The Military vs. Free Speech

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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.

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

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.

the Writer?

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.

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.

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."

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.

another, "men like you should be shot."

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

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."


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

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.

one fellow, "What difference does it make that a woman goes
off to war? How is that any different than a father doing it?"
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.

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."

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."

friends, is the American man.

Defend Democracy

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.

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.

should they threaten it.

21, 2003

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

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