Some dark thoughts on a sunny third of July…
Years ago I worked in photofinishing, retouching portraits for a fast-talking photographer who had a studio at the Newport Naval Base.
I felt kind of like a spy, being a sort-of hippie, pacifist, lefty art type person. I tried to keep undercover. I had a photo ID taken for the guard at the gate, and when I forgot it I showed my husband’s college ID and got in, although we are different colors.
The commuter bus from Providence was always full. The route passed through a housing project, almost everyone in the neighborhood was Black. The Base was a more integrated workplace than any I had been in before, more young, more working-class. The military is a first step up for countless Americans, more so in hard times and the age of the ‘volunteer military’.
The Base, besides being young and integrated, was a culture unto itself. I’d go to the cafeteria and get a sandwich– super cheap and with about a pound of lunch meat crammed into it. Everyone seemed to drink beer at lunch. Even the 17-year-olds had some kind of near-beer, as the legal age was being raised from its Vietnam-era low of 18.
It was a testosterone-infused world, full of old men in uniforms exuding authority and young men trying to be somebody. My boss pushed his expensive portraits on young sailors looking for something to send the folks back home. There was a store full of military trinkets and souvenirs. One big display was cigarette lighters with macho slogans.
I remember that, a lighter that said, ‘If it doesn’t fit–force it’.
Am I being paranoid to see a threat there?
Professor Kurt Walling is on leave from the Naval War College for a lecture caught on YouTube, where it was too public an embarrassment to slip by as most such statements do…
Karl Walling’s lecture, given in May, was partly on Machiavelli’s views on leadership and insurgency and counterinsurgency.
At one point, Walling paraphrased some of Machiavelli’s theories on dealing with enemies, using Machiavelli’s famous analogy of Fortuna — Machiavelli’s term for the enemy, which he portrays as female that, according to Machiavelli, must be controlled at all costs or defeat will be certain.
And then, paraphrasing again, Walling used what the Navy called an offensive metaphor to explain Machiavelli’s belief that real leaders will take Fortuna when they want to whether or not the goddess likes it.
“What does a leader do when the b—- won’t put out? I do not mean to be vulgar, but rather to get to the heart of the matter from Machiavelli,” Walling said in the lecture. “If Fortuna will not cooperate, then make her do so. Real men, real leaders do not take no for an answer. Fortuna, said Machiavelli, is a woman, and when it is necessary if one wants to hold her down, to beat her down, moreover, she will like it.”
Women in the military are saving lives. Women are giving their lives. Just one name among the 4,411 Americans killed in Iraq as of today is Holly Charette, of Cranston, RI killed by a roadside bomb on June 23, 2005.
One wounded veteran of the war is Jessica Lynch, who served her country not only by fighting, but by refusing to lie about her capture and rescue when facts got in the way of a heroic myth invented to promote the war. One of the dead is her friend, Lori Piestawa, a Native American who joined the military to make a better life for her children.
None of our soldiers are expendable. None are second class. We owe it to all of them to renounce the bias and prejudices we tolerate in civilian life as too dangerous and disruptive to afford in life and death situations.
If Professor Walling were not caught on tape his words would just be another dig at the women in the class and a stroke to the men. It happens all the time. One way to build cohesion is to bond around race, class or gender– define who you are by who you are not. It works. It costs. From the Army Times…
The military has come under fire for repeated problems with sexual abuse at the service academies, in units stationed abroad in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan or Bahrain, and at military installations. Detainee abuse allegations have also included sexual assaults.
The Air Force Academy in Colorado is still struggling to recover from complaints that dozens of female cadets were assaulted and then punished when they reported it. And a recent survey by the Veterans Affairs Department showed that six in 10 women who served in the National Guard and Reserves say they were sexually harassed or assaulted.
Yes, we can afford to build morale by singling out some soldiers for persecution. As long as we consider some soldiers to be expendable. Wars will be fought, and victory declared. A few will suffer at the hands of those they call comrades, but most will suffer in silence. The best and the bravest women join the military. They know they will have to deal with being a minority and will have to prove themselves. They enlist to be soldiers, not victims.
A teacher who tries to be popular with a wink and a nod to the worst prejudices of his students is unworthy. He’s drawing a target on our own troops and hurting the solidarity they will need when they have to depend on each other. Women are saving lives and risking their lives. They shouldn’t have to fear their own.
We hope and pray for our soldiers to come home. We want them to get back into civilian life and be good citizens. We don’t want them to come back with harm inflicted by their fellow soldiers, or the knowledge that they have committed crimes against our own. They need good teachers and leaders.
We at home need to think of those we send every day. Their families do, but so many of us can disengage in the age of the ‘volunteer’. Every soldier who serves, abroad or at home, serves in our name. May we find our way to peace.