2017 seems to be a year of historic lows for America. Never has our public life been so fouled by low language, low behavior, lowlife betrayals of personal loyalty and patriotic responsibility.
Back-stabbing at the White House (and a lot of President Trump’s front-stabbing as well) is passed off as “Big Boys (like our powerful President) play rough.” Re-litigating affirmative action, and encouraging police to rough up people they’re arresting, and suddenly cutting immigration numbers in half simply refine that message to: “Big White Boys still rule America. Don’t like it? Suck eggs.”
Count me among the suckers. I’m still for a world in which rule of law makes sure Black, Brown, Red, White, Yellow, plaid and paisley Boys and Girls are treated equally.
But reliable justice and civility are just means to a greater end, the one quality which may, today, be in lowest-ever supply in America – togetherness.
For me, togetherness, “team spirit,” has been both a personal and professional pleasure. My concept of politics is of contending forces, the elected and the loyal opposition, moderating, if not settling, their differences and dedicated to national cohesion, to togetherness.
But, the place where togetherness isn’t just a preference, but a matter of life and death is in combat.
Among America’s combat forces, the one whose culture has always been attuned to togetherness is the Marines.
The traditional enemies of togetherness in America have been its divisions over class, race, and gender.
In all the services the class issue is settled. You wear your class on your sleeve, Specialist, Lieutenant, General. End of story.
And when it comes to race, the military, including the Marines, has done better than civilian America. When you face the fact that anybody can save your life, your tendency is to treat everybody with a little more respect, and fellow-feeling.
But when it comes to gender, the military has run a bit behind the rest of the country, especially when it comes to combat assignments. In December 2015, when President Obama’s last Defense Secretary, Ash Carter opened the battlefield to women, the Marines asked to opt out. And were denied. There’s been a lot of hard swallowing since.
Which is the context for today’s story, about a reporter and his story, and another reporter who followed up on, and broadened the focus of the story. The original reporter is named Thomas Brennan and he has a website called The War Horse, a platform for veterans to publish their thoughts, or their reporting on the military and the military life and what comes after it.
Brennan broke the story of cyber-harrassment of Marine women by Marine men, through websites and databases devoted to cellphone camera stalking and revenge porn. It got wide national coverage after he posted it on The War Horse and told it on Reveal, the investigative radio news magazine.
The second reporter is Elliot Ackerman, who wrote recently in Esquire about Brennan, his story, and what happened next, and put it all in the context of a military service trying or resisting full assimilation of women into what had always been the Alpha-Alpha Male of American fighting forces.
Elliot Ackerman is a decorated former Marine officer, who served 5 tours of duty with US Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, winning the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor and the Purple Heart. He is also a journalist who reports for Esquire, The New Yorker, The Atlantic and the NY Times Sunday Magazine, and a novelist, whose books Green on Blue and Dark at the Crossing have gotten very strong reviews.