An aspect of the Al Franken situation that’s gone overlooked is that what he did was normal for the military.
David Masciotra at Salon is staying focused.
A recitation of the numbers is sufficient to horrify anyone with objective decency. In one study cited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 23 percent of female users of VA health care reported experiencing at least one sexual assault while in the military. The VA found one in four women fighting in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars said they experienced sexual assault. A 2014 study found an estimated 22 percent of active-component women had been sexually harassed in the previous year. A recent USA Today investigation found that, since 2013, senior military officials were sanctioned for 500 cases of sexual misconduct. Women military personnel face the worst and most consistent forms of abuse, but men are also affected. To add further humiliation and punishment to the pain, a large Pentagon survey concluded that 58 percent of victims experienced retaliation and reprisals for reporting sexual assault…
If Americans, after typical delay and extended neglect, have sincerely decided to make a moral and legal commitment to combating sexual misconduct and trauma, they cannot allow the military to escape scrutiny and responsibility. If they do, they will risk rendering the application of whatever policy they espouse as hollow.
The problem is that a massive obstacle exists in the way of consistency and morality on all matters related to the military. A recent Pew survey demonstrated the obvious: The United States Military is the most respected institution in the country. The American people, beginning with the respectable instinct to offer gratitude to those who have made great sacrifices for the country, have an unrealistic reverence for anyone in uniform, often believing that military personnel are incapable of wrongdoing, and should operate within sacred zone of impunity.
This means that I face incredible resistance in getting people to understand where I’m coming from. Does feminism care more right now about trans people in the military, or about the inherent connection between militarism and patriarchal masculinity?
My dad was a social worker for the Navy during that time period. Of course the military is all about raping people and sadism and shielding wife-beating child molesters.
The book Army Wives is a great case study of what military life is actually like. They made a Lifetime TV series out of it:
The original title was Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives. It’s about dudes coming back from the war and killing women in jealous rages. Keep that trailer in mind when reading these excerpts. Within the first two pages:
Everyone I met who knew Bill Wright extolled his virtues: great father, husband, and NCO. Even the cops had compassion for him. It was harder, in this town at least, for me to find people who had compassion for the wife he had just murdered.
To many at Bragg it was Bill Wright who was the victim, a politically incorrect point of view that was never part of any media coverage, including my own. At the time I never asked the one unthinkable question: Did she deserve what happened to her? The question seemed absurd. Since I didn’t ask it, I couldn’t learn what I know now. More than a few soldiers who either knew the Wrights or had heard about the case later told me, “She got what she deserved.” Or “She had it comin’.” These quick-trigger outbursts (they were never said casually) always caught me off guard. To understand the root of such venom, I had to take a step back and realize that these men identified with Bill Wright the patriot, Bill Wright the war vet and family man, than they did with his supposedly cheating wife.
An unfaithful Army wife might as well be a terrorist, soldiers hate them that much. Soldiers tend to consider infidelity as a personal slight on their own manhood. When a woman cheats on a buddy, she is desecrating not only her husband but also the flag and all those in uniform. Of course none of this applies when soldiers cheat on their wives…
Rumors of Jennifer Wright’s alleged affairs had been flowing through her husband’s unit for a long time before her death. And in the Army rumors are as good as reality; here perceptions are reality. Sadly Jennifer Wright was never able to defend her reputation. In the end the “great” father had orphaned his three boys…
He told deputies he had accused her of infidelity and killed her in a fit of rage–shattering her jaw with a baseball bat and then strangling her with her underwear. He had buried her body in the woods off Plank Road near Fort Bragg.
Sergeant Charlie Disponzio, a homicide detective, felt sorry for the guy, more than he ever had for any murderer. He saw a man who wasn’t a criminal at heart, just an Army soldier who loved his kids and who’d been screwed over so much he couldn’t take it anymore. He didn’t condone what the man had done by any means, but he could understand how it happened.
There is nothing more humiliating for a soldier than to have his wife cheating on him. That kind of infidelity is a serious stigma. No matter how effective a soldier is with his troops, the innuendo that his wife is fooling around–You can’t even satisfy your wife; she’s out with someone else–makes him somehow less of a man and thus less of a warrior. Now, if a married soldier wants to screw around while overseas, well, that is accepted enough in some units for men to do it openly.
Something everybody in the Army knows: “If the Army wanted you to have a wife, they would’ve issued you one.”
From that beginning, the book goes on to glorify military life in an “Aw, shucks” sort of way, from the perspective of a woman who grew up in the culture:
Andrea was trying to get back in shape, too. She had gained a lot of weight with the twins, and Brandon hated that. He didn’t want a fat wife, he was constantly telling her. Andrea was always on one diet or another. She couldn’t help it if Brandon preferred petite women. At five foot seven, Andrea had the body of an athlete. At least she was strong and powerful…She didn’t mind working out, but she didn’t like to primp.
In contrast Brandon was meticulous about his appearance. He plucked his eyebrows and shaved his body hair to show off his muscle definition. Whenever Andrea caught him inspecting his body in the mirror, she wanted to hit him over the head with a frying pan. She couldn’t stop him from examining his physique, even if he sometimes had a skewed version of what he looked like. Once when friends were over for a summer cookout, Brandon, wearing sixty-dollar running shorts, had expressed disgust at the sight of himself shirtless.
“Look how fat I am,” he said, visibly upset. “I’m fat around the waist. Can you believe these love handles? That’s it. No more beer.” His friends were incredulous. The man didn’t have an ounce of fat on him.
At 181 pounds, Brandon was slim and rock hard, like a cyclist. The average guy in the Delta Force unit could bench press 300 pounds and run two miles in twelve minutes; he ranked in the top three-to-five men in the squadron when it came to physical endurance. The intensity he applied to his looks was typical of everything he did. His whole group had a similar drive. Their workday was like a tough-man competition.
Later, Gary Shane goes on to kill himself and everybody acts like they don’t know why:
“This is not how you grew up,” Ski said, looking at his son from across the kitchen table. “You cannot hit women! I don’t care what you do. You can get away with a lot. But if you touch her again–if you touch my wife–I’m going to treat you like an adult. I’m not going to warn you. I’m going to find you. Don’t touch your mom.”
The bad behavior stopped, and Ski thought that was the end of it. But when Gary Shane was sixteen, Ski came home one evening after five days in the field. He was still in his uniform with camouflage paint on his face and wax fixing himself some soup when Delores came downstairs. She wouldn’t come close to him.
“Come here, Delores Anne. What’s wrong?” Then Ski noticed the swollen black eye.
“What the hell?” His fists tightened.
“He didn’t mean it,” Delores said. “He didn’t mean it.” She had asked her son to take out the garbage. In response Gary Shane had picked up the trash can and thrown it at her. The corner caught her face.
“Delores, go upstairs,” Ski said.
Delores took Cherish into her bedroom and closed the door. She heard her husband chasing Gary Shane up and down the stairs, then slapping and wrestling with the body. Ski gave the sixteen-year-old a tough-love lesson he wouldn’t soon forget. He then told his son to take a shower and go to bed.
“Do not lock your bedroom door. Leave it open.” Ski then entered the master bedroom.
“This will never happen again,” he told Delores…
“Mom, ever since Cherish was born, Dad acts like he loves her more than he loves you or me. Please don’t act like it’s not true, and please, Mom, get out of the house and start doing some things for yourself. Spend some money on yourself instead of always on me and Cherish. Stand up for yourself and quit letting people walk over you and use you.”
Life in another family:
When her son wouldn’t pitch in with dinner, Andrea Lynne insisted that Rennie make the boy help. Before she knew it little Rennie was nervous and crying, and Rennie had angrily popped him on the back of the head. The flare-up was sudden, and it upset them all. Rennie didn’t discipline the children often, and when he did, Andrea Lynne rarely interfered. This time she lashed out at Rennie, and they argued.
Frayed nerves from the stress that comes with not being in full control of a major life change–like the one the Corys were facing–are not unusual in the Army…
Andrea Lynne could see that her husband and son were hurt by what happened, and suddenly she felt it was her fault. But it was no one’s fault, really.
Before he ships out, Rennie appreciates the chance to take the boy out to learn to drive for the first time, like a real man.
The kids get parentified. People lose their shit when the long separations start:
By Friday night Andrea Lynne was weak, shaky, and emotional, though she couldn’t figure out why. Her blood sugar was normal. SHe wanted so much to call Rennie again, just to hear the sound of his voice. The conversation in the restaurant still echoed in her head. What is wrong with ou? she scolded herself. I need to be strong.
After work she had gone up to her room and gotten in bed right away. She felt anxious and teary, which were often her symptoms of low blood sugar, so she checked it again. Again it was normal. There is just no reason for me to be like this, she told herself. She lay back and tried to rest, but it was impossible. Finally she slipped over to Rennie’s side of the bed and called her daughter.
“Caroline! Come upstairs!” Andrea Lynne asked her daughter to stay and watch TV with her. “I feel so strange,” she said.
“Do you want something to eat?”
“No, I’m trying to lose a few more pounds before my trip. But something’s wrong. Please stay with me.” She hated to scare the children, but she had been so sick recently.
Caroline rubbed her mother’s arm. “It’s okay, Mom.”
Andrea Lynne started to cry. “I miss Daddy,” she told her daughter, as tears filled her eyes. Stop just stop. You can do this. Just rest. It’s almost over. That’s what Rennie had said in his last email. “Hold on,” he wrote. “Just hold on until I can hold you.”
Good luck fixing things:
Then, in November, the Pentagon released a forty-one-page report that found marital problems were a “major” factor in the murders, and that the stress from Fort Bragg’s high operational pace contributed to marital discord in marriages that were already experiencing problems. The report went on to say that the Army’s behavioral health services were flawed, since they discouraged early identification and therapy for marital troubles while problems were potentially solvable. It emphasized that families needed earlier and more accessible therapy and counseling that did not jeopardize careers.
Remember again that they glamorized this stuff on women’s TV. This is the country’s most respected institution.