The jig is up for military sexual assault

No fewer than 26,000 sexual assaults were reported by U.S. military service men and women in the year 2012 alone.

You read that right.

According to The New York Times, “Pentagon officials said nearly 26,000 active-duty men and women had responded to the sexual assault survey. Of those, 6.1 percent of women and 1.2 percent of men said they had experienced sexual assault in the past year, which the survey defined as everything from rape to “unwanted sexual touching” of genitalia, breasts, buttocks or inner thighs.

“From those percentages, the Pentagon extrapolated that 12,100 of the 203,000 women on active duty and 13,900 of the 1.2 million men on active duty had experienced some form of sexual assault.”

These numbers are simply unacceptable, especially when contrasted with the small number of sexual assault cases that were officially reported (ie, not via anonymous survey)–3,374—and the abysmal rate of actual conviction: only 238 assailants were convicted in 2012.

Lt. Col. Krusinski; booking photo

Lt. Col. Krusinski; booking photo

Most embarrassing for the military brass was the arrest last Sunday of the officer in charge of sexual assault prevention programs for the Air Force, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, who was accused of having sexually assaulted a woman he did not know in a parking lot.

Way to lead, Air Force!  Just when we thought the Tailhook scandal was becoming a distant memory.

I’m glad to see that some members of Congress—especially the women—are hopping mad and on the case, as today’s column from Maureen Dowd details.

Women who put their lives on the line to serve in the U.S. military deserve nothing but respect from their superiors and peers.

The question is, how is the military going to re-program its entire culture, from raw recruit to brigadier general, who have been raised to believe that “all women (and all gay men) want it,” that might makes right, and that superior officers can act with impunity towards those under their command?

How is the military—and, indeed, American culture at large—going to counter the billion-dollar American porn industry, that thrives on presenting women as objects of desire, yes, but also as objects of violence?

The truth is that what we’re seeing in military culture is just the tip of the iceberg of a much more deeply-rooted cultural problem.

Just as the military stood up to become the model for racial integration in the 1970s, it must now trailblaze the path to gender equality for us in the second decade of the 21st century.

Women who are now going to serve in combat, just the same as men, should not have to worry about “friendly fire” from male supervisors and peers.

To be honest, the idea of women breaking glass ceilings in the military does not thrill me.

I’d rather women work to create and broker non-violent institutions and solutions to problems.

But there is no excuse, ever, for sexualized violence against women or men.

The Lt. Col. Krusinskis of the world need to get their rocks off some other way, and the old-boy networks that have stood in the way of change on this issue have got to go.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, plans to introduce legislation that would take the adjudication of sexual assault cases outside of a victim’s chain of command. According to the New York Times editorial board, which supports the measure, “It would end the power of senior officers with no legal training but lots of conflicts of interest to decide whether courts-martial can be brought against subordinates and to toss out a jury verdict once it is rendered.”

President Obama said the right thing in response to the Krusinski arrest scandal, but it remains to be seen whether he can follow up his words with actions.

“If we find out somebody’s engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged — period,” Mr. Obama said.

Got that, all 26,000 of you who committed sexual assault last year?

The jig is up.

Election 2012: Avoiding the Same Old, Same Old In the Redistribution of Power

Bravo to Maureen Dowd, who nailed the delusion of the Republican party with her typical biting humor.  “Mitt Romney is the president of white male America,” she said. Just not of the rest of us.

And—surprise!—we are a hell of a lot more numerous and, in an honest-to-God democracy, more powerful than they are.

White male America did turn out to elect Mitt their hero of the privileged status quo.  Imagine their surprise to discover that a status quo they thought undefeatable was already gone!

Karl Rove

It was interesting to see the little white men behind the curtain coming out after their Mitt-marionette went down in flames—men like Karl Rove, who flat-out refused to believe, on national TV (Fox News, of course) that his horse had actually lost the race.

It’s true that there wasn’t anything inherently “less Presidential” about Mitt than about that other wealthy political scion, George W. Bush—unless perhaps it was Romney’s conservative, highly patriarchal Mormonism, evidenced in the remarkable spread of his lily-white grandchildren—even if, as far as we know, he and his five sons only have one wife each.

Romney family

Both Bush Jr. and Romney expected the Republicans wizards to deliver them the White House with minimal effort on their part; and in return they would deliver the Supreme Court and the dismantling of regulatory inconveniences for Big Business, while keeping the women in the parlor and the help in the kitchen.

As Dowd pointed out, “the more they tried to force chastity belts on women, and the more they made Hispanics, blacks and gays feel like the help, the more these groups burned to prove that, knitted together, they could give the dead-enders of white male domination the boot.”

And so we did, so resoundingly that even the most obtuse of Republican strategists must have gotten the point.

Women, Latinos, Blacks and queer folk in this country make up a majority, and if you goad us with sticks and prods, you will see us turn out at the polls in record numbers to kick you out and get our own people to represent us in the halls of power.

The election of 2012 marks the dawn of a new age in America, when the so-called “minorities,” buoyed by a wave of powerful women voters of every ethnic, religious and even political stripe, showed the Man who’s boss.

No, Obama may not be the perfect hero to lead this charge, but as a mixed race American and a thoughtful man who obviously loves and respects his wife and daughters, he will do for now.

Obama family on Election night 2012

After all, as Dowd concludes: “If 2008 was about exalting the One, 2012 was about the disenchanted Democratic base deciding: “We are the Ones we’ve been waiting for.”

The newly empowered voting block of women, gays and ethnic “minorities” (a quaint term that will soon bite the dustbin of history) must take a good hard look at the hierarchical structure upon which the white male patriarchy was founded, and which it upheld so religiously for so long.

Our Founding Fathers were as guilty of this as their old masters back in Europe.  And indeed those who have studied colonialist and post-colonialist politics tell us that the biggest obstacle for newly emerging political bodies, whether they be newly independent nations or, as in 21st century America, newly emerging political landscapes, is that as humans we tend to replicate what we know, rather than take the risk of imagining and executing something truly new.

Thus we found, in state after state, the ideals of Communism crushed beneath the iron boots of dictators who used the banner of Communism to re-enact the oppressive structures of the past.

The challenge for all politically engaged Americans as we move on from Election 2012 is to keep the momentum going, rather than subsiding back into the same old, same old of structural American power hierarchies.

President Obama introduces Sonia Sotomayor

President Obama, over the past four years, was not able to resist the immense gravitational pull of the Beltway, although he did have a few shining moments of independence, like his successful appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

The truth is, it’s not only unrealistic to expect him to be our knight in shining armor, it’s antithetical to the spirit of true liberty and democracy.

The 21st century is about the redistribution of power in all its forms, including wealth, politics and energy.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, and we have to create change ourselves—in our homes, in our workplaces, in our schools, in our stores, and in local politics.

We have to change our relation to the natural world, which has long held the sad position of totally disrespected base in the patriarchal white hierarchy.

No one is going to do this for us—not Obama, and not even Jill Stein.  We have to do it ourselves, and the time to start is now.

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