Re: [sixties-l] War and male bonding

From: William Mandel (
Date: Sun Jun 25 2000 - 00:27:54 CUT

  • Next message: Henriette C. Beigh: "Re: [sixties-l] War and male bonding"

    Women have struggled against war ever since Lysistrata (even
    though that was a play written by a man).
       It is one thing for me, personally, to have concluded, at an
    advanced age, that nothing better than capitalism has yet come
    along, and that for the moment the most we can work for is
    capitalism with a human face, if that is attainable. It is quite
    another to accept that massacre of human beings by each other is
    built into our genetic code.
        I am really afraid that the attitude you express,
    particularly as the mother of a military professional, is one
    that has helped and will help preserve war into the indefinite
        Various wars in my time have been ended, and some have been
    prevented, by popular opposition. The United States could have
    won the war in Vietnam by nuclear-bombing it literally out of
    existence. It did not because of public opposition to that
    much-discussed alternative worldwide.
        The question in my mind is how you, a member of a people that
    suffered genocide at the hands of our government (the wording of
    the Genocide Convention says only "killing members of a group",
    because the writers found that no numerical boundary line made
    sense), can excuse to yourself in advance the participation of
    your son in wars such as that in Vietnam, where the U.S.
    committed genocide even in the popular understanding of the term
    -- 3,000,000 Vietnamese to 56,000 Americans -- and in Iraq right
    now, where a generation of children is being wiped out by our
       The time must come when people like us persuade the mass of
    the people that foreign policy is something they must concern
    themselves with, because both their lives and their morality -- a
    quality that no other form of life possesses, that which makes us
    human -- are at stake.
                                            William Mandel
    Sandra Hollin Flowers wrote:
    > 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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