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PORTSIDE  December 2010, Week 5

PORTSIDE December 2010, Week 5

Subject:

Feminist Human Rights vs. the Conning of Patriotism

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 22:23:43 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (124 lines)

Feminist Human Rights vs. the Conning of Patriotism

by Kathleen Barry

On The Issues Magazine
December 29, 2010

http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com/cafe2/article/130

Although more women are joining the military than ever
before and some are seeing combat, women's primary role, as
far as the military is concerned, is patriotic. Not just any
kind of patriotism is expected of women; they are expected
to eagerly send their sons and husbands and lovers and
partners and fathers off to combat.

Then women are to turn away and not see what actually occurs
in combat. Under cover of sacrificing their lives for the
United States of America, their loved ones are killing
randomly, without remorse, otherwise known as murder. That
is how they are trained, actually brainwashed.

"Collateral Murder," the WikiLeaks video, allegedly leaked
by Private First Class Bradley Manning, is what remorseless
killing looks like. As civilians are mowed down from a
hovering helicopter, the soldiers are joking and cheering.
In research for Unmaking War, Remaking Men, I found that
random killing is everyday life for U.S. soldiers in Iraq
and Afghanistan.

As a feminist, it is not difficult to see how the military
exploits masculinity for war. Regardless of the gender of
the soldier dropping the bomb or pulling the trigger,
violent, aggressive masculinity underpins the military's
amorality of remorseless killing, institutionalizes it and
rewards it.

Nevertheless, in writing about combat in Iraq and
Afghanistan to understand the wars we have to unmake, I
found myself confronted with conflicting "values," using the
term loosely for a moment. Most blatant is how the value of
patriotism in war time elevates sacrifice for one's country
over the value of human life. The military, claiming to
defend its country, teaches soldiers to value the lives of
their buddies over their own, which keeps them fighting, as
it would be unmanly to not protect your buddy. Meanwhile,
they treat anyone who is not their military buddy in a
combat zone as an enemy whose life has no value, who the
soldiers are trained to think of as not even having a life.

Yet, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights assures all
human beings of their right to live, and to live in dignity
and peace. This is where I began in constructing the
feminist human rights paradigm that shaped the book I was
writing. Refusing to allow this study of masculinity and war
to be driven by beliefs -- in patriotism, in religion with
all of their patriarchal trappings -- I consider the value
of human beings' lives to be sacrosanct, beyond debate, and
like universal human rights, unconditional.

Likewise, for me, being human is being interconnected with
each other, that is, to be very clear, each with all others.
Soldiers' revulsion to killing other human beings is but one
evidence of how deep that interconnection goes. It is driven
by our life force (or spirit) that propels human beings to
save others whose lives are at risk. That is why the
military must train them intensively if they are to get them
to kill without remorse.

The issue of feminist values then is not what one believes
but how we frame the knowledge upon which we act. In the
case of masculinity and war, even the Geneva Conventions --
which accepts war as inevitable -- was of no use to me in
establishing the values from which my book would be written.

Finally, I defined the values underpinning my study of war
in this way:

"This new framework of understanding is a human rights
paradigm because it places the dignity of human beings and
their rights above all other considerations. It is a
feminist paradigm because it confronts the power of
masculinity as it is socialized and constructed for war as
well as female complicity in that power. And yet because
shared human consciousness transcends nationalities
(nationalism), races, ethnicities, classes and gender, this
feminist human rights paradigm is global, encompassing all
human beings."

Feminists, bless our hearts, are everywhere, including in
war zones, where clarity of values is a matter of life or
death. I see it in Afghan women who reject "fundamentalist
warlords and misogynist terrorists," as Malalai Joya
identifies the enemies of women in her homeland. I see it in
Code Pink activism. And I see it in men in combat who are
refusing to fight and kill. Our activism in concert with
universal human rights becomes a feminist human rights
paradigm that reaches many.

[Kathleen Barry, Professor Emerita, is a sociologist and
feminist activist whose first book, Female Sexual Slavery
(1979) launched a global movement against trafficking in
women. Her latest book, Unmaking War, Remaking Men: How
Empathy Can Reshape Our Politics, Our Soldiers and Ourselves
was published in October, 2010. See www.unmakingwar.net ]

___________________________________________

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