Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 325- Murder and Masculinity

So the question is this: when are we going to start awarding the Medal of Honor once again for soldiers who kill people and break things so our families can sleep safely at night?

Dear Mr. President,

I hope that you have not heard of Bryan Fischer, the moronic right-wing blogger for the American Family Association, but if you have, I'm sure you also heard about his recent lament about "the feminization of the Medal of Honor." Fischer, while acknowledging the heroism of Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, cites Giunta's life-saving efforts as proof that we just don't reward killing the way we used to. While I, rather predictably, think this man is out of his mind, I was particularly surprised to see the comments on his original post. Without exception, the responses were negative, ranging from "I'll pray that you stop being such an ignorant person" to "You are actually evil and I hate you." A few even acknowledged the near-uniform blowback, pointing out that rage at Bryan Fischer is the most united the right and the left have been since 9/11. Fischer attempted to clarify his remarks (twice, actually) and seemed to genuinely believe that no one who actually understood what he was saying would be offended. But in all three posts, rewarding life-saving action (or not rewarding aggressive action,) was described as feminine.

The implication that killing is masculine and aversion to killing is feminine is really fine by me. As a woman, I have no problem with the heroic actions of (or the decision to honor) Staff Sgt. Giunta being described as feminine. However, it seems problematic to so closely link masculinity with the taking of life or the celebration of the taking of life. For one thing, most men in America would not qualify as "masculine" under this definition. Most men I know haven't killed any one and don't generally wish to see more of it. Perhaps I surround myself with especially effeminate men? I think some of my loss-prevention colleagues might object to this. I know a number of people (male and female) with really incredible numbers of killed aliens, zombies and other video-game creatures, but I don't know that most of them would meet Fischer's idea of traditional masculinity. Defining masculinity this way just makes it so much harder to feel manly in a world that increasingly frowns upon killing.

I'm not Christian, so when Fischer cites scripture as evidence that Jesus, even in crucifixion, was actually aggressively killing the forces of evil, I really don't have any basis to object. (Though I'm sure my Christian friends could probably find some problems with this argument.) My objection comes at the comparison of Christ vanquishing the forces of evil with US soldiers killing Afghan soldiers. Especially in light of a recent study demonstrating a vast majority of Afghans don't know about 9/11 or America's use of it as justification for war against the Taliban. We've been fighting for nine years against an enemy that has no idea why we invaded their country and killed so many innocent civilians. I just don't quite see the decision to take up arms against an invading army (especially when you have absolutely no idea why they are invading) as equal to the Dark Forces of Evil and Sin.

Which isn't to say I think we should do a better job of explaining to people why we're going to kill them before we kill them, but that maybe, just maybe, killing isn't the most effective way to keep ourselves safe. Maybe we're not only fighting the wrong enemy but fighting it the wrong way. I don't see there being all that much glory in the killing of some of the poorest and least-educated people on the planet by the most fearsome, best-quipped military on the planet. It certainly doesn't seem all that manly. And my family, for one, doesn't sleep any easier knowing it's being done. Would it be too feminine to suggest that maybe building schools and infrastructure and economic development might not have been a more effective way to make the world a little safer? I don't get to make these decisions, and neither do the men and women that you send to do all of the killing and dying that Fischer and his ilk see as so manly and Christlike. In that situation, doing your best to keep your fellow soldiers from getting killed certainly seems like an act of (completely gender-neutral) heroism. So I'll sleep tonight, grateful to Giunta and all of the other soldiers trying to protect their fellows in battle, because any one working for less death and destruction is pretty badass, in my humble opinion. I'll be content with the knowledge that most Christians (at least the ones commenting on the AFA website) think that Fischer is full of it. And I will wish for the promotion American concept masculinity based not on the destruction of life but the protection of it.

Respectfully yours,


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