because privileged people can write publicly that they don’t give a shit about discrimination. Because the people we send to Afghanistan, ostensibly to fight for a better chance at a good life for the Afghani people, feel absolutely no shame in posting disgusting shit like you will read below. It makes my heart sick to hear things like this from my brother and people he calls friends. It makes me sick to hear it from anyone, anywhere, at any time. The worst part of it, as someone who is electronically insulated from their direct presences, is the confirmation of the general culture of transhostility, homobigotry, and racism in the armed forces. I know there are decent people serving, but they are always drowned out by assholes farting out of their mouths. Because being “politically correct” is not about being “correct” but about not hurting others. It’s about being political with one’s belief that my rights do not require the denial of rights to others.
Look, I know I cannot possibly understand the horrors and rigors of combat – but I do know that whenever you deny the full humanity of whoever you’re opposing, you create more death and horror, numb yourself to violence and rationalize things that should never be rationalized. And more – if you’ve never bothered to learn about the people, to get to know them, there will never be peace. The cycle of violence becomes a maelstrom of hate.
I’m sorry this is so long.
[Trigger Warning: homobigotry, transphobia, racism, violence, violence to children, death, misogyny, ableism, fathate, rape]
This was posted on facebook several minutes ago by my younger brother, currently serving as a medic in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan. Here’s the entire comment thread thus far, with my unedited comments too, warts and all:
Brother mine: “Dear hippies/oversensitive people: I do not care about the mistreatment of animals that are my food. They are going to get eaten. I also do not care about the use of pronouns specifically how they relate to gender bias. Put hers/his or she/he for all I care, please stop using the patently ridiculous xhe.”
This is from a young man, let it be said, who spent much of his adolescence being what he now calls a “hippie” – i.e. giving a shit about race, gender, and sexuality-based discrimination, and who also spent that time questioning his own sexuality and getting a lot of shit for it from our family (I was his only ally, and spent a lot of time running interference when he spoke about it or his boyfriend came over). I know he has gay friends, trans* friends, genderqueer friends…but none of that seems to matter to him anymore. When I reminded him of this, he replied that it was “a gift” of his. My last visit home was to say farewell before he left for Afghanistan, and he spent an inordinate amount of time saying “I’m an asshole, deal with it.” Someone forgot to remind him that being an asshole is not a positive trait…
Me: “That’s a hell of thing to post on transgender remembrance day. Thank you for your contribution to making the world a shitty place to live. Well done.”
Marine Friend #1: “He doesnt care about transgender faggots. All we care about is killing people…”
This could pass without comment except for the fact that it make my gorge rise to even think of someone truly believing this. I suppose if there weren’t, wars would be a lot harder to conduct…
Me: “I don’t even have the words to tell you how fucked up in the head you must be to post that”
Marine Friend #1: “whatever…”
Me: “Guess we’re sending monsters to fight monsters. Nice when you see how little difference there is between the ostensible good guys and the ostensible bad guys”
Marine Friend #2: “^ he’ll never understand how much fun it is to throw rocks at hadji kids..”
Me: “Hajji is a term of respect in Arabic for someone who has made the hajj, and if you’re thowing rocks at kids, you’re more disgusting than I thought. And if the “he” was to refer to me, I’m a woman, thank you very fucking much”
The appropriation of that term of respect really makes my blood boil. I have very little respect for religion, besides “freedom of,” but combine my hatred for racism and Islamophobia with the way linguistic appropriation/misuse irks me to core, and I’m about ready to explode. The racist/Islamophobic misappropriation of the name just shows how little these people who have lived in Afghanistan for at least 7 months (my brother’s tour so far) know anything about the people they are occupying, killing, or throwing rocks at.
Marine Friend #2: “Oh excuse me ms. [Octopus]. You just had me confused with the transgender thing. I’ll be sure to call them sand niggers next time they[sic]”
Yes, fauxgressives, racism is TOTES OVER.
Me: “Bravo! Taking part in all kinds of racism now! And, perhaps because I am what they call a “decent human being,” I don’t need to be transgender to give a shit. Though I must point out that even if I were transgender and had a penis, I would still be a woman if I so identified.”
Marine Friend #2: “Haha you seem like such a great human being! Sorry I don’t give a fuck about being politically correct when it comes to that country though. I’d like to see you try out our job for a week and see how much you care about those ppl.”
Me: “I don’t know how I would react to doing your job, but I have a sneaking suspicion I’d quickly be discharged for picking fights with assholes like you instead of doing my job.”
Marine Friend #2: “That’s a lie. Hippies are a bunch of bitches. Oh excuse me, bitches and faggots.”
Me: “Not all hippies are homosexual, but clearly you’re a homophobe and a misogynist, as well as a virulent racist.”
On a personal note, I feel bad for falling into the classic trap of “you’re an X” instead of keeping focused on the problematic behavior. Teaspooning takes practice. O.oP
Friend from College: ‘”Can’t we all just get along?”‘
Me: “That would be nice, but extremely unlikely when people insist on using racist, homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic slurs. And relishing the ideas of killing and throwing stones at children.”
Marine Friend #2: “Whoa whoa. Just throwing stones at the children, not killing them. What do you think I am? Some kind of monster? Haha”
Hmm, a soldier armed with a rifle wearing body armor throwing stones at children? What do you call that again? Because I think “fucked up” would be the least charged term I would use.
Me: “Your pal [Marine Friend #1] up there said all you all care about it killing people. That was what I was referring too[sic]. Also, it’s not unthinkable that a child could die by having stones thrown at hir. Also makes my point about us being no better than any of them. isn’t “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone” ro[sic] something in the Bible?”
Marine Friend #2: “I threw the first stone therefore I am without sin. That’s modus ponens bitch.”
No one really calls me bitch anymore, except other women in a friendly way (in which case I decide on the individual circumstances whether or not to teaspoon). I used to use the term liberally, especially as he meant it in this case (“I win!” though I’m sure there was no shortage of “this woman is a real bitch” in these guys’ heads during this conversation). This was truly the first time being called “bitch” has ever made my blood boil.
Me: “modus ponens doesn’t work here, ignoramus. The Biblical statement is not an “if-then” statement. It’s a challenging propositive, not an equivalence. And I’m not a bitch, but bitch is a misogynistic slur. Are you a misogynist?”
Yes, the “ignoramus” was a low blow. Back to the practice pitch. (P.S. I’m pretty sure I just made up “challenging propositive” – any linguists out there reading this?)
Marine Friend #3: “all im going to say is all of you are childish for arguing on facebook we are all in allowed to have our opinions and if you dont agree with them then you dont have to say anything”
I have serious, serious issues with people calling prejudice an “opinion,” to the point where I’m starting to have a triggered reaction of intense anger and depression whenever I hear it. The last point, about not saying anything, is just a clear silencing tactic – if I don’t get to express my opinion when I feel like it, why do bigots get to?
Me: “I do have to stand up, as an ally. I don’t give a shit if these guys prefer chocolate milk or coffee, but dehumanizing other people on the basis of sexuality, gender identity, race, or religion is not “an opinion” it’s a prejudice. Our country talks higher ideals than that, particularly when justifying war. It’s time someone started trying to live up to them.”
Marine Friend #3: “why do you continue to try and debate this. the end goal of a debate is to try and to sway the other side or another party to your way of thinking we are never going to change the way we think just as i wouldn’t expect you to change yours. and remember our country also stands for freedom the freedom to say whatever we want. the freedom that i fight to preserve”
Because I’m not debating with you, homefry, I’m standing up to you.
Me: “Then you’re fighting for my right to do exactly this. Aren’t you also fighting for “all people are created equal” and the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? Or is the foundation of our country like the way people interpret their holy books – just ignore the parts you don’t like? And the goal of me standing up is not necessarily to debate and sway the other party, though that would be nice. It’s just to have a counter-voice standing up to bigots – to let people know I don’t buy that bullshit, to invite them to stand with me, to let them know that they are safe around me. I’m glad you don’t expect me to change my opinion, I sincerely hope you’re wrong about you guys never changing yours, and if you expect me to shut up, get used to disappointment”
One part of my reply bothers me – “I sincerely hope you’re wrong…” It brings up a memory of well-meaning friend telling me she is praying for me to find Jesus because she’s pretty convinced about the whole Heaven/Hell thing…Of course I hope people stop being assholes, and I don’t think that wishing for someone to come to social justice is at all analogous to wishing for people to come to Christianity. I guess what bothers me is when people make that equivalency, I get very incoherent trying to point out the difference. Anyone more eloquent have any tips?
Navy Friend #4: “who the fuck uses “xhe”? i swear i will strike them with the furious fist of an angry god if i ever hear/see that faggotry”
Me: “Get in line with all the other bigoted violent people.”
Marine Friend #3: “i don’t care about this enough to comment anymore you fight the fight you feel is important and ill fight the one i feel is important you use your words to tell people they are wrong for the way they feel or they’re[sic] ideology and thats fine and ill fight the fight i feel is important the only difference is ill take action and do something about you just continue to try to talk sense in to the people you dont agree with”
Me: ” talking is an action verb. “activism” even has the same root as action.”
Navy friend #4: “thats a negative, ghost rider. as you stated earlier, you would still associate[sic] as a woman. they need to choose whichever one they want to associate with (generally whichever bathroom they go to). i dont play nice with hoity-toity bullshit created words/phrases. starbucks ended that shit for me ages ago. also, most of these people are egging you on just for the shit of it, fyi. feel free to further comment; ill just deuce out”
Yes, egging me on for the fun of baiting someone is totally a thing to boast about. Yep, you’re so superior, you gender-essentialist fuckhead.
Me: “There are some people who don’t identify as either, genius. Why men continue to defend a binary gender system that fucks them over just as much as it fucks over women never ceases to boggle me. Another thing that astounds me is the number of people who will step up to defend bigotry. Is this what our armed forces are built on? Is this what the military leadership taught all of you?”
The number of people will to step up and advertise their hatred and bigotry in some ways never ceases to astound me. That’s my privilege showing, I know.
Marine Friend #3: “listen mrs self righteous and if you think for one second that were all the same then your[sic] wrong the fact that you would stereotype us all together because of what a few people said is upsetting after all aren’t you trying to fight the same perception of stereotypes”
#3 said he doesn’t care anymore, yet continues to comment. And yet, I’m self-righteous for not shutting up. I would argue that I’m just being “righteous,” since it’s not being right that I’m concerned about, just fighting kyriarchical oppression, but I have a sneaking suspicion that #3 would not very much like to be told that he is being a defensive douchhound. The fact that #3 hasn’t actually said anything that awful so far only compounds my opinion that he is a douchehound. Why else would he be arguing in defense of bigoted douchehounds?
Me: “I’m not married. And I’m not stereotyping you, I’m listening to what you are saying and judging you purely on that basis. I’m sure you have other fine qualities, but you’re not displaying any of them to me. I don’t think you’re all the same, but I think at least most of the people baiting me here share a common strain of kyriarchical bullshit – that is, racism, homophobia, and misogyny.”
Some time later, when I thought everyone had walked away from the conversation, I saw the little number notification pop up in the tab heading.
Marine Friend #3: “Clearly I was just egging you on and it seemed to work much better then I wanted it to. I’m not actually a bigot, I don’t care if a dude likes to suck dicks and I don’t care if you have a penis and call yourself a woman. It’s all good live your own life. We have a fucked up sense of humor which most ppl do not understand or like. I’m done with this argument though, it has gone far beyond my level of intelligence and I have to go change my shit bag haha”
Ah yes, “I’m TOTES NOT BIGOTED, I was just being Devil’s Advocate” in other words. We’ve seen that one before, friends. We know what that bullshit is:
“There are the occasions that men—intellectual men, clever men, engaged men—insist on playing devil’s advocate, desirous of a debate on some aspect of feminist theory or reproductive rights or some other subject generally filed under the heading: Women’s Issues. These intellectual, clever, engaged men want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses, want to wrestle over details, want to argue just for fun—and they wonder, these intellectual, clever, engaged men, why my voice keeps raising and why my face is flushed and why, after an hour of fighting my corner, hot tears burn the corners of my eyes. Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that’s so much fun for them is the stuff of my life.” – Melissa McEwan of Shakesville
Although the oppressions they are displaying, apart from the misogyny, are not the stuff of my life, I know they are intimate issues for many people who absolutely deserve better. That this level of fuckery comes from the computers of those who are ostensibly fighting for the values and principles of our country only makes me terribly sad – and confirms my disillusionment with the grandiose rhetoric we hear from politicians about what the USA really is. They are fighting not for the country I was taught about when I was a young child – a country of ideals I was privileged enough not to have to doubt until several years later. They are fighting for, and with, the legacy of bigotry and dehumanization that has plagued our country since before its founding. I won’t take such expressions of kyriarchical fuckery as jokes or “mere” baiting because they are not funny and they are not toys – those words are weapons, wielded against actual human beings every single day.
Me: “If you’re not a bigot, don’t use the language of a bigot, and don’t let other people use it around you. I’ll never understand the attitude wherein claiming to be an asshole or have a “fucked up sense of humor” is claimed as a positive trait. Last I checked, no one changed the definition of asshole or fucked up. And it is really fucked up that you appear to have no compassion for people who would be really hurt and angry to overhear the slurs you’ve used on this thread.” ” P.S. fully aware you were egging me on. That’s no reason for me to let those trolldroppings stand unchallenged.”
Seriously, DID someone change the meaning of “fucked up” on me? I understand, of course, the need for people to form groups that reinforce their self-identities, and that many people get ego-support out of identifying as rebels, but seriously…
Unidentified Friend: “there is literally no point in arguing with somebody who says this: “He doesnt care about transgender faggots. All we care about is killing people…” clearly not the opinion who spends too much time thinking or rationalizing their actions. I bet they’re really good at COD:MW3 though”
Me: “fully aware. As I stated above, my intention was not to argue, but to stand up to bullies, regardless of whether or not they change their minds or even whether or not anyone but the participants read this conversation.”
Marine Friend #3: “I respect your argument. But let me assure you I’ve never shot at anyone who didn’t shoot at me first. We are not monsters. We are put in a horrible situation to fight an evil that you will never understand. And to you [Unidentified Friend]. We aren’t some fat fucking slobs who waste our lives playing fucking videos games. I’d watch it comparing our jobs to cod. We put our lives on the fucking line everyday over there.”
It took me a minute to connect “cod” to “Call of Duty” – at first I mistook the sentence for “I’d compare our jobs to god” with a typo. It gave me a much-needed laugh to read it in the fishy sense.
Marine Friend #5: “Wow, it’s clearly easy to stand up to “bullies” on Facebook. Do you do it in person? Because despite what you might think of us ( we don’t care) we stand up to “bullies” of another sort. How upset were you when the Twin Towers collapsed and killed over 3,000 innocent people ( yes, that includes transgender types) Despite how you feel about these comments, take the high ground, be a mature adult and move on. It’s Facebook, and know this, when you egg on a bunch of Marines, it will turn stupid, very fast. Our job is to kill the bully. Think of us as you will. But in America’s darkest hour, and in your pursuit to live your life unhindered, We will be there to die for that. For you Ms. [Octopus]. Because in this country (Afghanistan or any other Middle Eastern country) you would have been stoned to death long ago.”
Then Unidentified Friend came back in, but not swinging at me.
Unidentified Friend: “how can you possibly defend somebody saying this:
“He doesnt care about transgender faggots. All we care about is killing people…”
congratulations on being in the military, it still makes you a close-minded idiot if you agree with the above statement.
maybe you’ll see how moronic you sound in 20 years”
Marine Friend #5: “And [Unidentified Friend’s name incorrectly], just so you know. The guy that posted that comment has seen some of his buddies get shot right in front of him. How close to death have you come in your lifetime? Probably not as much as we have, on a daily basis. Enjoy your comfy life you live. We volunteered to fight, because we have Conviction, Pride and a sense of Duty. What do you have Mr. [Unidentified Friend’s name incorrectly]?”
Me: [#3] – Then why talk in ways that damage your mission and the honor of the armed forces? And [#5], yes I do stand up in person, I was upset, and I don’t think killing people gives you any moral high ground to stand on. Yes, if I were in Afghanistan, I would probably be dead. That does not mean I have to support this war. I am not egging, I am responding. You are pulling very low, dishonorable, and false blows to suggest I love my country any less, that I was affected by 9/11 any less than any of you. Afghanistan would probably be a much less fucked up country today if it weren’t for the meddling of the US, Russia, and European countries going far back before the start of the current war.”
Marine Friend #5: “I agree with you, and what you don’t realize is that alot[sic] of us agree with you. Do you think I fight this because I beleive[sic] in it? Hell no! To be honest with you, I needed a job!! And I wanted to get around the world. I am not questioning your Patriotism, I just want you to know that to fight wars, the people that are selected are not the most sensitive types. We cannot be, we cannot afford to be, because then America would probably not exist. You call us bullies, but we will bully anybody for you, as an American. That’s what I am saying.”
Unidentified Friend: “man you guys are vidictive. i’m just saying that, once again, this quote is reprehensible: “He doesnt care about transgender faggots. All we care about is killing people…” just because he’s seen combat doesn’t mean he can say whatever the fuck he wants. if he needs mental therapy then i suggest he seek out the free services available to him. notice that i’m not attacking anybody else because i don’t know what you do. but thanks for insinuating that i somehow lack the qualities of “Conviction, Pride, and a Sense of Duty” even though you literally know less than nothing about me”
Me: “I don’t want you guys to bully anyone in my name, much less dehumanize them, stereotype them, call them racist slurs, and create a culture in which it is permissible to use slurs like bitch and faggot. I want the people fighting for my country to value al[sic] human life, to have a sense of compassion, and to want to honor both our country and the armed forced by not running their mouths/keyboards like this at every opportunity. It’s a job, and I know that it attracts some, or many, who view it as just that, and some unsavory people too, but it should be up to all the decent people in the military to create a culture where bigots and people who used bigoted language are shut down and ostracized, not people who speak up against it.”
Marine Friend #5: “And again, you need to understand that we are Marines, and we talk shit!! Stop getting all defensive about it. Your being baited man. I know nothing about you, and you know nothing about me, but you have no problem with calling us narrow minded idiots. Stop throwing stones [Unidentified Friend] and then getting upset about getting fed your own crap.”
Me: “”talking shit” makes it sound like there are no human consequences to the things you say. Look at the war atrocities. Look at all the female soldiers who are raped. Look at all the male soldiers who are beaten up and raped because people suspect they’re gay, or whatever. Language is not the sole cause of these things, but it creates a permissive environment”
Marine Friend #5: “Listen, I understand you want justice, and consequences to everything that is done. It’s human nature, we are violent and will most likely destroy ourselves within the next few hundred years. What do you want? Nothing you say now, or ever, will change anything. Wars will be fought, people will die, rights will be violated, people will be tortured and killed. Meanwhile, Africa ( the forgotten continent) continues to kill people by the millions. Why aren’t you upset about that Ms [Octopus]?”
I do, in fact, give a shit about lives being lost everywhere. It’s a common tactic in derailing that he employed there. But I also know that not every fight is mine, and given the resources I have at my disposal, any direct participation I could have in struggles in Afghanistan or Africa would likely be appropriative at best. Until I have deeper knowledge than I am 99% percent sure these guys have about Afghani culture and history, I’ll wait, and take my marching orders from people who allow me to be an ally.
Me: “Who says I’m not? And I’ve changed some minds already, though not in argument when people are defensive and ego-protective. I can change at least one other things[sic] too: how I’m perceived. I like to broadcast the[sic: that] kyriarchical shitheads aren’t welcome near me, and those who want more than that from people and from the world are. I can’t change the whole world, but I can change the little piece of it around me. So please, stop being condescending and guessing about what I do and don’t care about, if you please. And though I very rarely get it, I believe in asking for more from people – we are capable of it, and we’ll never get it if we don’t ask.”
Yes, steam must be blown off. Stress is a real and acute force. Both of these things can cause a person to do and to say reprehensible and regrettable things. It can also cause people to defend those things. But ultimately, I do truly believe that if the general culture was to change, both outside and inside the military, where military group feeling was based on honor and pride in being decent people, not in killing the enemy, this kind of thing would not only happen less frequently, but also would receive an appropriate response (breaks, counseling, support, teaspooning) instead of having trashtalk be seen as a sign of strength.
Marine Friend #3: “We have certainly not committed any war atrocities. I can’t even recall ever seeing a female soldier in Afghanistan. And bearing[sic] up and raping men? No that is ridiculous”
Are we living in the same reality?
Marine Friend #5: “I’m not talking down to you. And that’s great that you have changed minds, but it won’t happen here. I mean, I happen to agree with alot[sic] of your points, I really do. It would be great for people to stand up, like you, and make legitimate changes. But we get comfortable and easily manipulated. I am just saying that the world will continue to spin, time keeps going, our tiny, tiny, tiny little spot in the cosmos will stay that way. All we can ever hope for is for people to open there[sic] eyes at some point and realize that humanity is all in it together. That’s my optimistic side.”
Me: “[to #3] That is a hole in your knowledge, not proof that these things don’t happen. The armed forces clearly have a great incentive not to broadcast these things. Marieclaire Women Soldiers in Afghanistan, Women in the Military, Rape in the Military, Prisoners Beaten to Death At US Military Base in Afghanistan [to #5] Well, I’m glad you agree with many of my points, but I’m confused, in that case, why you seemed to be trying to get me to shut up…”
Marine Friend #5: “I am not. I like debating. But you definitely seemed to attack us. We may present a front of ignorance at times. But underneath it all, we are actually very intelligent, articulated[sic], thoughtful and well meaning. Just because we are in the military, doesn’t mean that we are all a bunch of murdering psychos. We hate our job, at times we love our job. And at times, we are expected to kill the enemy with extreme prejduice[sic], which we do. And we are hated for it. We love life, and we want nothing more than to get back to the simple things that life has to offer. Family, hot showers, decent food and out of a country that hates who we are.”
Me: “Then you should talk like it, at least in public. I understand the need to vent, but flaunting it on facebook is disgusting. Defending those expressions of bigotry is even more disgusting”
I admit the throughout this exchange, I was half-hoping that one of them would say something truly awful about me, if only to see if my younger brother would do anything about it. We don’t have the same last name, so sometimes people miss our blood relationship. Hell, those guys didn’t even know my gender.
It just makes me ill to encounter so much fuckery at once, and from friends and comrades of my baby brother. I was doing a pretty good job of counterbalancing my family’s more conservative influence, until he got angry with me for going to college when he needed someone to support him. It takes a deep breath and a reality check to remember that his bigotry is not my fault. Even if I had been there, it’s unlikely anything would be different.
All I can do is continue to stand up to bullies to the best of my ability, and to dip my teaspoon into the ocean of fuckery not just when directly challenging the kyriarchy, but also in casual conversation, when people’s minds are open to think about things without feeling threatened. The minds I have touched for the better, few though they are, gives me hope that, even if it is only a few teaspoons, that world can become a better place through individual effort. Don’t let anyone tell you that teaspooning, no matter how small, isn’t “taking action.” Ultimately, it’s more powerful and more moral action by far than the kind of action my brother’s friend was referring to. Killing someone doesn’t make you right or strong – it’s often an expression of weakness, and it breeds more violence and hate than was there before, on both sides. Speaking up, if and when you are able, is the way we’ll really make a world worth living in for all the diverse people in it.
I’m all in. Are you?
note: I added [sic] in the quotes not because I want to mock anyone, but because I find errors distracting unless the [sic] is there, for some reason. Apologies if they annoy you.