Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The last straw

(The following scene is fictional. But that's okay, since federal judges have apparently given up pretending that there's anything but fiction behind their decisions, too.)

Scene: Military base, mess hall. Several male soldiers are seated around a table.

Soldier A: So, yeah, then I got a call from my...

(He pauses, and looks down at the table.)

Soldier A: Sorry.

Soldier B: No problem. You were saying?

Soldier A: Yeah, I was on the phone and she said...wait, can I say that?

Soldier C: Um, I think so.

Soldier B: No, actually. You can tell us what you heard--no pronouns.

Soldier A: Right. Well, anyway...well...oh, forget it.

(There is silence. A female soldier enters and joins them.)

Soldier D: Hi, guys. Why so quiet?

Soldier A: (glumly) Oh...you know.

Soldier D: Let me guess. The Military Personnel Conversational Restriction Act?

Soldier B: Mmm-hmm.

Soldier C: Better know as the Just Shut Up Already Act.

Soldier D: I still don't get it. I probably violate it all the time without thinking about it.

Soldier B: Better be careful.

Soldier D: Oh, I know. But...I mean...how are we ever supposed to talk about our lives or families under this policy? Shouldn't we be able to do that once in a while?

Soldier A: Wait. Can she say "families?"

Soldier B: I think so. There was a court ruling that said that "families" is not an inherently heterosexual term, and includes an implied inclusion of "alternate family structures." So it's still okay.

Soldier D: So "families" is okay, but I can't say out loud (she whispers) that I'm married to a great guy and that I'm a mom of a terrific kid?

Soldier B: No. You can say that you're married, and you can say that you're a parenting partner. That's it.

Soldier A: The whole thing's stupid.

Soldier C: Whose bright idea was it, anyway?

Soldier B: Well, remember when they repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell?"

Soldier A: That's before my time.

Soldier B: Mine too--before all of ours. But that started the whole thing. Once gay soldiers started to serve openly, they also started complaining and filing lawsuits over what they called the innate and overt heteronormativity of the US Armed Forces, and the ways that this heteronormative structure discriminated against them. They were doing the same thing in the schools and other places back home, too.

Soldier C: That I remember.

Soldier B: Anyway, eventually the military caved, and started making it a matter of discipline that no soldier could use heteronormative words, values, assumptions or attitudes while on duty.

Soldier A: Yeah--that policy was in place when I enlisted.

Soldier B: Same here. But that wasn't good enough. The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Post-Gendered Soldiers' Association brought a lawsuit claiming that as long as soldiers were still free to use heteronormative words, values, assumptions or attitudes in their off hours, they were being harmed by the discrimination this represented.

Soldier C: So we ended up with the "Just Shut Up Already" Act?

Soldier B: Exactly. The Military Personnel Conversational Restriction Act forbids any soldier from using or displaying heteronormative words, values, assumptions or attitudes in recreational conversations that take place on or within a certain distance from a military base. Which, in our case, is a five-mile radius surrounding this base.

Soldier A: And that's why we're always spending all our money at the Free Speech Tavern.

Soldier C: Six miles away.

Soldier D: Anybody going?

(She stands up.)

Soldier B: Enjoy it while you can. Congress is working on another law that will forbid military personnel from any speech or displays which violate the European Court's Standards of Gender Transcendence, no matter where they are, so long as they're members of the Armed Forces.

Soldier C: What's that one going to be called?

Soldier A: How about "The Last Straw?"


Siarlys Jenkins said...

You're such a pessimist. Why can't you think more positively about the future?

freddy said...

Give the poor woman a break, Siarlys Jenkins. She's getting over a nasty bug, as she mentioned in an earlier post. And depression is common in end-stages of viral illnesses.

Secondly, the future's not really all it's cracked up to be, is it? I mean, here it is, 2010, and guess what, no hover cars, no moon colonies, and I don't even have a robot maid! (ok. lame humor attempt, I know)

But really, Erin's bit of dark humor here does, in fact, have a basis in reality. Hopefully it's as silly and unlikely as the "pizza call" scenario a few years ago, in which the pizza shop refuses to sell a pizza to a man because of "red flags" from his health care provider, employer and ex-wife. But we do live in a society in which a school board paid 2 million dollars to find ways to get kids to eat healthier, and found out they should "hide the chocolate milk behind the plain milk" and "put vegetables in pretty baskets." Anything's possible!

Anonymous said...


Magister Christianus said...

As usual, your wit is delicious!

L. said...

Sounds great -- I am already doing my part. I call my legal husband my "partner," as part of my personal campaign to destroy the traditional family.

The only problem is that people are surprised he's not a woman. Working on that....

Siarlys Jenkins said...

freddy, don't be such a knee-jerk... the next word is generally liberal, but I'll spare you that. If Blogger offered emoticons to go with these comments, or if I knew how to use them, there would have been a big smile here.

It's true, I generally doubt the more paranoid prognostications about political correctness, from anyone, just as I cheerfully lampoon the politically correct utterances that give rise to such fears. I think it was Martin Luther who said "Satan, that proud spirit, cannot bear to be mocked," but then, I read that in the same paragraph with a similar observation from St. Thomas Aquinas.

To the extent Erin was gently mocking, I was indulging in friendly sarcasm. To the extent she was serious, I was gently mocking her seriousness. It's not a big deal.