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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.

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#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!

But There’s Just No Oversight!

There are those who (wrongly) believe that when the Chippewa/Ojibwe, Huron, and Pottowotome tribes retained their treaty fishing rights from the State of Michigan as was laid forth in the Treaty of Ghent at the conclusion of the War of 1812 in 1814. In it, all that the tribes who allied with the British was to be restored to them, and since part of what was restored to the States was lands which would become known as the State of Michigan, and there were certainly Natives who lived here, who fished the Great Lakes, this was understood. But that certainly wasn’t what happened, and in 1836 the Natives of what is the Eastern Upper Peninsula and the Northern third of the Lower Peninsula wound up ceding their land rights in order to keep their sovereign fishing rights, though in an earlier post I mentioned that this wasn’t exactly the way of it.

A common misconception is that sovereign fishing rights will provide a way for tribes to dwindle fishing supplies down to nothing, because they go unchecked since there is no one who looks over their shoulders. It isn’t as if Natives haven’t fished their own lands for about 12,000 years or more before they had the White Man to make sure they didn’t eradicate their environment, and in fact prior to the settling of North America by American settlers the people of the Chippewa/Ojibew tribes existed on roughly two cycles of living, one where they fished as a larger village from Spring to Autumn, and one where they hunted through the winter, allowing both to replenish as needed. As large commercial industry fishing took over outlets of the St. Mary’s River, which affected Eastern Superior waters, they learned to accommodate that schedule to adjust for fish preservation.

Even now, tribal fishing boards work with the Department of Natural Resources to make sure that fish levels are maintained, with fishing seasons strictly adhered to. Because every person who exercises their tribal rights must have a tribal-issued license complete with registration number it is easy to track every person using a legal license. Any person caught without a license is subject to the same penalties that a non-tribal angler would be. If that angler is a net user, their registration number must be affixed to their nets, and the location of those nets must be on file. You are required to keep track of where you lay and leave your nets, which only makes sense for finding them. It helps both the fisher find their nets and the tribal board and the DNR watch for poachers.

The DNR is very strict in assessing their control. The lead “sinkers” that are used to weigh nets, and the anchor buoys used to keep them in place sometimes will drift, but they must be affixed with your registration number. If they drift, or if a storm were to toss your nets to a location where your nets don’t belong the DNR has full authority to seize control of your nets, equipment, and catch, and pull it. Because your reg. number is also affixed they will also come to your house and fine you for the infraction (and if you are tribal, which net users are, the tribal board can as well, but not the State itself). Your catch is sold off, or donated to a State or County home.

This has happened to us on more than one occasion, even though we do stick very carefully to the letter of the laws. Things happen.

But the DNR, even if it maintains otherwise, is a State agency at its lower level, and there is a long and heated history of tension between Indian and non-Indian fishing and those who believe that one side is being favored. In an area that is so dense with tribal fishing, and having people who have the exceptions to the “non-commercial” policy of treaty fishing rights around, the DNR has been known to keep an “extra vigilant” eye on net fishing. It isn’t hard, because Lake Superior fishing is almost (if not exclusively) that of the solely of the tribal fishery. If they go out and poke around a set of nets, odds dictate that they are going to pull of a gang owned by a tribal fisherman.

Things have become better in recent years, or so I am told, with the authority handed down by the State police to “deputize” local tribal police to watch out for non-tribal on tribal crime, but I don’t know if this has been affected. I do know that it has long been a tense situation, and if my impression of the DNR is colored by this, it is not without reason. Spawning season can be a long and hard couple of months without steady income, relying on frozen stores to get by in a good year, and to have your first nets of the season confiscated can be a tough pill. There is nothing saying the State doesn’t benefit from paying an inordinate amount of attention to tribal fisheries, but that doesn’t mean that tribal fishers don’t screw up.

There is oversight, though. We have our own boards and license commissions. We are required to file for a license through that bureau like non-tribal members. A license is held for life, though, and can be willed or handed down, even sold if you want to another member. My grandfather will probably give his to my brother who will benefit from it more than I would. I think there are even circumstances under which you can lose it, if you misuse it or abuse it. You also have to stick to treaty waters, waters governed by your own tribe, etc.

My tribe was lucky, and they fared better than those of the Pacific Northwest tribes in Washington State, or those in Minnesota, who had their rights poorly translated when disputes arose, but they weren’t come by easily. Of course, many can argue that no tribe has come by any of their rights easily.

But that is something for another day. The concept that tribal fishers are just not well governed is hogswash. Tribes are uniquely placed to know how many members they have and to cooperate with the DNR on the number of fish that can be safely harvested, and what measure will need to be taken to preserve it. It doesn’t do anyone any good to chase the last fish into a net, though I don’t hear too much talk of opening hatcheries and farming from leisure anglers, only that we treaty-rights anglers are taking up all the resources and getting so much “special treatment”.

Some History About Tribal Fishing…

For the purposes of this post, “Indians” and “Native Americans” will be used fairly interchangeably, as is indicative of my region and the history of which I am dealing. Also, “Chippewa” and “Ojibwe” or “Ojibway”, even though that is not always the case. Thanks for your leeway for giving me room to use our own words with our own history.

I love having the opportunity to get my grandfather in a chatty mood about things from my family’s heritage, and tribal fishing rights is as much a part of that as the blood that flows in our veins. It is a tradition that has been notched with contention and surrounded with controversy for literally over a century.

As far as my own tribe is concerned, tribal fishing rights were secured as part of the treaty of 1836, between, among some, the Ojibwe people of the Eastern Upper and Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan as well as those the First Nations of Ottawa and the United States. A major motivating factor behind this treaty, for the U.S. government was to gain ceded land rights, since it stands obvious in our stellar history that the U.S. could not keep a promise to Native Peoples and First Nations Peoples. “Motivating factor” is less honest than “primary objective” really. They wanted the reserved land back, and it stood to tell what they were going to be willing to do to get it back. The State saw this as a “removal” treaty.

The sovereign nations native to the Great Lakes region secured for themselves rights to the entirety of most of the Great Lakes for fishing (and if I am not mistaken, hunting as well) “with the other usual privileges of occupancy, until the land is needed for settlement”.

Then, in 1971, a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community was cited for pulling up a mere handful of lake trout in his herring nets, because instead of violating what he held sacred and wasting the fish, he kept them. It was said that he violated State fishing regulations, which he said he would not recognize under Treaty Law, which was to be supreme. The State was having none of this, you can be sure, saying that the Chippewas had ceded their sovereign rights to fishing when the land was settled, even though the treaty allowed otherwise, and even though the man in question was in no danger of upsetting the preservation of the lake trout population. (more…)

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.

Respectfully,

Brandann,

Veteran,

USN

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