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Flying under the radar?

26 August 2009

Yesterday I was speaking with my mom about this post, regarding the experiences of an officer in the military, and in particular, at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.  The officer (at the time at least) was Jewish, and faced a surprising amount of persecution and hostility for it, considering that the military, as an arm of our government, is supposed to be secular.  Just to give you a taste of some of what he suffered through:

During my second year at the West Point, my Squad Leader for summer training expressed disapproval on numerous occasions with my being Jewish, and, during one mission, he grabbed my MRE (a military meal) as we sat down for lunch and handed me another. He ordered me to eat the pork chop and I reminded him that I refrain from pork for religious reasons. He told me that I could eat the pork or eat nothing. … The next day, my cadet Platoon Leader presented me with a written counseling statement detailing my signs of “anorexia” and a “troubling” refusal to eat which was detrimental to my health and indicative of “incapacity for leadership.” I was filled with righteous indignation. I went through the Cadet and Commissioned Chain of Command and my rebuttal culminated with a conversation with the Active Duty Major in command of the summer training. When I explained the events in detail, he told me that my Cadet Chain of Command was right to be concerned, and spoke words I will never forget: “the Army is not in the business of catering to people like you.” Those words have haunted me throughout my career as an Officer. They were the turning point for me–when I finally understood the message several of my leaders had been expressing to me all along: the Army has no place for people like me: dissidents who stray from the unofficially mandated military religion; conservative fundamentalist Christianity.

Unfortunately, this is only one of many stories that have been coming to light regarding the inundation of religion, of fundamentalist Christianity, into our military.  Instead of fighting for a country where the ideals of freedom of speech, expression and religion are supposed to be inviolable, where equal rights for all is supposed to be of paramount importance, it seems that now our soldies are simply fighting for Jesus Christ.  Disgusted by this? So am I. Outraged? Me too. Wish you could do something, anything to rectify the situation, even if it just means blogging about what’s going on so that more people become aware of the problem? Word.

I was raised to stand up for my beliefs; trying to right the wrongs I see around me is like second nature at this point. So I was pretty shocked to hear my mother’s response.

Me: Can you believe this? It’s horrible!

Mom: Yeah. All you can do in life to try to fly under the radar.

Me: That’s not right!

Maybe when I’m 60 I’ll feel differently, and all I’ll want to do is live a comfortable life, free from the interference of others. But in the meantime, that outlook is pretty horrifying (and really unexpected from someone who lived through the Vietnam War era, with all its protests and marches). If we don’t do something, then who will? Ignoring this kind of thing will only allow it to grow worse, and pretty soon “under the radar” won’t exist anymore.

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