Age of Innocence should be laid to rest

Enough is enough.

The next time I hear the smarmy phrase “women and children” — or even worse, “innocent women and children” — in the context of some past or impending human tragedy, the taut, stretched blood vessels of my frontal lobes may finally explode.

Let me explain why I’ve become so exercised about such a seemingly innocuous phrase: The other day on a political talk show a defense analyst — you know, one of those retired one-star generals or no-star colonels cable-news networks hire to gabble on about military strategy while using laser pointers to highlight three-dimensional maps – was explaining the advantages of drone fighter planes over those that require human pilots, the primary one being that if a drone gets brought down or blown up, no live occupant who cost millions of dollars to train would be lost. That can get really expensive.

But on the other hand, he mused, the disadvantage of drones is that once they are locked on target and zeroing in for the kill, they don’t have the capacity to change their minds, since, obviously, they have none.

For example, he said, a drone might be zooming in on a railroad bridge ready to release its bombs, when suddenly a train loaded “with women and children” appears. Farewell to innocents.

Well, I say there are plenty of guys (including me, I like to think) who are just as “innocent” as women in the sense that we are no more deserving of being destroyed, disintegrated, decapitated, disemboweled, or experiencing any other life-ending trauma.

I mean, are we men dog poop? Are our lives cheaper, of less value, because we are in some way “guilty” of some unspecified offense, and if so, what is it? (Maybe it’s leaving the toilet seat up. On the other hand, have you ever heard a man complain that his – ahem – better half leaves it DOWN? And what do women do anyway, back up to the toilet so they can’t see its position?)

Children, I can understand, because in fact they are more innocent than adults, having had less time and inclination to have “sinned” in some egregious way, and certainly aren’t responsible for the screwed-up world into which they have been involuntarily ushered. And in Aristotle’s scheme of things, kids also have much more of their potential to actualize, so this is another valid reason why their lives should have a higher priority.

But adult females — I seem to remember something that started in the 1960s known as the Women’s Movement that focused on what was once known as the “fairer sex’s” right to equal treatment in all socio-economic issues, such as equal pay for equal work and so on, down to such trivial matters as allowing their mammaries to swing freely, unfettered by the sexist constraints of the brassiere. Myself, I was and remain an enthusiastic supporter of the cause.

But to my way of thinking, this much-touted ideal should also include the obligation to be exposed to the same perilous, life-threatening events as the next equally-righted humanoid.

Still, I don’t recall the National Organization for Women insisting then or NOW that females no longer be denied the right to engage in military combat and place themselves at equal risk of harm. (Even though our country’s latest misadventure in Iraq has led to the deaths of a few women from bombs and bullets, the body count remains lopsidedly male.)

Now that military experts are busy convincing us that we’re running low on combat soldiers — boots on the ground, as they’re quaintly called — there’s talk of reinstating the draft, or involuntary “selective” service in the armed forces, regardless of what you might think of its goals. And you can bet such gender equality is sure to become a huge issue: Is it only young testosterone-filled males that will be pressed into service, should it come to that, or will our sisters, mothers and daughters also be sent to foreign lands to take on America’s enemies? (I am also a big supporter of this equal treatment, having been regularly humiliated by certain women while playing video games – the very kind President Ronald Reagan once observed would make our kids great fighter pilots.)

Just think how it would boost the level of patriotism here at home. Even if it wasn’t true, the saga of Jessica Lynch – shooting it out with bearded Muslim fanatics until her gun jammed, being captured, tortured and then heroically rescued – made many good Americans much more enthusiastic about Operation Iraqi Freedom (or is that Operation Iraqi Oil?).

Anyway, my concern is not entirely selfish. For as long as women are considered somehow special by society – more sensitive and vulnerable, less capable of inflicting violence and causing mayhem – we calloused, pugnacious and sexist fellows will very likely reflect such attitudes, and treat them accordingly.

Here, innocent little lady, let me get that door – and you don’t mind if I grab a little butt on your way past, do you? After all, I’m the caveman that fights your battles and wins your bread. All you have to do is cook and clean and bear the occasional offspring.
And I do hope it’s a boy.

Or at least an innocent girl.

(My wife, who is equal to anyone I’ve ever known and superior to most, told me I should stop being so serious and try to write something funny. So I do hope you’re laughing . . . or guffawing . . . or smiling, at least. I’m not really a beast, really I’m not.)

From David Long, May 2004.