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January 07, 2011

Captain Honors and the Three-Letter F-Bomb

This is the honorable Infinonymous' comment on my recent post:
Bigotry is a big (and ugly) enough problem -- especially in the military, it appears -- that tolerance seems inappropriate, particularly where the bigotry is accompanied by demonstrably poor judgment.

It would be worthwhile to review this officer's case and, if appropriate, rehabilitate his career. But, at least until the bigotry is washed out of the system (and that includes open bigots in positions of military authority), the response to this type of misconduct should be swift and strong.

Some of the people who have volunteered to serve at risk of life and limb, like many who have died or been maimed while serving, are gay. Shouldn't we be concerned about them, and the overall improvement of our military that would accompany removal of the bigotry, more than we are concerned about tolerance and leniency for bigots?

Infy suggests O.P. Honors is a bigot. Let's check definitions: A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one exhibiting intolerance, and animosity toward those of differing beliefs. The predominant usage in modern English refers to persons hostile to those of differing race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, various mental disorders, or religion.

I would first say that there is less bigotry in the military that in the general population.

There is no complaint of harassment or discrimination either by Capt. Honors or by members of his crew during this period. There is no animosity or hostility. I respectfully disagree with Infy in that I do not think Mr. Honors is a bigot; I think he's a fighter pilot and a Navy officer, which is to say that Honors is a trained killer — because that's what the Navy does, and that's who Navy fighter pilots are. I am thankful for them.

Does anybody believe that use of the "little-f-word", or "the three-letter-F-bomb", warrants removal of an effective killer? Was there a scene in the Sopranos where Big Tony said, "I gotta have Jimmy Three Nuts whacked, he called my wife's cousin .... I mean, he used the three-letter F-bomb -- you know, a f*g? Fugghheddaboudit."

Does anybody believe that our enemies would remove a military leader for using the word "fag"? They'd be more likely to stone the homosexuals and to praise those who killed them.

If we are to have an effective military force, if you want to kill the bad guys and get your nieces and nephews back safely, do we really want to disqualify all the people who have used the 3-letter-F-bomb in jokes?

Has the schism between the protected and the protectors grown so wide that our citizens believe that condemning this behavior is a morale imperative? If it has, we should reintroduce the draft lottery.

We are not "concerned about tolerance and leniency for bigots". That's not what I mean to discuss. We know that with 5000 people on board, there were homosexuals in the population, and an even larger number onboard that have a gay relative or friend. These crews reflect America, except that they skew a bit poorer economically. Curiously, no crew members saw fit to complain about the videos. There is no complaint of harassment or discrimination.

We are concerned, however, about our civilian population's understanding of the military and the violence that is done by civilian direction. We are concerned about keeping an effective killer at his post, for our society's own good.

He's no bigot, he's a fighter pilot.

And, to go way off course, if we're going to be judgmental then we should consider that the great wrongs being done in Iraq and Afghanistan, directed by our civilian leadership, greatly exceed any wrong done by Capt. Honors. If insensitivity is grounds for removal, then Bush43 and Obama (along with both staffs) should be condemned for gross errors in judgment.

Some other links -

From The Atlantic Monthly: A Gay Sailor Speaks Out in Support of Capt. Owen Honors:
Sexual orientation aside, every man or woman joining the military does so with the knowledge that the only way to get through is with tough skin. ..... As a gay man that served onboard the USS ENTERPRISE during both the '06 and '07 deployments I was never once offended by Capt. Honors' choice of humor.

Guilty of Being a Fighter Pilot:
If this qualifies as a major incident and breach of good order and discipline, then I guess we can quit paying attention. .... There is no question that the XO is guilty as sin of the crime of acting like a fighter pilot. Anyone ever met a damn fighter pilot? He’s supposed to be that guy. If the Russians and Chinese decide to roll the dice and the tanks and planes, WTF do you think the first guy off the catapult will be? That’s right, your decidedly un-humble (fighter pilot)

The Enterprise Video Affair:
Bawdy skits, offensive humor and other customs have long been used to relieve the monotony that sets in after months at sea. It was in this tradition that Honors produced his videos, and judging by the online comments, his efforts were appreciated. ....

The fact (the videos) weren’t on-line (until the Virginian-Pilot got hold on them) is another testament to the popularity and respect that Honors earned from his sailors. They understood that on-board “morale videos” were intended for the crew—and no one else. It was one more shared experience that bonded them together during months of training and long periods at sea. It’s a concept that is almost alien to anyone who hasn’t been a sailor, or part of the wider military community.


Anonymous said...

I thought William Riker was the second-in-command of the Enterprise.

Infinonymous said...

Did this officer aim similar humor at Christians -- 'Do we really want to entrust life-and-death decisions to adults who believe children's fairy tales are true' -- or did he stick with the safe targets such as gays, Muslims, etc.?

If this guy was so tough, why not a few watermelon-and-fried chicken jokes? Or conniving cheapskates who won't eat a cheeseburger jokes? He's tough enough to mock gays in a context in which they aren't able to stand up for themselves (because of military bigotry), but he isn't tough enough to take on the blacks because he . . . well, maybe he isn't so tough after all.

Nobody stood up to a commanding officer to defend gays against shameful slurs? That's a point in this fellow's defense?

This man should receive a fair hearing, but this "defense" disinclines expectation that it would go well for him. It belittles the military to believe that, if this officer is a tough guy, we could not find a tough guy with adequate judgment and character to replace him.

And, with respect to the "time of war" excuse for overlooking misconduct, it isn't the military's fault (mostly), but our forces haven't tackled a mission that has advanced our nation's defense in at least seven years. At the moment, we are treading water in efforts to neutralize self-inflicted risks generated by our decision to attack the wrong country, our culpable botching of the attempted occupation, and our shameful, morally ambiguous drift in Afghanistan. Beyond the estimable glory of doing one's duty even when send on foolish missions by lesser man, our military has been causing far more problems than it has been solving.

buckeyeguy789 said...

I wanted to tell you that I am in the navy I'm gay, and while I am not offended by the video itself I do think this demonstrates a horrible lack of judgement on XO honors part.
Why was he busy wasting his time on a really well edited tape that had lewd stuff in it? This is not behavior that a senior officer should be engaging in. If it was lower ranked enlisted guys it would be more tolerable.
The fact is that two women were in sexually suggestive poses and so were two men, in his presence. That is not a joking matter in today's navy.
So yes, I have news for you, You can be a trained killer, be great at your job and refrain from engaging in frat boy antics. Maybe, just maybe, the XO of a ship should refrain from "jokes" using the word fag when plenty of his 6000 men and women on the ship are gay?
It's one thing for a E-1 to be doing this. but a XO doing it sets a example and changes the climate aboard. That's my two cents.

buckeyeguy789 said...

In other skits, sailors parade in drag, use anti-gay slurs, and simulate masturbation and a rectal exam. Another scene implies that an officer is having sex in his stateroom with a donkey.

The videos, obtained by The Virginian-Pilot this week, were shot and edited with government equipment, many of them while the Enterprise was deployed supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A female sailor who was assigned to the Enterprise at the time said she and a number of other women on board were offended by the videos. She said some crew members complained about them, and in fact, Honors acknowledged it on camera. In one movie, he says, "Over the years I've gotten several complaints about inappropriate materials in these videos, never to me personally but, gutlessly, through other channels."

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