A US Vet Asks: “When do I get to be one of the American people?”

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tinkSlave2TehTink is normally found making posts with no redeeming social value whatsoever[1] in her LiveJournal, or posting pictures of her small menagerie on her flickr. Offline she lurks on the Civil War battlefields of northern Virginia with her fawn Doberman Tink, knits, and resists the urge to howl and throw things when she sees McCain signs in front yards.

In a blog post a few days ago, Terry Karney asked “When do I get to be one of ‘the American people’?”, and as I watch the news breathlessly report the rise of McCain/Palin in the polls, I’ve got to echo that sentiment.

I have never felt precisely mainstream, because being one of three bleeding heart liberals in the US military is a lonely place, but I feel increasingly unwelcome in my own land, these days, and I don’t just mean the conservative corner of rural northern Virginia where I’ve landed since leaving the Navy. I don’t think I’ve ever felt actively unwelcome here in the US before. Yet with the apparent defection of a sizeable chunk of the voting public to this year’s atrocity of a Republican ticket, I have a horrible feeling we’re in for at least four more years of the religious fucking right in charge, and I have to wonder, where does that leave me?

These people seem to honestly believe that women belong barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen, with just enough education to homeschool the kids based on Biblical precepts. I’m not married, and have no desire to be. I first declared I was never having children when I was eight years old, and haven’t changed my mind at 32. I want to live a quiet and retiring life, be a responsible citizen, pay off my mortgage, pay my taxes, vote when elections come ’round, and generally not bother anyone. I spend my time trying to propagate native species of trees on my back acre, teaching my dogs random tricks, knitting, and otherwise engaging in quiet pursuits that aren’t going to alter the shape of the world at large or infringe on anyone else’s civil or human rights. Yet evidently because I’m not married and don’t have 2.5 kids, I’m not one of ‘the American people’. I’m not one of the ‘working families’ touted as the lifeblood of America, who Republicans claim to protect while attempting to tax them out of existence. Instead, I am something the right wing seems to feel is incredibly dangerous: a single woman who never learned to sit down, shut up, and play stupid when the men start talking. I’m a single woman who dares to believe that she has a right to make decisions about her own body.

It’s not good enough for the right wing that I gave nine years, seven months, and one day of my life to the US Navy (not that I was counting). It’s not good enough that I spent that time going where I was needed, doing what needed doing, that I killed for them or that I couldn’t have given more without being killed or maimed myself. I’m not wanted here, I am disregarded and silenced and marginalized because I dare to have a life whose worth isn’t measured by my husband and children. All the polls tell me that the majority of the American electorate believes that my lifestyle is somehow aberrant in a socially damaging way, despite the fact that I’m not out there recruiting for a life of quiet solitude. They think I should live my life in Godly Submission to a husband while I pop out (white) babies and doubtless devote myself to Biblically homeschooling them; even more dangerously, they are willing to legislate me into this position. They are willing to overturn Roe v. Wade, they are willing to pass policy stating that taking the birth control pill is equivalent to abortion, and gallingly enough, John McCain refused to support the recently passed Webb GI Bill.

What it comes down to is that if someone is voting Republican, then that means they don’t believe I should be able to make choices about what happens to my own body, including the choice to take the birth control pill (unless I have a signed permission slip from my husband or something), and that my service to my country, which has left me in chronic pain both mental and physical, doesn’t mean I deserve to be taken care of now that I’ve come back to the civilian world. How long before my civil rights are even more eroded just for having tits and a uterus? How long before my human right to my own reproductive system is removed? How long before I have to have a male guardian’s signature to get a loan? We already know McCain opposes legislation that would make it easier for women to take legal action when an employer has discriminated againt them.

Increasingly, I just get the feeling I’m not wanted here. Alas, realistically emigration needs to wait until I get my degree (thanks for co-sponsoring the bill that will let me do it, Sen. Obama!) , so it’s more of a long-term goal than a short-term one. But the temptation to flee the country after November is going to be incredibly strong if things go the way the news is reporting they will. After all, it doesn’t do the frog any good to stay and get boiled to death.

I love you, America. I probably always will. I tried to do the right thing. Guess it wasn’t enough.

[[1] I should probably note at this point that STTT wrote this bio, not I. I think her LJ is full of awesome. ~Lauredhel]

Categories: gender & feminism, Politics, social justice

Tags: ,

11 replies

  1. Ugh, I missed that McCain opposed the Webb GI bill. What a cheek, for a man who had all his own education (and medical expenses) paid for by the Navy before and after he was a POW.
    Regarding the Womb Patrol face of the Religious Right: I guess if you can successfully project a persona that walks the fine line separating “confirmed spinster” (with big dogs) from “scary man-hater” (with big dogs) you might manage to get away with your quiet, retiring life for a few more years without being dragged off to the femme-submissive re-education camps.

  2. Excellent post, STTT. I don’t have much more to say than that I feel a lot of that, and I hear you.

  3. Is homeschooling really that big, Slave2TehTink? I mean, how widespread is it? Is it on the increase?

  4. Helen,
    The impression I get (and I really don’t move extensively in religious right circles, so my impression may be inaccurate) is that it is, indeed, on the rise. The few homeschoolers I’ve known who aren’t doing it for religious reasons complain that the commercially available materials are overwhelmingly skewed towards a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian viewpoint.
    But all I’ve really got is anecdata and impressions gleaned from documentaries like Jesus Camp (scariest move I’ve ever seen) and books like Rapture Ready.

  5. Helen: It’s not SUPER common, but it’s common enough, I gather, compared to Australia and the UK. According to the US Department of Education, over one million children in the US were homeschooled in 2003.

  6. Homeschooling is on the rise, and the materials are overwhelmingly skewed to the religious.
    The “make money on the internet” scams include the mantra that with the freedom they will provide you, one can school one’s kids at home and teach them the values which are important to you. The dog-whistle subtext in that is aimed at the homeschooling RR, which is of the opinion they are in the majority (America is a Xtian nation) and oppressed. Neat trick that (sort of like McCain/Palin who are telling you they’ve been fighting the Republican Party for years, which is why you ought to vote… Republican).
    And yes, being a liberal in the Army is a tough road to walk. It’s not quite as lonely as STTT posits, but the amount of left-leaning which one accepts as a fellow traveller can be really small, and I used to keep my opinions to myself a lot more.
    Now I care less, and speak up more, but it’s still a strange; and lonely, feeling.

  7. Bene,
    Great link to the US Dep’t of Education. I notice that 72% of parents listed “to provide religious or moral instruction” as an applicable reason they were homeschooling their children, but only 16.5% felt it was the most important reason. Interesting.
    Still pretty scary, but interesting.

  8. STTT: Thanks. Unfortunately they haven’t done any studies in the last five years, but the rise between the Clinton admin and the WBush admin is pretty shocking.

  9. It must be tough trying to find resources and community if you’re a non-RR homeschooler in the USA. I rather feel for those people.

  10. From what I’ve heard from lefty homeschooling parents on a crafty board I frequent, it’s not only difficult to get the same amount of infrastructure for schooling, it’s also socially sort of awkward if you’ve outside of the major metro areas. People automatically assume ‘oh, you’re one of us’.

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