I'm way behind on Sixties-L reading, so pardon me if I'm going over
ground that's already been plowed under. Anyway, I've just read the
post in which Jeffrey Blankfort comments (verifying my belief in the
process) on the male-bonding that war creates among men of different
backgrounds who would ordinarily not associate with one another. And I
remember reading hours ago comments in mid-June posts about the
then-present discussion having a male tenor, or words to that effect.
Certainly the war posts have had such a tenor, but I don't find it
surprising or off-putting because, Jeff's supposition notwithstanding,
there is no comparable experience that creates the kinds of lasting
bonds among women (not just a circle of friends, but women _because_
they're women) that war does for men.
What I've just said and the exchanges about the morality (or lack
thereof) of solidiers and the debate on honoring those who died in war
seem to bring us to a tautology: that war is the business of men and,
morality to the contrary, war of one form or another has always been
part of the human condition. And it's always been about territoriality
or ideology or power, so why do we have a problem honoring those who
did what they were "supposed" to do at any given time, those who did
what men have always done, ideology aside? Living in the Heart of
Dixie, I even understand the logic of Confederate monuments, though as
a person who celebrates Juneteenth, I should have no respect for those
monuments at all. I'm not saying I genuflect when I see them, but I
understand the impetus behind them.
Now, it may be true that war being men's business and part of the
human condition is too naive and cliche a point to even introduce as a
topic of discussion. But since those are givens which we come to
understand as we get older, I'm puzzled by what feels like a running
subtext to this discussion that war is something we can do away with.
That's what some argued in the sixties, but is that even a remote
possibility in an existence characterized by difference? I doubt it.
So what are we going to do with the people who go to war? Our fathers
and sons and husbands and lovers and brothers and uncles and cousins
and grandparents and friends?
When I finally was able to resolve my own inner conflicts about being
a political black woman whose men were fighting in Vietnam, whose
father fought for a country that told him which water fountain he
cound drink out of, which bathroom and latrine he could pee in--when
it got to these very basic and very contradictory realities, the only
thing that made sense to me was the truth that war and militaries are
"man things." No, I don't particularly like the idea that my son, an
army captain as his grandfather was, would be on the front line if the
United States went to war today. But neither would I be ashamed of him
if he returned from his war alive. And neither do I have a workable
plan to put forth for doing away with wars and armies. Because they
are, indeed, givens of the human condition.
So while I can't take part in this discussion on the same footing that
men do, there's one thing I want to contribute to it, which is that
the closest form of female bonding I can think of is that which exists
among the women who have numbly received the folded flag from the
coffin of their dead GI. The man who devised the standard consolation,
and the men who offer it along with the flag, probably have no idea of
the chill that a woman feels when someone says to her, "Please accept
this flag in appreciation of your sacrifice for your country."
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