[sixties-l] War and male bonding

From: Sandra Hollin Flowers (flowers_s@mercer.edu)
Date: Sat Jun 24 2000 - 09:44:28 CUT

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    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."

    S. Flowers

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