Monday, May 28, 2012

Yep, I'm willing to be a jerk on Memorial Day

However, you'll see that I'm not really as brave as that sounds, because I'm publishing this here rather than at the more heavily trafficked W4. Comments moderation is also turned on here.

On this Memorial Day, I'm not willing to "remember our men and women in the military who have fallen." I'm willing to remember our men who have fallen, especially those who have fallen in just and justified wars (such as WWII). But today we're remembering warriors. And women shouldn't be warriors. If they are, they shouldn't be. Locutions like "our men and women in the military" signal an acceptance of women in the role of warrior, and I will not use them. It signals this even more when one is talking about women who have been killed, because getting killed is one of those things that are especially likely to happen in the military because, y'know, people are fighting.

I'm sure that during the days when men and women were strictly segregated in the armed forces and women had a much, much lesser and strictly ancillary role, there were women who got killed. Probably nurses, especially, were not all that far from the scene of action in many wars and were at some risk, and I'm sure some did get killed. Nonetheless, no one thought in the 1960's that if you remembered "our men in uniform" or "the men who have died for our freedom" you were "disrespecting" some nurse in a field hospital who got killed in WWI. This is because that "remembering" was related to men qua warriors, and no one expected us to talk as if women are also warriors.

Now, it is an unfortunate fact that our government, from the Carter administration on, has increasingly used women in warrior roles. This use was expanded in the Clinton administration, and GWB did not reverse those uses. To all intents and purposes, women are now serving in combat roles. I'm quite sure that someone will argue that to refuse to use the phrase "our men and women in the military" or "our men and women who have died" is to deny reality. But I disagree. Such phrases have more than one function. They do not simply function to acknowledge the present situation but also to fix it in place, to treat it as normal and even normative. They signal acceptance and a refusal to disapprove.

And I won't do that.

So today, I remember the men who have died for our freedom in great and necessary wars of the past.


Alex said...

On the last Saturday in June we have an Armed Forces Day in the UK (previously called Veterans' Day) which is an annual commemoration of the service rendered by men and women in the British Armed Forces. There are military parades etc., but it isn't a public holiday. I would say there is very little collective awareness of the occasion.

Compared with the British people, Americans, I believe, are much more ready to honour their warriors and to express gratitude for the sacrifices they must sometimes make. It's notorious that British soldiers get little respect in their homeland - except in times of war.

You may know this bit of doggerel which I think originated in America and so rather contradicts what I've just said:

In times of war, and not before,
God and the soldier men adore;
When the war is o’er and all things righted,
The Lord’s forgot and the soldier slighted.

Here's a few thoughts on your observations about women in the role of warrior.

Apart from its obedience to political correctness, an undisclosed reason why the military top brass agrees to have women serving in battleships, in marine combat units, etc., is because they don’t expect ever to fight a ‘real war’ again. They believe the next world war will be fought by remote control, and women can push buttons as efficiently as men. Nobody envisages another conventional war with infantry in front lines on a battlefield, another D-Day landing, or even another fluid conflict like the VietNam war. Women would be totally ineffective as warriors in a real shooting war and every honest man (or woman) in a high military rank knows that.

Meanwhile, training women to be fighter pilots, riflewomen in the infantry, female submariners, etc., indulges an androgynous fantasy sold to impressionable young women by feminists. It's a kind of game that can be played when the hideous reality of war has been forgotten.

Lydia McGrew said...

Is Armed Forces Day the day when there's supposed to be three minutes of silence? And everyone wears a red flower (I forget the kind)? If so, it features in a Dorothy Sayers novel.

You're certainly right about the military, and it's a frightening thought that the time might come when we have to fight a real, existential war and have combat potential and morale so gravely weakened.

The trouble is really that large amounts of government money function like a large pile of manure. All the "flies" of political correctness, agendas, make-work programs, social engineering, are attracted to it. It turns into a giant social experiment and jobs program. It's irresistible, because no one on either side of the political aisle is going to vote for cutting the funding, and the leftists can just divert it, like a river in flood, to fulfill their own ends. As each new administration comes in, the social "progress" (really, increased rot) put in place by the previous administration is always untouched. At this point I don't even know how one would begin to clean it up. And the homosexualization of the military will only make matters worse.

Alex said...

The red flower is a poppy which represents the flowers of Flanders and the blood that was spilt there. Poppies are worn on Remembrance Day which is the Sunday nearest to 11th November when an act of remembrance and a parade takes place in Whitehall. The queen lays a wreath at the Cenotaph and a two minutes silence is observed at 11 o'clock. (The eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month). This service was inaugurated to remember the dead after the first World War. Now it has been generalized to include all wars - including the one in Afghanistan.

Each new administration seems to take the same view of "social progress" - confirming the cliché that it makes no difference who you vote for, the liberals always get in. Unless you're counting on Mitt Romney to begin turning things around? Maybe his Mormon faith will make a difference?

Lydia McGrew said...

No, I would not particularly expect Romney to turn things around in the military. He is not really a culture warrior. It doesn't follow that both parties are the same, only that the less "progressive" party lacks the will to turn back the actions of the more "progressive" party w.r.t. the military. But even there, they will have far less motivation to do more active harm.

yankeegospelgirl said...

I think it can be acceptable to honor fallen soldiers in modern wars as well---sure, the war might have been a dumb idea to begin with, but a soldier can still be brave while fighting in stupid wars. Maybe he died protecting his fellow soldiers or something. Of course, this still isn't the same as the conventional, "Honoring the fallen soldiers who died so we could be free," because cynical as it sounds that just isn't how it works anymore.

Lydia McGrew said...

That's a good point. I just find it rhetorically difficult.