Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Killing Rights

The following was previously published on OpEdNews.com.


If I suggested to you that to euthanize the mentally handicapped would be a boon to the tax-payer your first question, after many understandable expletives, would perhaps be: who was I to decide who should live and die? And you would be right to ask, but a far larger and important question is never asked. When our government makes similar choices every day when our ongoing wars have killed tens of thousands and at the state level we take the lives of inmates at regular intervals (and drones kill citizens without trial), why do we not ask the same of the state: what gives it the right?

The primary, and too obvious response to this question, is that ours is a democracy. We elect individuals who we believe represent us and our interests in the government. But, whether we decide for ourselves or someone we elect decides for us, when is it ever right to kill? It is as though by deferring to a representative we have absolved ourselves of guilt like Pilate washing his hand's. But, more to the point, if it is only God to whom we grant the right of life and death (as is the assertion of so many Evangelicals) why do we invest such a God-like authority in the state?

It perhaps helps more than a little to examine the history behind the nation-state. We are living with a ghost, a holdover from the Middle Ages when church and state were the same and kings ruled by divine right. The state, so embodied in the ruler, was not to be questioned only obeyed. Like the Heavenly Father whom he represented, we were to have faith his law's were just and in our own best interest's like good and trusting children. And so we have remained, with a child's faith we no longer perceive that the adult affairs of government are any of our concern, and go back to watching what passes for journalism. For this same reason, the bulk of the population feel so disenfranchised that it is far simpler to defer to black and white partisan politics and vote mechanically if they vote at all. It is always someone else to blame for the state of the world, never themselves. After all, it is someone else who makes the decisions.

No matter how bad things become, it is never the forms but the individuals who fill them that deserve our wrath. The economy can crash, people may starve in the street, but to suggest that democracy is an illusion is blasphemy. As with the worship of the military, the worship of the state is an open secret. For as much as conservative groups may cry out against things like socialism and statism, they continue to venerate the state while simultaneously speaking it down. Obviously they're as much for statism as the liberals they decry. What really matters to them is who is in control, not that there is control.

I began by asking when is it ever right to kill, and I answered that this is a question we would put to the state in which we have granted God-like powers. Yet, if the state, which is little more than men and women like ourselves after all, is granted the power's of divinity how can mere mortals be trusted to wield the lightning?

Kings were once gods on earth who owned the land in theory if not in fact. God granted them such trust because God, they said, had conveniently granted it to them at birth. Those elected by men still own the land, that is property, but I see no reason to trust the prudence of presidents any more than the mercy of monarchs. And so we might conclude, whoever is granted the right to kill need not take away one's rights for they were never there to begin with. Thus, we go on just whistling in the dark while we keep our head's down.

Monday, March 16, 2015

No Girls Allowed: The Problem of Military Rape

The following was previously published on OpEdNews.com.


It's no secret the military has a problem with women. Not only is there a long documented history of misogynistic commentary from military elites, but the problem of rape has become too large to ignore.1 What then is to be done? Nothing. What can be done about an institution that is by its nature misogynistic, and whose purpose is purely to turn men into killers? Once you have opened such a door on human nature you may never close it again like some Pandora's Box to put away on a shelf when company comes to dinner.

My intent of course is not to defend such behavior, but not pretend it will be ameliorated either with special “sensitivity” training or weekend conferences on how to interact with female soldiers; things any sensible person is aware of and painlessly competent at doing in any other setting but this one. Unlike any other profession the profession of killing, and let us be honest for this is what it is, cannot afford failure for failure means death either for you or your comrades, or both. But it's this seriousness that makes compromise and half-measures as regards female participation criminally reckless if not impossible to carry out without grave consequences.

The effects of military combat are appalling. It has become increasingly well known that the number of suicides due to PTSD or, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, have escalated in recent years.2 This becomes understandable when you examine more deeply the effects of military training, the byproducts of which leave lasting scars even if a soldier never sees actual combat.3 To create a soldier, to take someone who has never killed and make killing second nature to them is to strip a person of their identity and then, through training, rebuild them to see that same lack of identity in turn in others.4

In addition, the effects of combat are ones that lead to a bonding between individuals that is unlike any other relationship. To depend upon the person next to you for your life creates an ethos of solidarity that can only exist between men in the stresses of war. As war by its nature has always been a masculine endeavor, one of conquest and dispassionate slaughter, it can only lead to an ethos that is rigidly masculine and antithetic to the feminine.

Such a bond between men can be classified as erotic in its intensity.5 It was not for nothing that in antiquity The Sacred Band of Thebes was viewed with the highest distinction.6 The Band was a legendary elite fighting force of 300 pairs of male lovers feared because it was believed that in the thick of battle they fought even harder than the standard soldier, both to defend their lover's, but also that they would refuse to retreat and shame themselves in that same lover's eyes.

Those who kill in battle perceive other men as inferior if they are not one of the proud few. Either they conceal a sense of divine hubris and superiority in which they are more deserving due to the enormity of the perceived service they provided, or they become emotionally disconnected from former friend's and relations who have not shared the experience. These qualities of male bonding, godlike disdain, and emotional disconnection are at the heart of what it means to kill as a profession, beside which the problem of rape in the military should appear not only as a non-mystery but should be understood as an inevitability.

The problem of women in combat will never be resolved until the dark nature of this institution is accepted for what it truly is, a factory for the manufacture of killers. As this topic is unlikely to be discussed honestly in the near future it may be best to add a final word of warning. It should always be kept in mind by those women who decide to serve their country by doing violence to others that there is always the tacit risk that that same violence may in turn redound upon themselves. Just as sudden death and brutal maiming have by tradition always been accepted risks that came with the job, now can be added to that bleak register the possibility of rape.
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