Thursday, May 29, 2008

With all the poise of a cannonball

I have been reading a book of short stories by James Tiptree, Jr., aka Alice Bradley Sheldon, science fiction author and gender-bender extraordinaire, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. Tiptree included gendered themes in most of her stories, and its got me thinking about this idea that women are innately less violent than men.

Also, it was just memorial day last Monday, and I have been watching the first couple seasons of Battle Star Galactica, which has introduced me to the indomitable Kara Thrace. I'm not sure I will be able to finish watching BSG, I'm that in love with Thrace, and the President, and all the other women in that show who love to fight. Seeing such a positive portrayal of war, and particularly female soldiers, just about breaks my heart with the desire to be a soldier.

Its crazy, I am aware of that. I hated the Army when I was enlisted, I hated being ordered about by incompetent people half as smart as I was, and even if I was completely physically fit there are a dozen other reasons why I could never join the military again, starting with my disgust for the war criminals at the top of the chain of command and working out from there. Nevertheless, there is this tug on my heart that is hard to explain. I want to fight.

The human urge to destroy is discouraged in women, we are supposed to be nurturers and care-givers and all that, but I don't believe that this is a biological fact. Were the social pressures reversed, I am convinced that women could be-and are- just as vicious and destructive and violent as men are supposed to be. No one human is immune from the desire to kill.

So, as compelling and interesting as Tiptree's stories are, the Memorial Day piece (or piece that I read on Memorial Day anyway) that made the biggest impression on me was this article from 2 Dinar, The Casualties of War:

In reality, I was, and remain, wracked with guilt and insecurity- different than survivor’s guilt and far less noble. This is the guilt of leaving to pursue another career when the Corps needed strong leaders like me. The guilt of not having gone all-in when gambling with my life; of not having been catastrophically injured. The guilt of not having killed and the guilt of not living with the timeless veteran’s regrets about his killings. The guilt of being indifferent to the hundreds of opportunities available to me because they all bored me and all I wanted to do was fight.
War is a powerful thing, sweet and compelling. I'm not sure why- I have a dozen theories, about population pressures and sin, ecological change that spurs migration and religious stereotyping- but the fact remains. In spite of everything I know about how life ought to be, sometimes what I really want is a situation where I can get away with starting a fight.

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