Sep 222010
 

DADT Repeal Stalls in Senate

Yesterday, the repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy stalled in the Senate amidst partisan bickering stirred up by the impending midterm elections in November. The New York Times notes:

The outcome, at a time when Congress is increasingly paralyzed by the partisan fury of the midterm elections, was more a result of a dispute between Democrats and Republicans over legislative process than a straightforward referendum on whether to allow gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers to serve openly.

The repeal of DADT became a pressing issue earlier in September when the US District Court in central California ruled that the legislation, in effect now for seventeen years, was unconstitutional.

The policy was originally introduced by President Clinton in 1993, as a compromise between the policy of previous administrations, which have officially and explicitly barred non-heterosexuals from military service since 1950, and Clinton’s campaign promise to allow all citizens the opportunity to join the armed forces. During his campaign for the 2008 presidential election, Obama made similar promises and expressed support for the repeal of DADT, but has so far been slow to move on these matters. However, in late May 2010, two different pieces of legislation were proposed that would have included a repeal of DADT soon after the completion of a U.S. Department of Defense study (due to be completed in December of this year) about the effects of a repeal on military competence and morale.

While the language for the repeal of DADT was passed by the House back in May, the amended Defense Authorization Act, a “$725.7 billion annual defense policy bill” that has been passed by the Senate for 48 consecutive years, stalled yesterday after a successful Republican-led filibuster. Republicans voted unanimously to block debate on the bill after Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, introduced several “left-leaning” amendments in addition to the repeal of DADT, including an amendment concerning a path to legal status for illegal immigrants who join the U.S. military. Republicans complained that Reid’s move was overt pandering to a Democratic base leading into the midterm elections; however, a few commented that they would be open to renewed debate on the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” after the completion of the DOD study in December, though it is hard to predict what the result of such a revisit might be.

Sex and Lies in the Armed Forces

As a pacifist, I have mixed feelings about this debate. While it seems clear to me that DADT is an overtly prejudiced and unconstitutional policy, I feel a certain ambivalence about a cause that takes for granted the appeal of military service as a noble and desirable occupation. I feel the same in response to issues about Pagans in the military. Should non-heterosexuals and non-Christians be “allowed” to join the military? Certainly. Do I think it’s a good idea for anyone to join the military? Honestly, no. But a vital aspect of my philosophy of pacifism is the affirmation of personal choice, and so I find myself unintentionally working to expand the “right” to join the United States military at the same time I continue to speak out against the military itself as an institution of state-sponsored, large-scale organized violence.

But what I find truly fascinating about this debate is this question of how the repeal of DADT might effect the competence and efficacy of the armed forces — or as it’s mostly described, the military’s “readiness and morale.” Forgive me if I sound crude, but whenever I read that phrase, what do you think is the image that immediately jumps to my mind? A couple of macho soldiers caught out back behind the barracks with their pants down around their ankles and their faces frozen in mortification as a siren suddenly blares and the enemy attacks. If only those soldiers had been “ready”! If only those soldiers didn’t now feel such low “morale” about the sin they’ve committed! O how ever will they rally to fight for our freedoms now?

I have little doubt that this is perhaps the primary concern of those who use the phrase “readiness and morale” to describe the potential threat they see in the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Yet I cannot see any bigger distraction to service members than the systemic prejudice and bigotry that requires some of them to actively lie and repress a vital aspect of their humanity, while cutting them off from sources of support and healthy relationship at the risk of jeopardizing their military career.

But this is nothing new for the military. Very similar problems exist for women in the armed forces, for whom sexual harassment, abuse and rape continue to be a largely undocumented and under-reported crisis. According to Defense Department statistics, sexual assault in the military continues to rise, the most common form by far being that of heterosexual men against women:

Women, in fact, are more likely to be assaulted in the military than in civilian life: “Despite the suspected underreporting, sexual assault is more common in the military than it is among the civilian population, the report suggests—two for every 1,000 service members, versus 1.8 per 1,000 civilian women and one per 1,000 civilian men.” [emphasis added]

To worry that a repeal of DADT might introduce sexual abuse and scandal into the military is to be rather pathetically ill-informed about the abuse and harassment already very prevalent in the ranks.

Make Love, Not War

Despite their ads promising career advancement in a noble profession, the military is undeniably an institution of organized violence. This is its stated purpose, after all. With Basic Training explicitly designed to break down new cadets and transform them into “good soldiers” in the image of masculine force and discipline, dependent upon the military and its command structure rather than on the “feminizing” influence of mother and homeland, it is an institution that willfully breaks down healthy relationships of support and community and replaces them with the idealized “band of brothers” bonded in intense relationship through the trauma and violence of warfare.

Within such a violent institution, it should come as no surprise that violence and abuse is turned against our own service members as well as our “enemies,” and that the service members most likely to experience abuse are those who stand out as different (e.g. women, homosexuals, ethnic and religious minorities, etc.). It is also no surprise that the repeal of DADT seems to some to threaten the ideal of the masculinely-defined “band of brothers” as a functioning military unit. Harry Jackson, a pastor in Maryland and bitter anti-gay opponent of a DADT repeal, proclaimed:

Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will destroy the necessary readiness and cohesion of servicemen and women to perform their duties successfully. Introducing sexual tension and conduct into our barracks will be a distraction from the very business of the military [...].

Part of me wonders if Jackson and others like him might not be more right than they know.

As a Pagan who honors the earth and worships the feminine as a vital and balancing aspect of the sacred, it seems likely to me that much of the military’s capacity for inhumane and indiscriminate violence against faceless “enemies” stems from an absence of healthy, supportive community informed by open sexuality and gender identity. Certainly, there is no evidence that women are inherently more peaceful than men, and there have been plenty of examples throughout history of women participating willingly, even gleefully, in warfare and violence. Yet current issues of sexual abuse and anti-gay bigotry in the military seem to me to stem at least partly from our inability to hold mature, balanced discussions about gender identity and its connection to violence, arising from the repression of one’s sexual identity — whether it is the repression of homosexuality or of biological femaleness — in order to conform to a patriarchal, hierarchical conception of nobility and sacrifice.

To allow women and homosexuals to serve openly in the military will likely bring these issues of gender politics and their conflict with the traditional macho-masculine conception of militaristic violence increasingly into the light of real discussion. It may very well jeopardize “the very business of the military,” as it becomes increasingly difficult to justify violence against a dehumanized “Other” while at the same time working towards an embrace of diversity and difference within ranks. These two aims — to support diversity and acceptance within the military, while training armed service members to be efficient and effective executors of violence — may in actual fact be at odds with one another.

That is, at least, my hope. Time and again in my own experiences, I have seen how open dialogue about difference and an honest engagement with diversity has helped to foster communities of inner strength who no longer rely on violence against an external “enemy” for their group cohesion. With increasing numbers of women involved in the armed forces, and increasing acceptance and support of GLBT service members, perhaps we may see a similar transformation of the military itself. Anyway, one can dream….

  35 Responses to “Militarism and Sexuality: Why the Right Might be Right to Fear DADT’s Repeal”

  1. Being a soldier is an honorable profession, and defending one’s community, when such a need arises, is a duty for any adult who deserves to be considered a full member of that community.

    Women (gay or straight) and gay men are not morally superior to straight men. They are not, by virtue of their gender or orientation, less prone to cruelty and unprovoked violence.

    DADT is a very straightforward issue of discrimination. Full stop.

    • I can’t speak for Ali, Apuleius, but I think her point was that, to an extent, military culture relies upon separating recruits from supportive relationships and open acknowledgment of sexual and affectional desires outside the strict military hierarchy–that Band of Brothers meme. And that, to the extent that repealing DADT actually frees any group within the military to own their own sexuality, it may undercut the socialization process the military relies upon.

      Of course, you are also correct that DADT is simple and straightforward discrimination. And, despite my own pacifism, I agree that for some people, military service is an honorable choice. Though the story is perhaps ahistorical, the anecdote attributed to George Fox, when allegedly asked by William Penn whether as a new Quaker, he needed to stop wearing his sword (the outward mark of being a gentleman) is telling.

      George Fox purportedly answered, “Wear it while thou can.”

      While I would maintain with Fox that there is a still deeper honor to be had in putting away the sword once convinced of the ethical and spiritual imperative to do so, those who do not have such a spiritual leading or conviction should instead by governed by their best understanding of what _is_ honorable. And I’ve certainly seen any number of my former students choose military service out of motives of honor and courage.

      I tell them I’m proud of them. And I make sure they know about services like the GI Hotline, should their convictions ever change, and they ever need an advocate to help them leave the military.

      The whole matter, though, is complex and fraught–with the exception of that basic truth that discrimination is discrimination is discrimination…

      • “…but I think her point was that, to an extent, military culture relies upon separating recruits from supportive relationships and open acknowledgment of sexual and affectional desires outside the strict military hierarchy…”

        That may be her point, however, it is not the reality. Were it the reality, then the military would universally prohibit all “supportive relationships and open acknowledgment of sexual and affectional desires”, and not just those of non-heterosexual service members.

        Had the prohibitions directed under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” been applied to all personnel, there would have been rebellion – servicemen/women could not speak about their wives/husbands or girl-/boy-friends, nor openly engage in heterosexual behaviour. Open rebellion and mutiny, I can almost guarantee it, and it would have been promptly overturned.

        • H. R., the point is not regarding official policy, but the enculturation into the military in, for instance, basic training. This is a less literal and concrete thing, and different perspectives on the military are likely to color differing conclusions, but I think it is fair to concede that one aim of basic training is to reorient new soldiers from a life that centered on civilian relationships to one where the most important relationships, at LEAST while serving in combat, will be those with one’s unit.

          This involves, from the perspective of a critic, weakening ties with civilian relationships that may be far healthier than those formed within the temporary group of the military unit… though, from the perspective of those who believe this conditioning is necessary and right, it may save the lives of soldiers in combat.

          I know I would, myself, tend to reply that even if that were certain and true, that safety comes at a terrible cost. I believe that the military enculturation does in fact weaken ties of affection, and that higher levels of domestic violence within current and former military families, higher rates of sexual assault and sexual harassment within the military, and perhaps even a lower threshold to committing war crimes against civilians in the course of military operations (eg: Abu Ghraib, etc.) are at least partially due to this process.

          Your interpretation of the data may be different, and that’s understood. However, I don’t think either of us are in a place to dismiss others’ opinions as not “the reality.” I don’t think any of us have godlike enough insight to make so sweeping a claim.

          • Just a quick question – Have either you (Cat) or Ali ever been though basic? Or been a part of a military family (i.e. lived on base, had an immediate family member deployed, etc)?

            And I’m not trying to cast aspersions, I’m curious – When I was in (Navy, several years ago, but after DADT was enacted), I can’t say I ever ran into what you are talking about. Yes, people were occasionally ostracized for either real or perceived reasons, but DADT was seen more as a tool for personal vendettas (which my CO did not put up). In the kind of conditions one is under in the military, its pretty much an open secret who is straight, gay, bi, whatever – and 99.99% of the time, its not a big deal. As Norse Alchemist said, the ancient pagans were far more in touch with their communities, had healthy, open sexual lifestyles, etc. yet were far more brutal and barbaric in warfare.

            (and I’m stealing the line “the military’s capacity for inhumane violence is simply because violence is “inhumane” and I would argue you’d be hard pressed to find humane violence under any circumstances.” from N.A.)

            • I am part of a military family; I am the sister of a disabled Navy vet. (We often smile together at how different the two of us grew up to be: one Quaker, one long-term military, till disability ended his career. Both of us do manage to respect the other’s choices, certainly.)

              I’m not entirely sure what it is you are pointing out from my response. I was commenting here on some of the likely outcomes of the philosophy which seems to be behind military enculturation–a phenomenon larger than the DADT policy, though a case can be made that DADT is a reflection of that policy. You seem to be responding to a different point, but I’m not clear what you are asking–sorry.

              The line about inhumane violence was not mine. I realize I’ve been commenting here a lot–I know Ali is away from email for a couple of days, and I think I felt the need to give the anti-pacifist crowd a surrogate target. *grin* (However, I am not she and she is not me, if there was any confusion.)

              • I was responded to your comment,
                “I can’t speak for Ali, Apuleius, but I think her point was that, to an extent, military culture relies upon separating recruits from supportive relationships and open acknowledgment of sexual and affectional desires outside the strict military hierarchy–that Band of Brothers meme. And that, to the extent that repealing DADT actually frees any group within the military to own their own sexuality, it may undercut the socialization process the military relies upon.”

                I was adding in that, from my personal experience, I did not see that while I was in at all – that basically no-one cared who was screwing who as long as the work was done and no-one was screwing around while on duty, and that people ignored DADT unless forced to deal with it. Of course, this is just from my perspective, YMMV.

        • “Had the prohibitions directed under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell been applied to all personnel, there would have been rebellion – servicemen/women could not speak about their wives/husbands or girl-/boy-friends, nor openly engage in heterosexual behaviour.”

          For a fascinating study of the incorporation of “feminizing” influences (such as mothers, wives and “the hearth/homeland”) to support rather than undermine the machismo-masculine archetypes at play in the U.S. military, I highly recommend Blood Sacrifice and the Nation: Totem Rituals and the American Flag, an extensive anthropological study of the matter done by David W. Ingle and Carolyn Marvin.

  2. *nodding*

    Yeah. That’s pretty close to how it looks on my end of the street, too.

    *braces self* Now to see if those who see things differently can manage to be civil about it–?

  3. As a bi veteran who watched friends and co-workers being discharged from service in the early 80s during the “witch hunts” before DADT, I do think you have a good bit of it it right. A lot of what motivates this religiously motivated social discrimination is straight male fear that they will be subject to the same sexual predation that they impose upon everyone else.

    There is already sexual assault in the ranks, and the vast majority of it is perpetrated by straight men. It is perpetrated against men as well as against women, and being perceived as effeminate in any way is one factor in those male on male assaults. It is even more traumatizing for men to seek help than it is for women, and I know first hand how much of a problem getting help through the system can be for women.

    I don’t think the military is ever a *good* option, but I do think it should be an option for people who believe that defense of one’s country and one’s people is an honorable thing. I wish it was less a socioeconomic necessity for so may poor people and minorities. With the economy the way it is, it will continue to be one of the only viable choices for people without jobs. At least we’re no longer drafting people; that’s something I have a very serious negative reaction to when no civilian service options are offered.

    • “…the “witch hunts” before DADT…”

      Yep – 22 Marines, 50-something soldiers, I don’t remember how many airmen, and an entire barracks floor of sailors alone while I was at DLI – in one weekend. In many ways, I am surprised I wasn’t among them, considering my general cluelessness about people then and now.

      “…straight male fear that they will be subject to the same sexual predation that they impose upon everyone else.”

      I know that I always was more afraid of straight men than women (bi, lesbian or otherwise), and was appalled at the number of sexual assault cased I knew of from 1976-1980.

    • Well of course the majority of it was done by straight men. They form the highest percentage of people in the military. It’s simple statistics.

      Stop painting straight men in the military as “Evil.”

      • Men–statistics on sexual orientation in an organization like the military will of course be somewhat unreliable, given DADT and the previous policy banning service–commit a disproportionate number of sexual and other assaults, however.

        I don’t have the military stats handy, but I can tell you that outside of the military, the percentage of civilians who commit violent crimes who are male runs as high as 90%. And men make up, in fact, slightly less than half the population, so that is a _really_ disproportionate amount of our society’s violence that is committed by males.

        To say this is not to demonize men, but to critique current models of male socialization. The majority of men are not violent criminals. And yet, the majority of violent criminals are men. It is not sexist to wonder why that is, it is common sense, because if we could figure out how we, as a culture, are failing men and boys, maybe we could really reduce the amount of violent crime out there.

  4. I will agree that DADT is discriminatory. However, I would argue that all laws are discriminatory. Laws against polygamy discriminate agianst polygamists, which I think most would argue as bad. Laws against theft discriminate against thieves, which I think most people would argue is good. Now, that is not to say that Gays don’t have the right to serve openly, but what I have often wondered about the DADT law is that while discriminates, it also protects, in some ways. Odd question though it may be, we sometimes have to ask if discrimination is really a bad thing, at least on certain occasions.

    The fact is that there are already attacks against women and homosexuals in the military. By hiding their orientation, yes people are discriminated against and suffer. But if the Military is as bad as Ali says it is, which is worse, Hiding, or being painted on an open forum “Hey, come get me?”

    That said, I don’t care one way or the other if the law is repealed. I’ve heard arguments from both sides that make decent sense to me. I’m not gay, nor in the military, and as it goes my only real concerns with the military are that Asatruar get their full rights and that the Military does it’s job,

    If I may, though, say something else. Ali, it is good that you embrace the feminine, but I fear that you have come to hate and reject the masculine. Perhaps it is just me, but in your article your words regarding the ideals of the “Patriarchal Military” seem derisive, mocking, and dismissive, as well as hateful. An Example:

    “As a Pagan who honors the earth and worships the feminine as a vital and balancing aspect of the sacred, it seems likely to me that much of the military’s capacity for inhumane and indiscriminate violence against faceless “enemies” stems from an absence of healthy, supportive community informed by open sexuality and gender identity. ”

    First off, the military’s capacity for inhumane violence is simply because violence is “inhumane” and I would argue you’d be hard pressed to find humane violence under any circumstances. Secondly, the military these days doesn’t go for indiscriminate killings. With the level of technology we have, and the fact that most warfare isn’t done face to face, but rather with precision guided technology, as well as the high accountability in the military for civilian casualties, the days of indiscriminate slaughter are long past, at least for Western Armies. Thirdly, I don’t see how the absence of “healthy, supportive community informed by open sexuality and gender identity” would change the nature of violence. The ancient pagans showed far worse violence, and they were much more open sexually and based stronger in the community. Letting Gays serve openly in the military isn’t going to change the function of a gun, nor the destructive powers of a missile. Ares would be Ares no matter how many women and gays he surrounded himself with, he would still cover his bed in the skins of those he slays.

    Also, women do already serve openly in the Military.

    While I suppose I can understand you aversion to “State Organized Mass Violence” I am unsure if you realize what it would be like without it. There are many possibilities, and they are the reason we have the “SOMV” of the military. We could have “Privatized Organized Mass Violence” where people march to war under the banners of Gates, Jobs, Trump, and various corporations (Your Starbucks coffee now comes with a frag grenade). We could have “UnOrganized Mass Violence” where large groups of people just run rampant. Then there is also “Other State Organize Violence” where another nation comes in that doesn’t hold to ideas like ours and doesn’t respect the value of peace. Not to mention something like the Danegeld, where you pay out the nose so people don’t invade you. Peace is good, but we have Gods of War for a reason, and a Military for much of the same.

    As for the violence against fellow service members, I think there would be a simple and easy solution. However, this solution is as “Indiscriminate and Inhumane as they come.” Long ago, after a battle, soldiers were let loose on the enemy, to pillage and rape as they pleased. War is about violence, power, duty, honor, glory, and life affirmation. It isn’t about morality, or humanity. It doesn’t care about race or gender. The fact is that soldiers, for very good reasons, are no longer allowed to engage in the ancient rites of pillage and plunder, and thus have no outlet for the things those activities were meant, partially at least, to release that pressure. And, as we all know from psychology, when something cannot be expressed, it is turned inwards in a destructive manner.

    These are my thoughts, at least. Ali, I would simply ask you to reconsider your position on the Masculine and its influences on the Military, for neither of them are bad things. Though I do not fault you, I fear that in rejecting the “Patriarchy” of Christian (which isn’t really patriarchy when you study it), like so many others you have come to view the Masculine as bad, and its Virtues as bad things as well.

    Go with the Gods.

    • I have to agree with Norse Alchemist and Lori Drake. Especially with what they’ve written here.

      Has over-intellectualizing and over-reacting become the new plague of the Pagan Community? Do most people wish for Peace and Equality (LGBT or otherwise)? Of course. Throughout our brief existence on this planet has that been what we’ve had? NO. Pacifist or not, what happened to remembering that while some people sip their tea and academically huff over the existence of a military force–that the very fact that same person can do that is because there is someone willing to protect them– especially, if should *someone else* who disagrees try to kill them.

      Norse Alchemist wrote “if it was the Roman Empire fighting in Afghanistan, one could likely predict that everyone in the area would have been put to the sword and carried off as slaves”, and I don’t think he’s wrong. The world is not rainbow farts and cupcakes, some people do genuinely want other people d-e-a-d, period. I know I’m writing this a bit angry but did everyone somehow forget this fact?

      Also as to the comment about the military cuts off their members from the non-military that’s blatantly wrong. The bases here in Japan are constantly doing cooperative projects with the local population. If the military really did cut off their soldiers we’d be the Roman Empire, and even then that’s not factually accurate since even their soldiers could mingle.

      If you want to write about your approach on Pacifism I understand and appreciate that–but please don’t cloak this article around it then use terms like “State Organized Mass Violence” and not expect people to call that out as a derisive comment.

      I’m sorry I can’t seem to reply a decent and objective reply for this one. Too many of my friends have had to live in fear of being “discovered” or even just gone home in a box to see this issue reduced to such abstract and oversimplified terms.

      Lady Bless,
      Lamyka

      • “State organized mass violence” is indeed what the use of military force is, Lamyka.

        The military is an arm of government. Ergo, it is state organized.

        Mass? Well, that means on a large scale. Given the numbers of casualties in war, I don’t think we can really make a case that we’re talking about “micro” here, do you?

        Violence? That’s the use of force. Some might say it’s justifiable; others not. But to say that firing guns, launching missiles, and dropping bombs is NOT violent is specious at best.

        The job of the military–which some feel is essential and unavoidable–is to operate as the branch of the government which is capable of acting with violence on a large scale. (As opposed to a police force, which is capable of acting with violence on a relatively small scale.)

        If you object to the sound of the facts as derisive, I wonder if it is not simply the reality that you find objectionable. I know I do. Which does not mean I am deriding either those who believe differently than I do on the question of necessity or those who have served in the military.

        On the other hand, the portrait of the pacifist as someone who “sip[s] their tea and academically huff[s] over the existence of a military force,” is derisive, and quite deliberately so. And unlike the characterization of war as state-organized mass violence, it is not necessarily a factual one. I am personally acquainted with a great many pacifists who have been willing to be jailed, to forfeit their property, and even, if I dig back beyond my personal history into the annals of our nation’s history, to sacrifice their lives in order to refuse to support warfare. That is not tea sipping or academic in my mind.

        As to the argument that pacifism is only possible where there exists a military willing to protect the pacifist with the use of force, I am reminded of the old argument that was made regarding gender relations, that women’s honor and safety were best defended by men, and especially their male relatives. Women who thought otherwise were considered unfeminine and probably dishonorable–whores.

        Which rather overlooked the fact that the chief danger to women’s honor and safety was men and male violence, sometimes at the hands of the very men who women were instructed to entrust with defending them.

        I need a military to defend my safety against other militaries, that are needed to protect their people against my military… and round and round we go. It may take courage to step off that merry-go-round, but is that a reason not to consider it? After all, it takes courage and costs lives this way, too.

        • Wow Cat C-B,

          First off, I would recommend that you do a bit more research. You comment about gender relations is both highly sexist and largely wrong on the factual front. Perhaps Women who learned to fight might be considered “unfeminine and probably dishonorable–whores” in the Christian and Muslim communities, but I have seen no records that this attitude prevailed during Pagan times. Indeed, fro Egypt to Scandinavia, Ireland to Sparta, women who could fight were admired for their strength, and in warrior societies, prized just as highly as any woman who was “more feminine.”

          Your other comment “Which rather overlooked the fact that the chief danger to women’s honor and safety was men and male violence, sometimes at the hands of the very men who women were instructed to entrust with defending them.” Is also something I take offense at. Perhaps your comment is true in Christian and Muslim countries, but in Pagan lands (at least in Europe) Violence against women was a serious bad (at least in one’s own tribe). The penalties Pagans put on rape make the ones enforced today look like child’s play. Rape a woman, and you were likely to find yourself on the end of a blade. Indeed, amongst the Norse, it is recorded that no matter how violent his woman got, a Norseman was not to raise his hand agianst her (unless she tried to kill him) and it was considered the height of shame to strike a woman of your tribe (from what I’ve read). Personally, I think you have issues with men that you need to work out with professional help, rather than blanket discrimination and spouting anti-male drivel.

          As for your whole: “I need a military to defend my safety against other militaries, that are needed to protect their people against my military… and round and round we go. It may take courage to step off that merry-go-round, but is that a reason not to consider it? After all, it takes courage and costs lives this way, too.” You seem to grasp reality, and then toss it away for a foolish dream. Where you get your desire to uphold a Christian Ideal like pacifism, I don’t know, but honestly the only thing that will happen if you “Step off the Merry go round” is that those people who understand the value of violence and militaries, will gleefully come in, whip you out, and take your stuff. That is a fundamental law of the universe. They will not be impressed by your noble pacifism, nor stand in awe of your piousness, they will simply kill you and take what they want, because you are the easiest to get rid of.

          Lamyka, thank you for your support.

          • Cat, even I have to raise protest at what you say about men and military here. I really hate to write this but I think I might have to agree with Norse Alchemist that you’re writing from an almost Judeo-Christian Dualistic viewpoint of how the world is. I was born and raised a Pagan, as I am Hawaiian, and as Norse Alchemist wrote women are/were just as valued and protected as men (If not known for being more vicious sometimes, in Hawaii at least). The perspective from which you write seems more to stem from the *image* of history and gender issues than the reality. My problem isn’t with understanding English vocabulary “State Organized”, “Mass”, or “Violence”. Nor do I think poorly of Pacifists, I wrote what I wrote about the tea-sipping academics BECAUSE I have such respect for Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, to say the least. Please do not insinuate that I need to have courage and one day I’ll understand–I do understand Pacifism, Hawaiian Sovereignty Rights Activists employ those tactics all the time, because that’s what civilized people should/can do.

            This debate here proves my point that I made earlier, it’s an article not really even about DADT, it’s about the writer’s Pacifism. Which regardless of this debate is not what the article should have been about since even the title is “Militarism and Sexuality”.

            Norse Alchemist, I don’t necessarily always agree with you on things but for the most part I know I can count on you, as an Asatruar, to understand what I mean about defense, safety, and a Pagan perspective (not a Judeo-Christian baggage filled, somewhat Pagan perspective.)

            Sorry about the harshness of this but not everyone who disagrees “doesn’t understand”, or trolls threads out to get you–we just disagree. And then we disagree much more pointedly.

            Lady Bless,
            Lamyka

            • Lamyka, I think you are actually having a different argument than I am. I don’t think you are following my point–though whether that’s the fault of my writing or your preconceptions I can’t tell.

              In any case, I’m not offended–and I didn’t in any way mean to imply you lacked courage yourself. To the extent that my words led you to believe otherwise, I apologize to you.

              • Cat, I know we’re on different topics that’s why I wrote:

                “This debate here proves my point that I made earlier, it’s an article not really even about DADT, it’s about the writer’s Pacifism. Which regardless of this debate is not what the article should have been about since even the title is “Militarism and Sexuality”.”

                If the writer wants to write about Pacifism and label the writing as that, I respect that, as I said earlier. What I don’t appreciate is for a writer to not only mislabel what they wrote but also use it as a veil to unleash upon their own separate topic with heavily subjective ties to the original topic. And if that is going to be viewed as my opinion just look to the range of discussion here (not just between us), most of which is about Pacifism and not actually DADT.

                The issue of DADT is already a storm in a teacup, if Israel (a beautiful but ridiculously war torn country in the middle of nations vehemently against such policies) can make it legal for gays to serve, what the *bleep* is taking America so long?

                Why not discuss DADT and the reasons people are using to hold it back? Why not ask, if a bloated Military budget can make a Global Hawk, worth millions of USD–they can’t make a contingency plan for slowly introducing openly gay service members? Are we to seriously believe that the US Military *hasn’t* had a contingency–that it really is such an issue? Or how about, how will Pagans vote in November considering both parties floundered on DADT because their minds are focused on getting re-elected and not–doing their job? I’m sorry I thought this was a Pagans and Politics blog.

                Lady Bless,
                Lamyka

                • “Why not discuss DADT and the reasons people are using to hold it back? Why not ask, if a bloated Military budget can make a Global Hawk, worth millions of USD–they can’t make a contingency plan for slowly introducing openly gay service members? Are we to seriously believe that the US Military *hasn’t* had a contingency–that it really is such an issue? Or how about, how will Pagans vote in November considering both parties floundered on DADT because their minds are focused on getting re-elected and not–doing their job?”

                  Why not write about these things?

                  (a) Because although I was tempted to write about some of them (and I did mention the ridiculous midterm frenzy at the very beginning of the post, as well as the exorbitantly bloated budget, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions) – by and large, they’re either overdone and debated to death, or they’re overly insular and myopic in focus, ignoring the larger trends that might be underlying seemingly unrelated issues.

                  (b) My area of study is political philosophy and the broader trends that shape our political and social landscape, so I enjoy looking at “the bigger picture” and exploring the broader questions.

                  (c) I also find that this perspective is not as popular in political writing, and so by writing about such things I can offer something unique that will hopefully be interesting and new to some readers, and provide them with insights and questions they may not have thought of otherwise.

                  (d) Jason invited me to write for this project as a Pagan pacifist who could bring a unique perspective and be one of many voices offering many different points of view. Writing about the ways in which I see DADT as a pacifistic issue is how I offer my unique perspective and contribute to the broader debate.

                  (e) And besides, if I titled all my posts “Actually About Pacifism,” how could I trick good folks like yourself into reading them?

                  If you’re not interested in reading a wide variety of perspectives on this website, I believe there is a way to subscribe only to the writers you like. But personally I would think that would defeat the whole purpose of this project, which is to showcase just how diverse the Pagan community is. If you disagree, no one is forcing you to read or comment, though you are certainly always welcome to do both.

                  • Sorry for the late commenting, I’ve been moving between countries.

                    Ali, that’s the point I’m making–I would have LOVED to read something that was labeled properly, and I detest being “tricked” to read something. Maybe others need that but I don’t. Because of my profound respect for Jason and Cara I come here to get honest writings that I can’t seem to find in mainstream media (for various reasons, just pick one). It’s just my opinion, but I feel that tricking readers only ends up detracting from the original subject, as seen here.

                    I hope to hear more of your opinions in a transparent format even if I disagree. Also as to your comments listed here, the questions above are just examples as I’m sure you could tell. As for the broader picture I’d like to hear more of yours even if it does seem a bit vague (perhaps because commenting isn’t meant to be long).

                    Lady Bless,
                    Lamyka

                    • I’m sorry, Lamyka, but you seem to have missed the tongue-in-cheek nature of my last comment (though maybe this is my fault – I forget that irony doesn’t always carry well over the internet). I do not ever intend to “trick” my readers and I disagree with you that I should have “labeled” my post differently, as it is very clearly about sexuality and militarism and the role of both in the U.S. military. (In fact, if you’ll note, “pacifism” is also clearly listed along with a number of other labels in the tags.)

                      To be honest, I find your complaint to be somewhat silly. If you cannot recognize honesty and forthrightness in the writing itself, I’m not sure there’s much I can do to improve the labeling that will help you.

          • I was speaking of Western society during the historical era, and particularly during the 17th–19th Centuries, the era whose literature and history I am most familiar with, and for which we possess the most documentation, when I spoke of the earlier concept that women who did not submit to male defense of their safety and honor were seen as gender transgressive. Though perhaps I was unclear in framing it, it is hardly a new insight; much of modern feminism would argue something similar. I do not think we have nearly enough information to generalize about all of human history and pre-history, and I was not attempting to characterize early pagan cultures–which appear to have differed widely from one another in how they framed questions of gender.

            In any case, my intent was not to argue a feminist point, but to draw an analogy. You may reject my understanding of history, but I take it you understood my analogy.

            I am uncertain why you believe pacifism to be a Christian construct; certainly, while I’m happy to acknowledge the fellowship of Christian pacifists on this question, I’ve always had a hard time understanding how they can derive a pacifist philosophy from _that_ book! However, as I have never been Christian, I’d rather not be in the position of telling members of another religion how they should interpret their sacred texts; I accept that some of them do derive that meaning from it, and that’s enough for me.

            But I don’t trace my own pacifist roots to Christianity.

            As for not impressing people with my “noble pacifism,” impressing others is the least important reason I can think of to do what is right. Likewise, risk of personal loss or harm doesn’t seem like a strong argument against it, if one is truly convinced of the rightness of an idea.

  5. I find myself unintentionally working to expand the “right” to join the United States military at the same time I continue to speak out against the military itself as an institution of state-sponsored, large-scale organized violence.

    I feel the same way. I think anyone should be able to join the military but I wish there was no such thing as a military. If there’s going to be one, though, anyone should be able to join.

    Or be drafted.

    As a feminist I want equality and that means I believe women should be drafted as well as men. However, as a peace activist I think the military is an abomination and should be dismantled.

    So I suspect you and I feel very similar about this.

    • Witchstead,

      I had a professor in college who, as a pacifist, strongly supported a reinstatement of the draft (including women). His reasoning was that if more young people faced the very real possibility that they could be drafted into military service, it would cease to be an issue largely of “socioeconomic necessity for so may poor people and minorities” (as Erynn notes above) and might galvanize the younger generation into participating actively in anti-war efforts and expressing their pacifistic views more overtly and powerfully.

      For myself, like Erynn, I find the idea of a draft deeply disturbing, as it undercuts the very notion of individual choice. I very much agree with what Cat talked about above – the “wear it while you can” approach that affirms personal conscience as a vital aspect of pacifism, with the hope that as personal conscience is nurtured and supported, our choices will be increasingly in keeping with the cause of peace. I honor the nobility and courage that lead many to (what I believe to be a less-than-ideal) choice. Rather than reinstate the draft in the hopes that it would provoke a counter-resistance effort, I would rather seek out ways to promote the education and alternatives that would help us all make better choices.

      • I often think that one way of addressing both the economic injustice that makes the military almost the only job training available to young men and women who grow up in poverty and the ease with which Americans who do not serve in the military commit our troops to wars around the world would be to reinstitute the draft.

        But I am way too troubled by war, violence, and coercion to lobby for it, however much I see intellectually that not using the draft has led this country into an increasingly class stratified military, and encouraged a kind of recklessness in how we commit ourselves, as a nation, to wars.

        If more of the movers and shakers knew their own kids would be sent away to fight, I think we’d fight less often; no way do I think we’d have seen the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq drag on for nine long years already.

        But I can’t put my heart into a movement to bring it back… I just can’t.

  6. Regardless of how you feel about the military I suspect there will always be a need for one, in which case everyone should be allowed to serve.

  7. Y’know, you’re really posting an unfair assessment – again. Yes, it sucks our friends cannot be who they are, and we were one hold-out away from getting this ridiculous ruling repealed. (Of course, our President could just end this nonsense if he wanted to, but that’s a whole nudder issue.) But to throw the entire military under the bus the way you tend to do is pretty crappy to say the least.

    I work with, talk to and revere the Goddess yes, but She rarely appears to me in Aphrodite or Gaia mode, with tenderness and doe eyes, hugging the world. Oh no – She’s a badassed Bitch who doesn’t take shit from no one, but is equally fair and giving to those who earn Her respect. When I see Her in my heart, She comes to me as a tough-as-nails litigant dressed in a sharp red suit with black stripes and a white collared blouse, willing to see all sides but ultimately errs on the side of justice pertaining to Her and Hers. And sometimes, She shows up as a tattooed bouncer (full Sailor sleeves! and dressed in a tank and ripped jeans) at a rough nightclub, taking a pass on the people trying to impress Her with their self-absorbed egos and flashy worldly possessions. NEXT!

    Mind you too, I am not at all Dianic, because The God gets equal playtime here- a Drill Sergeant type who makes sure I check in on time, sees to it I’m keeping my shit together and my nose clean. He demands I be a good parent to our son, which includes pushing him harder than he thinks he can do by setting those examples myself. Laziness, apathy or blind empathy are strictly off-limits. (Snuggling with a wounded tiger, for example, is sheer ignorance, no matter how much you want to make him feel better! “Whoze a good kitteh! You are! Yes you are! *chomp!*)

    At the same time, neither She nor He are always “on”, as They have their own interests as well, just as we all do. I’m going apple picking this weekend, getting out of the city, spending some time with friends and collecting some deliciousness and turn them into something even *more* delicious! It’s an act contradictory to what some deem as my nature, but I too like to enjoy the crunch of leaves beneath my feet and the crisp air. I don’t have to be a dred-locked hippie, a rural farmer or a soccer mom to enjoy these things, and neither do They, nor should They always be portrayed in such a light.

    Likewise, not everyone signing up for the military is doing it because they need a job -any job-, nutcases who want to blow stuff up, Jesus freaks who want to wipe the earth of people who won’t convert or whatever other stereotype that can be mustered. Over the months, I’ve come to know quite a few different types of moms and their families from every part of the country. Yes, the vocal majority are rather fond of their Bibles and guns (and the voiceboxes who preach as such), but I’ve come to find there are quite a few others out there, some of whom share a lot of the same ideals and opinions I do. Stereotypes suck for a reason, and I admit I’ve been proven wrong on several occasions.

    While I respect your opinions and positions, I can’t sit idly by and allow them to be delivered as fact. The world is round, after all and not flat, with several different colors, designs and dimensions.

    • Lori,

      Though I denounce the military as an institution of state-sponsored, large-scale organized violence (which it is, factually speaking) that does not mean that I seek to demean or dehumanize the individuals who serve in the military. If you read anywhere in my post a disparagement against individual service members, please read again, more carefully.

      I appreciate your personal investment in this issue. On the other hand, I still believe that we allow such personal investments to cloud our view of the purpose and use of the military qua socio-political institution to our peril. In the end, it will serve neither ourselves, nor those members of the armed forces, nor the greater cause of peace.

      • “state-sponsored, large-scale organized violence ” – yeah, okay, if you say so, but again, that is your OPINION, not fact. Many military personnel work for humanitarian causes (National Guard @ Katrina anyone?). Even the Marines, who are legendary Infantrymen, are also well-known for humanitarian causes such as Toys for Tots.

        My stake in the matter is more than just personal. I happen to be one of those crazy people who appreciate having a well-staffed, well-funded military and was just as pissed the bill didn’t go through because the FUNDING didn’t go through.

        But I’m just weird like that I guess.

  8. As I understand it from public testimony of military leaders, the basis of our military effectiveness is “unit cohesion,” a bloodless way of saying that soldiers put their lives on the line primarily for their buddies in the same unit. Self-sacrifice for country or principles, while present, are not emotionally primary.

    This requires a strong emotional bond between troops within a unit. Some military leaders are afraid that sexual tension between troops will divert and/or dilute the emotional bond underlying unit cohesion.

    That’s it. One need not even be anti-gay to hold this position. One certainly need not glory in violence.

    I don’t happen to believe it, on a number of grounds. One is the fact that it hasn’t had this effect in other Western armies that already admit open gays. Another is that similar “logic” cloaked prejudice against women in the service, and against racial integration of the services before that. And there’s simple justice: DADT or anything like it discriminates against GBLTs.

    I liked your essay, Ali. I respect pacifists (just as I respect service members) and it’s interesting to see one come to grips with this issue without knee-jerk simplifications.

  9. NorseAlchemist said that “The ancient pagans showed far worse violence” in their warfare than do modern militaries, or at least that of the US. And he also said that “the days of indiscriminate slaughter are long past.”

    I am very skeptical that one could find anything in the ancient world that matched either the brutality or the scale of “indiscriminate slaughter” of WWI and WWII.

    In fact, “strategic bombing” is a crucial factor in modern military doctrine, and it is nothing other than a euphemism for indiscriminate slaughter of civilians on a mass scale. The United States has not fought a real war since Vietnam, and that war involved heavy use of strategic bombing. Overall at least 2 million Vietnamese died during the war, in a nation with a population of about 50M total. The whole war was bought and paid for by the US.

    Certainly ancient Heathens/Pagans were capable of mass slaughter, and there was plenty of it. But I don’t think there is an argument to be made that modern warfare is any less violent or indiscriminate.

    • The look at the size of the armies and the levels of both military and civilian casualties, as well as acceptable tactics. The fact is that Strategic Bombing hasn’t been used since Vietnam. Yes, WWI and WWII were very, very violent (though I’m not sure indiscriminate can really be applied, but that is a different argument). However, percentage wise and in terms of pure numbers, both military and civilian casualties are small when compared to the wars of the ancient world. Indeed, if it was the Roman Empire fighting in Afghanistan, one could likely predict that everyone in the area would have been put to the sword and carried off as slaves, as opposed to being left better of economically and left largely alone, as they are with the current military. Heck, even a hundred and fifty years ago, Iraq would have been made a colony, not left to become an unstable democracy that is likely to be taken over by radical elements. (I will leave you to decide which of these is better.)