The military serves a couple of important functions in our culture, aside from the ones it’s officially charged with. One is giving poor folks a way of seeing the country and the world and encountering a lot of different people and cultures and the other is revealing stupid bullshit between groups in our own society for what they are.
I think I told you about the Mississippi vet I talked to in the airport a while back, who was going on about how it was the Army that taught him that racism was stupid, because, when the Grand Ole Opry came on and all the white guys from the city started making fun of him, calling him hillbilly and hick, it was the black guys from Mississippi who sat with him and listened with him, because they, too, back home on Saturday night listened to the Opry.
And, also, one only has to look at the dates to see how desegregating the military gave added urgency to desegregating the rest of the country.
In other words, even though we tend to think of the military as a very conservative institution, it has, in many ways, been the catalyst for a lot of progressive change. That, I think, is one reason the fight over gays in the military has been so fierce, because both sides know that, if gay people are allowed to serve openly, it will mean shifting a lot of people’s fundimental attitudes. They won’t have to like serving next to gay people, but they will have to get used to it. And once they’re used to it, many of them are going to find it damn foolish to worry about working and living next to gay people when they get home.
All this brings me to women in combat. The arguments against letting women serve in combat have ranged from the criminally stupid (“Once a month, women are more prone to infections!”) to the old tried-and-true “It’ll ruin unit cohesion” to whatever else folks can think of at any given moment so that a fog of “women can’t/shouldn’t be in combat” shrouds the land and prevents us from looking at the truth:
Women are, right now, in combat zones–civilian women and female troops. There they are. Fighting and dying and living and going about their jobs, just like the men.
What are you going to do?
We don’t line up in great big swaths just a few people deep and stand on either end of the field from each other waiting to see if our opponant is going to mow us down before we mow him down any more. Why we did that in the first place is too stupid to even contemplate, but it’s over, it’s done, and has been for decades.
There is no front line now. There is no safe “non-combat” place for a person in a war zone to hang out. That’s not how war works. And keeping up this charade of not allowing women into combat serves only two purposes–to give the appearance of protecting male soldiers from girl cooties and to make people too invested in chivalry feel good. Both of those are bullshit reasons.
Women are in combat. It’s time to let go of the dream of keeping us out of combat. We’re there and we’re serving along side our fellow soldiers and it’s not the end of the world.
Here’s what change looks like:
“I didn’t want to leave,” Brown said, after being pulled from the platoon. Robbins said he and his men, who called Brown “Doc,” also wanted to keep her as their medic.
“I’ve seen a lot of grown men who didn’t have the courage and weren’t able to handle themselves under fire like she did,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron Best of Canton, N.C., Robbins’s gunner that day. “She never missed a beat.”