Daily Archives: June 8, 2007

Cutting Off Our Nose…

…to spite our face.

I’m posting twice today, Gentle Readers, because I just can’t stand it.

I was reading the Language Log this evening, where I was directed to a NY Times Op-Ed. piece written by Stephen Benjamin, a (now former) translator for the U.S. Navy. Go ahead and read; it’s not long. I’ll wait….

You’re back? Great. Can you explain to me, please, what possible wisdom could be credited for firing this valuable man from his critical job? How does his sexuality have any bearing whatsoever on his skills as a translator? How is his sexuality anyone’s business but his own?

If he’s being honest about the circumstances that led to his dismissal – that the messages to and from his former roommate “had included references to [their] social lives — comments that were otherwise unremarkable, except that they indicated [they] were both gay” – how can the military justify dismissing him? He didn’t threaten anyone. He wasn’t explicit or hateful. He may not even have actually used the word “gay,” the military simply took it upon itself to relieve these men of duty.

I understand the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.  I understand that the military can set up whatever rules it sees fit (though I don’t agree with that – I think that it should be held to the same standards of tolerance that the government expects of everyone else).  The thing is, though?  The military didn’t ask, and Mr. Benjamin didn’t tell.  They Navy figured out Benjamin’s status by reading his IM messages.  Essentially, they overheard the information and are taking actions based on that.

Granted, Benjamin and his old roommate probably shouldn’t have used the military’s IM system, but I’m not sure they had any other communication option. The fact that the heterosexual IM offenders aren’t facing dismissal sends me over the edge – that the military is willing to allow straight people to behave abominably but can’t bear to have gay people talk about going out to dinner is just a little more than I can stand.

We’re losing this war, make no mistake about it. People who are fluent in the languages spoken in the hot zones are vital to what little safety our troops could hope to have while they do their jobs. Those fluent people are at a premium as it is; is the military really so stupid and arrogant to think that it can do the work it has to do – and do it well – while continuing to dismiss highly qualified people for utterly stupid reasons?


Filed under General Bitching, ruminating, social issues, Worries and Anxieties


I teach a public speaking class at a local community college (which, for the sake of simplicity, I refer to as Tiny Community College, or TCC). As part of their final exams, my students are required to research, compose, and deliver a persuasive speech.

Ten students have delivered their speeches so far – I have twenty kids and four days to get through their presentations; I may be math-impaired, but I could handle those numbers – and two of them, both women and both medical assisting students, chose to speak on topics relating to child abuse.

On Tuesday, one woman gave her speech on the fight between medical science and Christian Science, and how she feels that, regardless of one’s religious faith, one should be required by law to seek medical treatment for one’s children until such time as those children can make medical decisions for themselves. The other woman, who spoke yesterday, did a wonderful job convincing me that parents who allow (and, in some cases, encourage) their children to become morbidly obese should be brought up on charges.

The things that got me thinking about this post, though, were the things we discussed as a class after yesterday’s five students finished delivering their talks. One student – whose speech was less than compelling, but which inspired a lot of debate – spoke about how she’s opposed to lowering the drinking age to 18, and another spoke out against the effort to legalize marijuana. These topics led to a discussion about why we in the U.S. have such a complicated relationship with things like sex and alcohol and other substances, and the students postulated that it’s because we have set them up as “forbidden fruit.”

This led to a discussion about how we raise our children to think of these things as taboo. We don’t talk about alcohol or drugs or sex with our children as a rule (I’m getting to more on that in a minute, so stay with me) and, more often than not, we expect someone else to teach lessons about those things to our kids; I’m thinking about sex ed. classes and D.A.R.E. programs in school, to be precise.

I mentioned, not too long ago, that Punkin’ Pie came home after her “growth and human development” movie in school and was more perplexed about the need for such a thing than she was by the movie itself. She already HAS all the information that the movie sought to convey, and most of her questions to me that afternoon were centered around why such a big deal was made about it and why a movie at school was even needed in the first place.

I talk to my girls. When they ask me straight questions, I give them straight answers. They know how babies are made. They understand the essentials of sex. They understand the workings of the menstrual cycle. They know the proper names for all the body parts (this is an elbow, this is a breast, that’s a penis. Whatever. Yawn). While we don’t parade around in the altogether all the time, neither Mr. Chili nor I make an effort to cover up in front of the girls; we’re perfectly comfortable in our skins and are doing all we can to transfer that comfort to them. The girls are just as likely to share a shower with their dad as they are to share one with me, and until THEY decide that they’d rather not, we’re going to keep on doing what we’re doing; it’s working for us.

So, back to class. We started talking about how Americans, as opposed to, say, the French or Germans, are really uptight about alcohol. One student talked about how he hosted an exchange student from Germany during his senior year in high school, and he and a bunch of his friends got together to do some clandestine drinking, but his exchange student buddy wasn’t interested. The German kid’s response was very much “yeah, whatever. Alcohol. Yawn.” Because the exchange kid had grown up with alcohol as part of his environment and was given examples of its responsible use by nearly everyone in his life, he didn’t see it as a temptation – and certainly didn’t see the need to abuse the stuff.

That got me to thinking. We’ve become so tense in our society – so uptight and jumpy and litigious – that we’ve started taking away a lot of parent’s rights to raise their kids the way they see fit; or, maybe more to the point, we’ve been willing to hand over so much control and responsibility to “authorities” that we’ve put our own selves in this position.

While I essentially agree with both of my medical assisting students’ arguments, I also really resent the fact that, at pretty much any moment, the Division of Child and Family Services could come knocking on my door and accuse my husband of sexually abusing our children because they got wind that my daughters showered with him this morning. I could be brought up on charges for letting my ten and eight year olds try a little sip of the wine I had with dinner. Don’t even get me started on what kind of fallout would (will?) befall me when I authorize my teen-aged daughter’s pediatrician to prescribe birth control.

Someone else could look at how we’re choosing to raise our girls, decide that it’s immoral (or illegal), that we’re endangering the children’s welfare, and try to remove them from our custody.

I know it’s not LIKELY, but it COULD happen. And it’s wrong.


Filed under crossover, general kid stuff, Home and Family, ideas and opinions, Parenting, ruminating, social issues