to that of the women in the country they are representative of. They are not allowed to receive a safe and legal medical procedure that is available in their home country from a medical team already trained to perform it from that country.

We petitioned. We called Congresspersons. We asked for support from the social justice community. We tried. And when it came time for the vote, the chance for a change was stripped away again.

So I am not exactly surprised to see more of the same ol’ from our Dear Speaker Boehner, trying to pass this H.R. 3.

What I want is simple.

I want access for everyone. What I really want is single-payer access with a full range of services for everyone, but I will be realistic.

I want Boehner to stop telling women what ‘real’ rape is. I want him to stop chipping away at our rights. I want the reassurance that if I want or need an abortion I do not have to fly to Japan or all the way back to the States to get one, on my own dime. I want women to stop killing themselves because they are desperate to not be forced into being incubators.

And I want to work together with those of you who want to convince your Congresscritters that this is a good idea.

Call your Congressperson. Tell them that Speaker Boehner has no right to make decisions on behalf of other people’s bodies. That his contempt for the lives of women is showing though loud and clear with every attempt he makes at stripping our rights away.

But when you call, or write, or however you communicate with them, telling them that they should not strip abortion access away, remember to tell them that disallowing servicewomen, who are serving their country every day and facing unplanned or unwanted or live-threatening pregnancies just like their civilian counterparts, to access abortion by paying with their own funds is absurd. It is beyond absurd. Tell them that it is unacceptable. At least as unacceptable as stripping abortion coverage from health insurance, because that is what it has been to us — having a medical procedure stripped from our health care coverage.

Please. If we work together, I believe we can be stronger. We let Republicans strip, again, a bill that would have restored medical services to servicewomen and family members, and I believe that somehow they have it in their heads that it means that we don’t care enough to stop them this time. We need to tell Dearest Speaker John that he isn’t getting away with this.

Find the information for your Congressperson here.

Read about how your rape just isn’t rapey enough.

Follow the excitement on Twitter by following the hash tag #DearJohn, or tweeting your outrage to @SpeakerBoehner.

Sady and Garland Grey, thanks!

You Will Buy Your Mothers Lunch

Sailors in dress white uniforms raise the Colors on a bright day. In the background is seen houses and a brown structure, and grass.“You will buy your mothers lunch” the cocky Boatswain’s Mate (you pronounce it “bo’sun’s mate”. The Navy likes to spell things with all kinds of extra letters. I could name parts of a ship for you sometime, like forecastle. Not like it looks.) said to us as we practiced for graduation. He was a right pompous arse, and I’ve known few boatswain’s mates to be much different. I think it is a class they take at “A” school. But being in the position I was in, what choice did I have but to listen to him?

This was a man who, during our graduation rehearsal routine took upon himself the role of Navy Chaplain and pretended to lead us in opening prayer, which was, to him “Dear Lord, thank you for creating Boatswain’s Mates. Amen“. He also came to our compartment in our ship, as many did on their watch, because their hatred of “900” divisions couldn’t keep them from trying to find a fault that was so grievous that they could tear us all from our racks to drop us. He came to our compartment on many an occasion to make sure to tell us that one day, we could be sure, that he was going to be Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, or MCPON (mihk-pawn). Though, to this day I see he hasn’t achieved that goal. For all of his pomp and circumstance, I am going to go out on a limb and say that roughing up Boots (Navy recruits) might be his greatest achievement, and that isn’t saying a ton.

But what stuck out most in my mind was his moralizing about how we had to, on our Liberty Weekend (the weekend we had of “freedom” with our families after graduation but before heading off to “A” school) make sure to take our mothers out to a nice meal and pay for it. This was, of course, because certainly we all had money coming out of our ears and certainly that all of our mothers came to our graduations and we all had deep affection for them.

This man, who, in this snapshot I had of him, left the most bitter of tastes in my mouth, sums up my feelings of society’s expectation about family. Also, I now have a prejudice about boatswain’s mates, but wev. The act of ejecting a human out of your womb exacted a promise that said human would love said person who did ejecting no matter what that person did to that human, no matter what. In his mind, your mother was to be loved and adored and adorned with free meals simply for giving you life and the opportunity to endure his abuse here at Boot Camp. Even if you have spent some time having your head beat against a refrigerator by her. But that never entered his mind. The aftermath of abuse that might build into some type of mental illness that lingers… well. I guess that is not for the Good Boatswain’s Mate to ever consider.

Also, it seemed that every new Sailor was a single sailor who had piles of money lying around in the bank waiting to be spent on your graduation attendees. I mean, who comes to Boot Camp with a baby at home, or some deadbeat spouse gambling it away and not paying your bills?

And if I may, did anyone ever consider that after almost three months of having the crap beat out of us daily and withstanding the emotional abuse that is Boot Camp (why, yes, it is) that someone treat us to a congratulatory meal or something? No? I didn’t think so either, but fuck if I didn’t enjoy those damned IHOP crepes. Real. Food.

You are not required to love a person because someone somewhere insists that a bond is instantly forged by DNA. DNA doesn’t erase past deeds. Or the hurt that can be left churning in a mind that is left dealing with the hurt.

That Boatswain’s Mate was the representation of everything I found wrong with societal expectations. A privileged man placing his perspective on us, shoving his demands upon us, no matter what.

Some day, perhaps I will see his face hanging in the hallway of a Navy building, next to the other leaders of the Navy. His smug smile looking out at me, and I will, for once, be relieved that he will have no direct sway over my life, no matter how clever he finds himself. But I will also remember how he made me feel, as if I failed because I couldn’t live up to what he demanded of me that day as we practiced for graduation, even as the ceremony stood to begin and end on my own command.

Photo Credit: Marion Doss*

*I used to live there! If you read the photo description at the Flickr page, it tells you that it is the opening of Naval Special Warfare compound at Pearl City. In the background of the photo you can see some of the houses at the Pearl City Peninsula housing in Pearl City, Hawai’i. In the mornings when I would get ready for work I could watch the members of SEAL Team One do their PT (physical training) as they ran past my house. I’ve lived in worse places. I think I can even spot my house. Maybe. Ha.

Why Act Surprised?

A row of military combat helmets on a bench in front of what appears to be the knees of presumably soldiers, all clad in Army ACU camo.So here’s a funny story for you…

With an all Democratic Congress, and a Democratic President, we weren’t able to get a lot of shit done that was promised to us, and without saying “I told you so” (oops, a lot of people just did and have been, like The Red Queen), it isn’t like we didn’t see this coming when you are forced to choose the lesser of evils.

We do not have a Pro-Choice President, despite what all the orgs might have toted along the way.

One of the things that I was extremely angry to see, and in part really made me doubt the power of push-button petition activism is the fact that we allowed Congress to strip the portion of the Defense Authorization Act that contained provisions for women servicemembers’ healthcare, specifically the part having to do with her ladybits.

But apparently the need to care for your ladybits is far too controversial if you tote a gun around a battlefield or are working aboard an Aircraft carrier and while you can expect the government to fund your steel-toed boots (which they don’t) and buy your ship (which they do), you can’t possibly expect them to cover all of your body parts in your healthcare coverage (which they should).

Women have not been allowed to receive abortions in military facilities for a long damned time. It has been lobbed back and forth in Congress casually by men who never will ever have to worry about how an unplanned or, yes, unwanted pregnancy will affect their careers (and let’s not pretend that most of Congress never has been part of the military or isn’t so far detached from it that they are irrelevant).

This trifle of information might not seem like a huge tidbit to someone in the States, but to a woman serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, or, say for example, Republic of Korea, countries where abortion isn’t legal, then it is an issue. These are places where an unwanted pregnancy can’t be dealt with on the economy because the laws don’t allow it. A woman would have to find ways to travel to the nearest country, after securing leave from a commander who is more than likely a man, and who will more than likely want to know why (forcing the release of private medical information).

This of corse all costs money, forgetting all the money for travel.

But some women don’t have even these luxuries, and they know that ostracization isthe biggest fear of all, and they take extreme measures at the end of the cleaning rod of a rifle.

I’ve been seeing a lot of outcry, recently, about Republicans wanting to strip abortion services and provisions from insurance coverage for women over there in the States.

Welcome to our world.

We, uniformed women and dependent (I hate that word) family members of servicemembers have long been denied access to safe, legal abortion services. For four decades our access to abortion has been a political ping pong ball, and our access to a full range of reproductive health services has been nothing but a rec room game.

Unless we can prove rape or incest, or we can get a doctor to say that our lives are in danger (and that is purely at the discretion of the doctor, and I could tell you horror stories of women who have been at the mercy of doctors unwilling to declare this), abortions are not to be had. We only recently were able to access Plan B as part of our TRICARE Formulary (the medications required to be on-hand at all military treatment facilities).

And when the call came out to support the repeal, the silence from mainstream feminist groups was staggering. The only large group that supported it was NARAL, and I am pretty sure I only heard from Nancy Keenan in my inbox twice (usually with a call for money), twice again at Change.org.

My petition to garner support ended with only 631 signatures after more than six months of driving it and pushing it in a way that I was afraid was going to lose me friends and followers. But I believed in what I was doing with all of my person, so I didn’t care.

And Congress stripped the Burris Amendment, the amendment that would have repealed the ban on military abortions in military facilities (if they were prepaid with private funds, and it required no government funds to support) from the DAA prior to passing it.

Military women still can not have a full range of medical care, even though they support and defend a country in which it is legal.

So when I see the outcry from feminists on their blogs and see everyone outraged that Republicans in their new Republican controlled congress are blocking abortion access from insurance coverage and chipping away at the rights of civilian women to access abortion (which I think is wrong, and have said unequivocally many times) and doing their damnedest to make sure that abortion is difficult to access for civilian women…I am finding it hard to say anything but…

How can you be outraged? I am not angry… but kind of flailing here. I am not holding people accountable personally, but when we needed the support of people to pound home this issue… we didn’t have it.

When you fail to take a stand to protect the rights of a small group of oppressed people you can not possibly expect that your rights will not be chipped away at next.

We have to stand together or we will fail to stand at all. When the Republicans managed to succeed in squashing the only chance for military women to have abortions included in their health care and cast it off as a “contentious issue”, it was only a matter of time before they managed to presume that it was OK to continue to dig away at the rest. Why would they think that anyone cares about women’s health care? We don’t seem to care about it enough to stop them from steamrolling over a small group of women, so on to the next group, then the next and so on…

Or, is it because soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and coasties don’t matter? I mean, as I said on tumblr, we know they fight wars, which is wrong, so I guess it is OK that they don’t enjoy the same rights as us, amirite?

I am not sure, but all of this outrage just overwhelms me.

Welcome to my world.

You had a chance to support us in return for our service and tell the Rethugs that you give a damn about full, comprehensive health care for women. I can’t believe you are surprised by this next step Congress has taken.

If you are a servicemember or dependent family member who needs access to a safe abortion and has been denied, the ACLU is looking to represent you. You may contact me at ouyangdan [at] randombabble [dot] com and I can put you in touch with someone who is willing to help you, while keeping you anonymous if you wish. You are not alone or without people who care about you.

Photo Credit: U.S. Army

Great, Dan, But I Think You Missed The Point…

So, LT Dan Choi apparently feels that it is OK to call someone a “pussy” as an insult, as if that is the worst thing you can call someone, when something doesn’t go his way, and then, when someone speaks out against it and criticizes him for it, make a fauxpology saying he is the actual victim here, because he is a survivor of MST himself, and the Service Women’s Action Network was too “over the top” by writing a letter to him demanding he apologize.

That is some real 1 + Blue = Chair logic, and I am not sure I follow it. His reasoning just isn’t getting me from point A to B…


The thing is, Dan, that you used sexist slurs in your defense of DADT, and you didn’t have to do so. You were wrong. You were a grade A jerk about it, and you are continuing to be. Your fake apology to the Service Women’s Action Network is showing that loud and clear with every tweet you make defending your sexist remarks. And you were awful, on top of it, to a public servant to also worked tirelessly to make the repeal happen.

Lt Choi, as a woman, a Veteran, and a social justice activist who has worked diligently for the repeal of DADT, and who also took the failure of the DAA under which it was attached very very hard, I am gobsmacked, appalled, deeply offended, but not surprised, by your insistence that you were the true victim here. All too often I see people who suffer under one oppression turn to another oppressed group and take their aggression out on that group in order to further their own cause. That is exactly what you have done with your sexist remarks.

I always expect more of my officers, and you should expect more of yourself, sir.

If you insist on wearing your uniform, represent yourself properly while in it. Some of us are no longer allowed to wear it, and resent you disrespecting it with abhorrent behavior in the name of social justice. You are not helping anyone by drawing lines in the sand and alienating those of us who are on your side.





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