The Military vs. Free Speech

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Four
months after hammering
the military for deploying women and mothers overseas
, the e-mail
is flooding in, denouncing this columnist for daring to express
such an opinion.

As
the cosmos goes, the opinion is insignificant. But the answers aren't.

Two
things are troubling about the mail. First, the vile language and
hateful insistence that dissent is un-American and must be stopped.
Second, men wrote most of it.

Shoot
the Writer?

The
column, which appeared in February, concerned a new mother who joined
the Army after the terrible carnage and destruction on Sept. 11,
2001. A military news service lionized the woman because she enlisted
and shipped out for Afghanistan.

But
only recently did the military mom see my column. She posted an
answer on the web, and ever since, mail from all corners of the
empire has poured in.

One
writer called me an "ignorant liberal," hilariously enough,
while another called me a "communist." A third offered
"pond scum" and a forth began, "Dear Idiot."

"Thank
your ancestors," wrote another, "for putting their lives
on the line to let a dirt-bag like you not flow down the crack of
your …." If you saw the film, "Full Metal Jacket,"
you know how the line ends.

Began
another, "men like you should be shot."

This
isn't just anger. It's feral hysterics, apropos of the lynch mob.
The subtle subtext is this: Shut up or else.

And
it is odd, given that many writers claimed they "defend your
right to free speech." Maybe, but between the lines, they added,
"don't dare think of exercising it."

American
Manhood

More
significantly, the most reactionary mail came from active-duty or
retired soldiers, particularly men.

They
wonder what's wrong with a mother’s leaving a child behind. Feminist
brainwashing complete, these men don't see the difference between
a man and a woman, or a mother and a father, or the stark evil of
sending a woman into harm's way. The emasculation is done.

Wrote
one fellow, "What difference does it make that a woman goes
off to war? How is that any different than a father doing it?"
In
another column
, I suggested that some fathers shouldn't do it,
but the difference is this: a man doesn't send his wife downstairs
to check on a noise in the basement.

Said
another, "Us in the military do not distinguish between male
and female." This is nonsense, which is why the military "gender
norms" training, but you get his point. Here's another: "u2018Mom'
won't always be home, bare foot, and in the kitchen cooking dinner.
Some will be away in far off places fighting so that we can have
the right to speak out."

Yet
again, from the guy who inquired after my ancestors: "Moms
deserve the right to serve the country in any way the nation needs
them. No one should be excused from the front lines."

This,
friends, is the American man.

To
Defend Democracy

The
left has always said, correctly, that military indoctrination is
inimical to a free society. Well, the past few weeks' mail shows
why, as a friend observed, the framers of our Constitution wisely
subordinated the armed forces to civilian rule.

The
military ethos imparts many admirable qualities: respect for authority,
physical courage, and self-sacrifice. Tolerating dissent, however,
is not one of them, and rightly so in the military ambit. Soldiers
defend free speech; they do not practice it.

Neither
should they threaten it.

June
21, 2003

Syndicated
columnist R. Cort Kirkwood [send
him mail
] is managing editor of the Daily News-Record
in Harrisonburg, Va.

R.
Cort Kirkwood Archives


     

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