SmagBoy's Mission Log, Sea Date: Late October, 2009

Hey all. The purpose of this section is to serve as a central hub for any regular blogs I undertake, but also for me to show you a little bit of the real me, not "The Submariner" me. I'm not really that guy. He's a character that I play on Thursdays (a character that I really enjoy--you can read more about him in my post below, titled "The Making of a Submariner"). So, on occasion, I'll publish a story or some pictures, or maybe just an anecdote or two that I hope will be fun or enlightening.

If you don't care for learning about the really-real SmagBoy and just want "The Submariner", no worries! He can always be reached here: Send in your questions, observations, concerns or rants. But be forewarned, as you know, that guy has very little patience for the stupids. You can send questions to me there, too, the non-fictional SmagBoy1 (or "Smaggie" as I'm affectionately known). Don't worry, I'm not nearly as tough as I pretend to be. Fair winds to you, shippers! And enjoy!

Friday, May 28, 2010

You Are All Heroes (Unless, You Know, You're Gay)...

For those of you who do not know, the US Military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy allows homosexual men and women to serve in the US Armed Forces, but, requires that they do not divulge or allow to be divulged their sexual orientation to anyone in the military. Regardless of service history, if it is found out that a homosexual is serving, he or she is unceremoniously processed out of the military.  There is no waiver.

In support of one of President Obama's initiatives, our congress is currently considering arguments to repeal DADT. This would pave the way for homosexual servicemen and servicewomen to serve openly. As a result, Senator Maverick “John” McCain and the Republicans are planning to filibuster the entire defense budget bill to stop the repeal of DADT. That’s right, they’re willing to delay the funding of the entire Department of Defense so that our country won’t have to allow gays to serve openly in the military. And sadly, it is very likely they’ll be successful in causing the DADT repeal discussion to be pulled from the table.

Now, whether or not you believe homosexuality is a lifestyle choice or biological imperative, I ask you this: how can we allow a policy that desires and even encourages any and all able bodied young men and women to serve, honor and even die for their country, but tell them that, in order to do so, in order to lay down their lives for our freedom, they must not speak of their sexual orientation. Remember, DADT and its repeal is not about changing military operations, requirements or operational rules. It’s not about anything other than simple human dignity.

We have an interesting habit of calling all of our service men and women “heroes” and thanking them for their service. People frequently stop me in public when I wear one of my submarine command ball caps and thank me for my service.  This always makes me uncomfortable, but it always makes me smile, too.  What does it say, then, to lesbian Sgt. Jene Newsome that, even though she, too, served her country honorably, when police entered her home looking for someone else, and, upon seeing her marriage certificate, informed the Air Force of her sexual orientation (even though she was not being investigated?!), the Air Force discharged her, stripping her of her hero status? Based entirely on her sexual orientation?! Sadly, her story is not an anomaly. She will have no retirement from the military. She will not be allowed to wear her uniform with pride. Her service to our country as a hero is now erased. Why?

You may ask, “How can we have gay men and women openly serving in the military? Won’t that affect things somehow?” My answer is that sexual orientation deserves no less respect or empathy than skin color, religion, or national/cultural background. Can you imagine a military policy that allowed blacks to serve, but that required them to wear makeup at all times, or to undergo bleaching treatment, such that they looked white? “You can serve honorably, Sir, but you have to wear this makeup at all times, or, if you have the financial ability, you can undergo skin bleaching treatment.” How is DADT any different? The military currently stamps into dog tags a service member’s religion of choice. Can you imagine a military policy that forbade any and all religious practice, literature or even discussion of religious topics, and, if it was found out that a member attended church, even sneaking to do so in private, he/she was immediately processed out?

DADT, and any other policy forbidding the open service of homosexuals is no different than enacting a policy against membership in a religion or against any skin color but white. It is horrific, it is discriminatory, and it is wrong. Mavericky McCain and his Republican lambs? They ought to be ashamed of themselves. And if you count yourself among their party and have not voiced your dissent to them on this issue, so should you.

****Thoughts? Comments? Concerns? Leave them all in the comment section, below!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Language as a Toy, Language as a Weapon...

Language has always fascinated me. Well, I say “always”. I guess what I mean is that, from my very first realization that language was a national, cultural, societal, personal construct, it’s interested me. And though that doesn’t quite qualify as “always”, it really has been a long time that I’ve felt that way. In order to get to that point of fascination, though, one has to first understand a bit about nations and cultures, and, too, a little about what makes them different, one from the other. One must begin, also, to see how society is different still, how social expectations play on language, and, too, how even personal tastes can alter its use. It’s pretty heady stuff to really delve into. But I love it!

For example, my personal tastes would lean toward the making up of words, regardless of national identity, cultural or social background. Well, at least I hope that’s true. I’m not na├»ve enough to believe that my cavalier approach toward words would, with certainty, be the same had I grown up under a dictatorial regime, or worse, illiterate. So, I do understand the limitation of my hopes. That said, regardless of how I got here, I do like to play with language. I like to insert my own, made-up words into communications in such a way that the reader either instantly accept the word (with the definition I intended, I hope), or, even if they do not accept the word, that they at least understand the intended meaning. I see this as a challenge. For example, in a recent column, I admonished a frustrated letter writer to not get “huffity” with me. I like to talk about the “acronymous” (rhymes with “anonymous”) origins of words (like SCUBA and RADAR, or, scuba and radar, depending on your tastes in capitalization). It’s what I do. And if you get to know me well enough, this playfulness might even start to piss you off! Or make you laugh. Or both.

At any rate, that’s a little background to explain why I’m writing today. I want to encourage you all to participate in a plan that I’ve hatched!  See, I like it when language is, for the sake of fun, twisted in new and exciting ways. When the intent of the twisting is good-natured there’s not too much that thrills me more, actually. Oscar Wilde is an all-time favorite of mine for just that reason. However, over the last several years, I’ve noticed our friends from FOXNews and the far right using language as a weapon (I realize they’re not the first, nor are they the only ones currently doing it, but, I don’t like them, so, they’re where my interest is currently focused). Take, for example, the changing of the phrase “suicide bombers” to “homicide bombers”, a seemingly subtle, but very telling, change, or, the creation of the “War on Christmas”, or, “It’s not freedom from religion, it’s freedom of religion” and many others (I’m sure you can all think of several of their gems). These are frustrating, but, none of them have irked me so much as the following three: Obama as “The Chosen One” or “The Messiah” or “The Second Coming”, liberals as “sheeple”, and finally, any liberal idea that challenges the status quo or attempts to remove religion from politics as “political correctness run amok”. I hate those three examples with a passion. Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps because they’re particularly vile? Perhaps because they’re very cleverly constructed in that to resist any of them in any way almost lends credence to the claims they make? Perhaps it’s because they’re typically delivered with such shit-eating grins that they get my goat.

So, what to do about it? Well, in a moment of lucidity last night, the solution occurred to me. I am going to co-opt those terms and use them in exactly the same way that our conservative friends have been using them. I’m not going to do it wildly, or at every opportunity. I’m going to wait until a wonderfully prime moment, perhaps one where a friend or colleague is going on and on about the greatness of Sarah Palin and I’m going to respond in as matter-of-fact a manner as I can muster, “You mean The Chosen One? Is there nothing she can’t do?” I may even call her “The Third Coming”, thereby co-opting and embracing even more the Obama as The Second? I’m going to start calling Bill O’Reily, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, et. al, “The Apostles”. I will call Tea Partiers “sheeple”, and I will absolutely, positively, and without fail, point out the “political correctness run amok” whenever any of them talk about immigration reform, or drilling, baby, drilling. I’ll say of those topics, “Man, you guys just say that stuff like it’s from rote memory. Do you not even care about your country or engage your own brain? It’s just words with you, isn’t it? Some sort of politically correct speech, straight from The Chosen One right down to you, her sheeple!” Or something like that. I’m sure that I’ll be able to refine it to a nice pointy tip in due time. Practice makes perfect, right?

I want to stress that I’m not necessarily angry so much as just done with it. I’m not trying to piss off anyone. Per se.  It’s just that I’ve listened to those terms being used against liberals for long enough. I’ve heard the Tea Partiers, with my own ears, mind you, upon Obama’s election or any action that he takes, say with absolute certainty that “I can’t believe he wants to act in a way that’s not in line with the will of the people.” As if the man wasn’t elected by, oh, I don’t know, a majority of "the people"?! I’ve stood by and turned the other cheek. I’ve listened while Palin’s sheeple, in very well-meaning tones, tell me, “Well, I hope that you enjoy your ‘hope and change’!” Well, not only am I enjoying it, I’m about to give some of it back. So, my conservative friends, open wide and, as the French would say, "Bon appetite!"

Like my ideas? No? Any other ideas? List ‘em in the comments section, below!