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April 13, 2009

So I just finished reading “I Love a Man in Uniform” by Lily Burana (which is excellent and super engaging BTW) and there was one particular nugget of wisdom and insight- among many- that had me instantly running over to my computer to post about it. Here it is (from Chapter 8 for any of you who already have her book):

“The weirdest thing about West Point? No one discussed the war. … In my “civilian” friendships, your opinion is like your fingerprint, a critical marker of your identity. We talked about the war all the time, pro or con. It was a political football tossed back and forth in constant conversational play. But at West Point, I never conversed about the political or moral ramifications of the war. … The depth of candor surrounding the domestic ramifications of the current conflict was astonishing. But what we thought of the war itself? It never came up. Not even once.” -Lily Burana

YES! That is the problem! That is why we have LeftFace! That is why we are trying to open up the dialogue about what it means to be a military spouse and how to reconcile personal opinions (and politics) with our husband’s careers and the culture of the military.

It isn’t about bashing one view or extolling the virtues of any given political party. It is about SHARING. It is about the exchange of thoughts and ideas. It is about openly and honestly talking about the very issues that our loved ones must enact. We SHOULD be talking about this war. We MUST be questioning policies. We NEED to engage each other about these topics! Why? Because every last bit of these policies directly affect us, the 1%. I refuse to just take what someone (especially our government, regardless of who is running it) tells me at face value. I was taught to think outside the box, to analyze the situations, problems and resolutions put in front of me. I was molded into a critical thinker, not only by my parents, but by my educational institutions and my life experiences. None of that changed when I became an Army wife.

Furthermore, our husbands (et al) can’t speak up or out again these policies, administrations and plans (per The Uniform Code of Military Justice or UCMJ). They are bound by military law and expectations not to speak out against the CinC and US policies (past and present). All of that is well and good for the Army (or insert appropriate service branch here). But what would it say about us as spouses and loved ones to not critically think about these issues that so strongly affect them and by default us and our families? Would you ever NOT critically look at the policies & practices behind your child’s school or health care? Would you not challenge commonly accepted notions, stereotypes and policies that affects your ailing parent, struggling friend or even yourself? Of course not… and why should this be any different?

A few weeks ago one of our contributors wrote a thoughtful piece about the War in Afghanistan… why we are there, how can we be successful, what is the measure of success? It was a well written post chock full of honesty and very good questions about motivation and how to move forward, not to mention sincere concerns over the human toll of this war. But in a different forum a week later, we (all of us at LF, not just neverapartinheart) were slammed by another blogger as being disparaging, unpatriotic, detesting democracy and generally disapproving of her husband’s service in the war (It should be noted that 4 of our LeftFace contributors, including myself, currently have deployed husbands). All because we were trying to have an open, analytical discussion about the war that is taking so many of our husbands away for a year at a time and placing them in grave danger. And I have to ask why? Was it because her politics don’t agree with ours (admittedly we are all pretty liberal, sure, but that doesn’t define everything about us and it isn’t the only thing that shapes our opinions, nor is it the sole reason we created LeftFace)? Or was it because we dared to disagree with the previous administration’s decisions? That we had the moxie to question what is being done over there? And in the end, what did her rant accomplish other than drive a few more MilSpouses apart over party lines?

Just because we are military, doesn’t negate our ability (and right) to be critical, challenging and open minded. It doesn’t renege our right to question and debate the policies, politicians and government who we are inextricably tied to. And engaging in these thoughtful, open, honest and critical debates does NOT make me (or any of us) unpatriotic, it does not make me a bad military spouse and it most certainly does not lessen my pride in our armed forces, our country or my husband. Thankyouverymuch.


PS: Look for an upcoming interview with author Lily Burana- we here at LeftFace are all excited to hear her take on the war, the Army and life as a (unconventional) military spouse.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. snarkynavywife permalink*
    April 13, 2009 4:45 pm

    Just because we are military, doesn’t negate our ability (and right) to be critical, challenging and open minded.

    Not isn’t it just our right, but considering we live in a republic, where each individual is sovereign, I’d say it’s our duty to question the rule-makers and the majority and to participate in the dialogue. Considering we often have to speak on behalf of our entire family (when our spouses cannot for political or career reasons), we’re all the more obligated.

    Great post, Tucker! I can’t wait to hear from Lily Burana. She sounds like a firecracker.

  2. April 13, 2009 5:04 pm

    Thank you for this, Tucker.

    I am a wife, mother, daughter, friend, aunt, educator, activist, crafter, runner…and a milspouse. My husband’s choices in life do not define me any more than my choices define him. Sure, his choices may challenge me and inspire me, but they do not define me. And I hope they never will.

    My mother has a saying, that a marriage is a “culture of two.” My culture may very well be different than other milspouses but I would no sooner judge what works for someone else’s marriage than I would judge what works for someone else’s life.

  3. LAW permalink
    April 13, 2009 5:26 pm

    Thirty one years ago, I went down the aisle – and Chief was wearing Dress Blues at the time. After many years as a milspouse – Active, National Guard/Reserve and now Active again – I always want to ask this one question. WHY is it wrong for me to ask questions? to demand answers from my elected officials and WHY is it traitorous (and I’ve been called worse) for me to NOT agree with a decision made by those elected officials? When I walked down that aisle, I didn’t promise to stop thinking/questioning, or having my own opinions. For me, it would be the height of insincerity NOT to!


  4. April 13, 2009 5:47 pm

    I’ll never understand the habit of calling those opposed to the wars we are currently fighting “unpatriotic”.
    Why do people believe that every single member of the military and their families must think the same way about every mission and policy they are required to carry out, without question? (I’m not talking about following orders in battle, here. I understand that is a completely different topic.)
    No organization can grow, change, improve if there are never any new ideas or dissenting thoughts.
    I’m not saying that one way of thinking is better than another. Or that one is right and one is wrong.
    Just that we be allowed to have our own thoughts, opinions, ideas and not be accused of being un-American or unpatriotic.
    Excellent post, Tucker.

  5. FOW permalink
    April 14, 2009 2:03 am

    When the war started there was a time where I felt I was branded unpatriotic because I had the audacity to ask questions but I’ve never ONCE felt that coming from another Milspouse only those in the civiilan world who have no idea what our lives are. With that said my husband is in the Navy and I think the Navy as a whole is more liberal. You hear conversations about the war all over base…some for and some againist!

  6. April 14, 2009 5:59 am

    I started in the political arena in 1995 with a national organization which centered itself on education and equity for women and girls. We worked a lot on community projects as well as public policy analysis. I worked with lawyers, educators, activists and politicians. Let’s just say, I learned to ask questions.

    So it seems very natural to me to ask questions –not only about our nation’s global political positions, but also on everything from farm subsidies to taxation. Just because we’re milspouses doesn’t mean we forfeit our right to articulate our views, to ask pertinent questions, and to address them to the individuals we see fit. What better group to help forge change and to bring attention to issues that others on the outside might overlook?


  7. April 14, 2009 11:07 am

    FOW – you have been lucky. I’ve been told that if my husband is hurt during this deployment, it will be my fault because of who I voted for – this from someone who knows me, knows my husband, and is serving member of the military. I’ve been told that I have to support the war or I’m not actually supporting my husband and the other troops. I’ve been accused, by other milspouse bloggers, of being a traitor, and then there was this rocket scientist, who basically epitomizes the lurker who occasionally spews this bile –

    “Let me see. You say you’re a liberal Army wife. Impossible. If your husband serves Honorably, he would be smart enough to not marry lib trash. You’re a democrat so that makes you lazy, useless, reliant on others for a handout. You support the idiots who got our country nuked, the ones who are going to ruin this country, the ones who are rewriting the Constitution. This country needs Flag flying Americans. Not Flag burning Osamacrats. This country needs honorable people, not cowards like the Bin Rotten Shitons or Osama Bin Kerry.

    Yes I am in the Military, serving honorably and keeping our country from getting blown up again. Because Liberals despise America, there is no possible way those cowards could serve a day in the Military at all. Libs need to be spit on like Kerry, Hillary, and Osama do to us.

    We need to support our troops in the best possible way. That’s why the Libtard Terrorist Organizations need to keep Socialist Hitlery Rotten and Raghead Barack Osama away from the White House. We dont need another 9/11. After all, real Americans would never vote Democrat or let Libtrash destroy the free world.”

    So. While I hope this knuckle dragger isn’t in the military, this is not the only time I have been subjected to this. Fortunately, I found some like minded bloggers, and that has been a comfort. I have a good friend, she and I work together on projects including being co founders of ParentsZone. She is a very conservative Republican, I’m not. We agreed a LONG time ago not to discuss politics, we disagree with each other respectfully.


    • snarkynavywife permalink*
      April 14, 2009 3:44 pm

      Shut the front door! I’m going to show my uber-liberal husband this here fine piece of writing. Holy crap. How does this neanderthal reconcile liberals who serve honorably in the military? Geez.

    • April 14, 2009 11:00 pm

      OMG I just snorted water out my nose. 10 to 1 that nutjob didn’t make it through boot camp.

    • April 14, 2009 11:16 pm

      I want to give you a big, fat, virtual hug for having been subjected to such an ugly email attack.
      So here…

  8. FOW permalink
    April 14, 2009 11:25 am

    LAW I read your blog regularly…a link from there is how I found Leftface. I’ve read the stories and the garbage spewed by a few idiots and it’s one of the reasons I choose not to blog. I don’t open myself up to strangers for the criticism that you receive…you’re brave and I respect you for it.

  9. stephhn permalink
    April 18, 2009 1:00 am

    WONDERFUL post! And I have to say that this is now one of my favorite blogs.

    My parents are pretty conservative and I grew up in a military family. But even my conservative parents taught me ask questions and never blindly follow authority. I’m sure law school didn’t help, but it seems completely natural to ask questions now. My husband, in fact, agrees. In a participatory democracy it is our duty as citizens to question and hold accountable our elected officials.

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