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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, June 06, 2014

A DELICATE SUBJECT

"Tate came to us two days ago, saying his friend's behavior had changed in the last few weeks."

I enjoy NCIS as a television show, its been pretty consistently entertaining and interesting over the years.  I think its time to retire the show not due to any significant drop in quality, but on the principle that its best to quit while you're ahead.  Nobody wants to see the show get worse and dumber until there's the inevitable alien show and the celebrity guest stars promoted as a "very special" NCIS.
I've noticed in the last few years an annoying trend to show the bad guys as anyone except the actual bad guys in the world.  Its never the North Koreans, or the Chinese, or Muslim Terrorists, or any other real world bad guys, its almost always some businessman or a military rogue, or weapons contractors.  In other words, they've shifted from a pretty reasonable focus on actual enemies of the US to the usual Hollywood litany of hated white people.
And every few shows they do what feels more like an After School Special of hot topic stories.  The last one was about female sailors on ships being sexually harassed and even raped (although it wasn't actually stated - you had to infer), and it ended up being the Captain (an old white guy).  Another old white guy was shown being insensitive about the women's plight.
Now, I'm all for protecting women, and I think them being drugged and raped is a deep evil that must be punished, no matter where they are.  I think rape - if proven conclusively and truthfully - should carry the death penalty... after castration with a rusty spoon.  And I think guys who sneer at and shrug off the trauma of women who are attacked in this manner are at best jerks who need to be knocked down a few times.
However - and I say this with some hesitation because I know how it will be portrayed by some and responded to by others who will not read and consider carefully - this brings up a concern of mine about the modern military.  This is difficult to express without coming across as callous and cold.
I've written in the past about how women aren't the same as men and hence cannot do exactly the same things as men, particularly when it comes to military service.  However, the navy is not as rough a trade as marines or army in terms of physical punishment and endurance, so that may not apply in this case.
But there is a basic level of endurance and difficulty that being a soldier at war carries even in the easiest, most cushy branch of the military (*cough*airforce*cough*).  And this episode of NCIS noted this problem.
See, the women portrayed in this show were pretty and seemed capable enough, but when attacked they hid it from authorities, withdrew into themselves, even quit their jobs.  Their lives were ruined, they were destroyed by the events, haunted by it years later.  They were traumatized and lost all confidence; careers were ended.
And I think that's accurate; I've spoken to women who were raped in the past and they were severely damaged by it and the experience.  They are never the same; that's why I think the death penalty is a reasonable punishment for rape.
But that brings up a question: is there any equivalent event that men can experience that destroys them in this manner?  And what impact does this have on their ability to function as a soldier?  Because if there's something that technically easy to carry out (if not morally easy; no one with a healthy and proper conscience or mind could do so with ease) that destroys a soldier, does that not speak to their capability to do the job?
I mean, putting aside the insanely obvious problems with men and women serving on ships together - even submarines - this prompts some questions about whether its such a good idea for women to be serving in the armed forces at all to begin with.
And that puts aside the proven and constantly attested concerns of soldiers about protecting the girls in their unit more than the guys.  I mean, men tend to be chivalrous toward women to begin with, without stacking on the way soldiers bond.
I don't know if this really is a valid concern or not, but after watching the show, I couldn't help but sympathize a bit with the old crusty captain that everyone condemned for his callous response.  His response was the same he'd have with a male who was hurt and cried about it: you need to toughen up, buttercup, this isn't summer camp.
Now, he was a bit too careless for my taste, particularly about women, but he had a point: you're in the military now.  You need to deal with your problems, not collapse into a weeping foetal position.  And maybe that's something that suggests women ought not be IN the military to begin with.
Because their response to this trauma is not unreasonable, uncommon, or unexpected.  That's why rape is so very evil.  But that's kind of the point.
His response was wrong from the perspective of compassion and caring about women, but not wrong in terms of being a sailor.  This is a rough trade about breaking things and killing people and we cannot have the military coddling and comforting its members or protecting them specially.
Maybe I'm just being cold hearted here, and I need to meet more female soldiers and sailors to see what they're like. Maybe the NCIS episode overstated the trauma they went through, although I seriously doubt it.  Maybe there's some aspect to this I've not considered.  But it seems like a pretty strong argument not that the military needs more sensitivity training but that it needs to consider maybe women in combat isn't such a great policy to begin with.

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