Monday, August 17, 2009

Fitting In

The headline of the online version of the New York Times caught my eye. "Women in the military ... fitting in." The content of the article discussed the ways in which the military is accommodating the presence of women, and the ways in which women are attempting to "fit in". I wept as I read it.

I am an average guy. I like football, I think I understand natural aggressiveness, and yes, when no one is around, I sometimes even watch a boxing match on tv (rarely, but occasionally). When I was a little boy my friends and I played "cops and robbers." I used a pair of Roy Rogers branded, chrome-plated toy six shooters. "Bang, bang, you're dead," was the constant refrain as we attempted to sneak up on the other and "make a kill". I had to say it verbally because at that age I was not permitted to play with real cap guns. Such is the stuff of being a boy in America in the late 1940s, early 1950s.

When I reached eighth grade, to my good fortune my parents enrolled me in a Quaker school . Although the Quakers were not evangelical in any kind of overt way, it was very hard not to be entranced by the faith, commitment and witness which they offered to anyone with eyes to see. As I experienced Quaker philosophy in the school I attended, although there was clearly a non-violent overtone to the community, no one particular belief was required for membership. There was no creed, no statement of faith. Their teaching was discovered by listening to individuals articulate their beliefs and watching how they lived their lives. The level of congruence between stated faith and lived life was amazing, much higher than I observed in the Episcopal church which I attended. It has been more than forty years since I was immersed in a Quaker community but I suspect that the observations which I made then still hold true today.

Why did I weep at the article which talks about the military and women fitting in? The non-violent approach to life which was instilled into my veins during the formative high school years has always longed for a time when, as Isaiah proclaims, swords would be beat into plowshares, when lion would lay down with lamb, when war would be no more. Perhaps it is ever so chauvinistic to so say (although I hope not), but it is a dream of mine that as women work in the military perhaps the presence of the feminine (dare I say, "feminine divine") might lead to new ways of approaching and solving problems, difficulties and disagreements. It is my fond hope that the presence of females in roles of leadership might lead to more accommodation based upon the building of relationship, and less overt use of weapons which maim, kill and destroy. That is an heavy burden to lay upon women, I acknowledge, but it is unlikely we will ever achieve such a goal with men in power and control, such is the nature of male aggression.

I would rather women lead by transforming military life, and, for that matter, life in general. Women cannot possibly make more a of a mess of things than have men over the years. Women striving to "fit in" military life? God, I pray not.