by Andrew O’Meara, Colonel, U.S. Army (retired)
The war in Iraq has highlighted the role of women in combat. Vivid images of raped and tortured women have altered popular opinion.
Congressional demands for protecting women have called into question the merits of equal opportunity for women in uniform. There is a dilemma. And flag-draped caskets returning the dead women soldiers aggravates the problem.
Demands for women’s rights resonate in an emotionally charged climate created by antiwar advocates opposing President Bush’s policy in Iraq.
Into this debate enters a seasoned champion of women’s rights. Jane Fonda celebrates the victories of feminists and the antiwar movement in her new book, “My Life So Far.” Miss Fonda presents herself as a leader, albeit an angry one, of both the antiwar and women’s liberation movements.
From difficult childhood to unrepentant dowager, we observe Miss Fonda observing Miss Fonda through rose-tinted glasses. For those of my generation, who cherish the culture of our youth, the image is sometimes grotesque, as Miss Fonda relishes her liberation from the worldview earlier called virtue: honor, loyalty, generosity, modesty, and self-restraint.
In the interests of full disclosure, I confess I am one stigmatized by Miss Fonda’s seditious libel during her triumphal tour of Hanoi. The juxtaposition of her self-image of triumphal liberation versus my revulsion by her narcissism and disloyalty calls attention to vastly different images of the liberated woman. The conflicting attitudes call into question mutually exclusive values. How do we account for the antagonistic interpretations of morality?
The answer is in the eye of the beholder. I admit my views are those of a victim of Miss Fonda’s condemnations of fellow Americans who went in harm’s way to oppose communist aggression. My personal commitment to duty, honor and country conflicts with Miss Fonda’s beliefs.
By her own admission, it is clear Miss Fonda has been a disloyal, intellectual lightweight, pro-communist feminist and an atheistic, apostate Christian. She glories in her liberation from virtue, from love of country, and from all we once regarded as the legacy of Western Civilization.
Miss Fonda’s view contrasts totally with those who choose subordination of self-love to love of country, family and of God. Miss Fonda appears as the archetype of liberation, dramatically contrasted with the ideals of men and women in uniform, who willingly choose self-sacrifice for love’s sake.
Most striking is Miss Fonda’s lack of repentance, though she regrets the bad PR over the anti-aircraft artillery scene in Hanoi that encouraged communist combatants at the expense of her fellow countrymen. No regrets is the message. Liberation uber alles. Do it all over again in a heartbeat — pacifism, hatred of America, support for our enemies, passion in celebrating passion, lust for hard cash, down with the unborn and the white male, and God reinterpreted in her own image and likeness.
The antithesis of liberation is nurturing, a quality both men and women may possess, though the woman is naturally superior in this vital, sustaining virtue of civilization. The repudiation of maternal nurturing is at the root of liberation. And protection of maternal nurturing is the hallmark of great cultures. It was celebrated even by the warlike Spartans.
War’s tragedy is it randomly destroys nurturing by quashing all feelings but anger, a condition the medical profession calls Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Therefore, war attacks virtue at its most vulnerable spot. In this, it strikes at society’s heart.
So what? Maybe we should think hard, as a society, about allowing our young women to take part in combat. This is not to say our women have failed. They have not. They have performed magnificently. Rather it is to protect our young from evils they cannot begin to fathom. And it is to preserve the virtues that sustain our way of life so mothers have the capacity to nurture, even when they return from war.
If we ignore the problem, our young women could end up like Jane Fonda — liberated from the most noble of all virtues and possessed by anger that destroys our own flesh and blood.
Jane Fonda will have done us all a service, if through her example we can recognize the danger to our culture from women’s liberation and the result of close combat — destruction of the capacity to nurture.
I recommend Jane Fonda’s book as a testimony to the sterility of life beyond virtue.
ANDREW P. O’MEARA JR.
Col., U.S. Army, Retired