I was inspired to write my first novel Inside the Skin (formerly The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailor) by life experiences I earned back in the late ’90s, early ’00s while working as a navy Equal Opportunity specialist, experiences the focus of which centered around the harassment, abuse, injury, and sometimes sadly even death as a result of the hatred for and confusion of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy which had recently been implemented throughout the military.
My fury throughout the whole last campaign to and through the election until now has never been much about politics.
Politics in this country, while they have been expanding outward toward the wacky fringes leaving the mostly moderate radicals (the rarity of moderates these days makes us rather radical) like myself quite lonely, have always, and hopefully will continue to, arc this way and that.
Because if our politics are not forever fluid and free to flow this way and that depending upon the tides of our national temperament, then it must mean that someone must have dammed up our river of democracy.
Anyway, I don’t know if you’ve read my about page but there you will see in one sentence how I feel about politics and politicians…
To me, politics is simply acting for ugly people. Pretty actors go to Hollywood; ugly actors go to Washington DC.
Consequently, as our politics arc to and fro in this country, our politicians arc right along with them…only always just slightly behind the arc as they forever fail in their efforts to try to predict its toing and froing.
No, my fury for the most part has been directed solely at Trump and his bent towards authoritarianism; which means then that the more he contorts himself into a true to life autocrat, the more he is strengthening his power at the expense of my freedoms…
They say, Write what you know…
And in response I say, Okay…
So when I began in earnest to write stuff for people to read way back in the early Nineties – what a great decade that was – about all I knew about life outside of my personal life which I didn’t and still don’t have the guts yet to truly explore, was all pretty much navy-related.
Hence, the stories I wrote at the time were all pretty much, well… navy-related.
And therein lies the primary challenge I have when it comes to convincing and conniving folks who look a lot like you to read my writing… and now, to support a film based upon my writing: that even though the stories may be navy-related, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are stories just about the navy.
Some of you, many of you, are probably new to this site so understandably there may be a few things about me that you just aren’t aware of:
Like, even though my undergraduate degree is in English – which probably explains my nerd obsession with arranging and amalgamating morphemes into new and creative and interesting ways for you to read stuff, my graduate degree is in a completely unrelated field (well, maybe it’s a little related) of Human Relations – which probably explains my obsession with trying to understand why it is you think and behave the crazy and unpredictable way you do.
To satisfy my morpheme amalgamating obsession, I began to write; to satisfy my relating-to-humans obsession, I took a few years off from my primary career field in the Intelligence Community (oxymoron, I know…) while in the navy, to become a certified Equal Opportunity Advisor, where I spent much of my time providing counseling and training in diversity management.
And it is this relating to humans-related stuff that I would like to think is what my stories, while even though they may be set in a navy-related world, are all really about…
Like, as explored in my novel The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailor, how do our perceptions and stereotypes influence our decisions when confronted with situations like homophobia and harassment and abuse?
Or, as explored in the short story and soon to be short film LEAVE, what was the environment really like for that courageous female sailor who took that first assignment to a warship with an all-male crew?
While these stories are set on navy ships during the Nineties, it is my belief their underlying themes and messages are relevant even, and especially, today.
Just recently Congress has authorized women to serve in all combat-related duties, not just some of them like back in the Nineties.
Right now there are courageous, pioneering females all throughout the US military – and throughout society in general – who are opening doors that have previously always been closed to them, and setting off on a course that clears the way for many more courageous females to forever follow.
So, yeah, we writers have always been told to Write what you know…
Just as you readers have always been told to Never judge a book by its cover…
I am very honored and excited to share our very first submission to the new Relating to Humans feature.
Before we get to the submission, however, I would like to say a few words by way of introduction.
You know, I am a writer, which means…I’m insecure. I am. Every time I hit the “Publish” button to release my stuff out into this wild world, I get more than a little apprehensive wondering if it’s going to be well received, or not. Such was the case when I put this new Relating to Humans feature out there. I was a little nervous, wondering if anyone would take it seriously; if anyone would care to participate.
Which is why I am so honored and excited to be introducing you to the poetry of becausethisishowisaythings. She, with her one submission, helped to validate what this new feature is all about.
Becausethisishowisaythings is a fearless twenty-year old (fearless as is evident by her willingness to participate in this new venture of ours), and her poem is an honest expression of how she feels about being a woman.
So please, take the time to read her poem, and, if you are so moved, maybe leave her a comment and visit with her and support her efforts at her own website becausethisishowisaythings.wordpress.com
Who I am
I am confused.
I am a woman, a girl, a female…but I am not very feminine.
My mother tells me to wear prettier clothes. My sister asks if I’m a lesbian.
If I’m a girl, does that mean I have to wear pink, do I have to wear flowers in my hair and make-up on my face, all to convince you that I’m a girl, that I’m a woman?
Do I have to wear revealing clothes and get drunk on vodka to attract a man,
a boy, a male?
Do I have to feel afraid of sex?
Should I feel guilty for being honest, and not a bitch?
I am a woman, I know this, but it seems other people aren’t so sure.
I don’t know if I’m a feminist, but I know what I want to be.
I want to be strong, to be attractive, to be sensitive, to be accepted, to be understood.
I want to be a good person.
A person. Not a label.
I am a woman, I am a girl, a female…but don’t try to label me with these things.
You may be happy or sad over the reelection of Barack Obama.
I, for one, am happy.
You may be happy or sad over the reelection of the Congressional Incumbents.
I, for one, am sad.
And, you may be happy or sad over the historic legalization of gay marriage in Maryland and other states and the legalization of the limited recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington.
I, for one, am beyond happy; in fact, I am completely and blissfully ecstatic.
Now, since I am happily married and have been so for over two score, and since my lung disease prevents me from inhaling any kind of smoke and my high liver counts discourage me from introducing THC into my system by any other means, I do not foresee me benefiting physically in the least because of the legalization of gay marriage and the decriminalization of marijuana use.
But I do benefit from it.
All Americans benefit from it because it represents a new mind set in our country.
A new hope.
Millions of Americans voted in this election to begin the end of legislating morality.
Yes, there will be legal challenges and set backs to these recent advancements toward the protection of our basic human right to live a life as we choose to live it.
Yes, we still have many states to go and many votes to cast before all Americans’s have the right to be human as each sees fit.
But we have just made a significant advancement, an advancement which sets the momentum toward even further advancement, and which minimizes the chance for significant setback.
And I, for one, am very happy about that.
An offering from POEMS FROM THE RIVER, a collection of my poetry that will soon be released.
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things.
The decayed and degraded state
of moral and patriotic feeling
which thinks that nothing is worth war
is much worse.
The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight,
nothing which is more important than his own personal safety,
is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free
unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
~ John Stuart Mills
We war, don’t we
We worriers for the world
You, Red Death Warrior
Purified to perform ancient rights of battles
And to stake patriot claims of fragile freedom
In hearts alien, hearts eternal,
Hearts ignorant of all you know
You know, noble warrior,
While you wander through the heaven of Hell
Raking the shit scattered pieces
Of bitter and broken promises
Into neat, heaping piles made ready
For the devil’s dusty full bin,
I, Warrior of The Forgotten Peace
Arming my chair of flaccid command
Long for the glory fight that I never had
The fight I will never know
The fight you will never forget
I would like to congratulate and thank all who courageously sacrificed their identities, and in some cases, their lives, in order to proudly and honorably serve their nation while Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was national policy.
September 20, 2011, will be a historic day for our country, and a special day for me.
It will be historic because the United States’s discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy will finally be put to rest.
And it will be special to me because I hope to release my novel THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR on that day in honor of the historic event.
But, like the cup half empty kind of guy that I am, I won’t believe either will happen until I actually see them happening…
But I’m hopeful it will all come true.
I can hardly believe that DADT is finally coming to end because it has been a powerful presence in my life since my decision in 1994 to work outside my career field of telecommunications, and outside of my comfort zone, to become a navy Equal Opportunity Advisor. My duties as an EOA required me to become thoroughly familiar with the DADT policy and to facilitate seminars and focus groups regarding it at navy commands throughout the Western Pacific. A key element of my training was not to just remind sailors that they could not ask about someone’s sexual orientation, but also to make it very clear since it had become an issue in the military that, just because their values or stereotypes or perceptions or prejudgments motivates them to do so, doesn’t mean they can harass or abuse or murder someone who they perceive has a sexual orientation that is contrary to their beliefs. I use the word “perceive” because rarely do homosexuals violate DADT policy by telling others, especially others hostile to their lifestyle, about their sexual orientation. Consequently then, the most likely way a homophobic person can be motivated to act upon his or her (mostly his) homophobic tendency to want to harass or abuse or murder is by perceiving a service member to be a homosexual based upon the perceived homosexual’s behavior or personal characteristics. Facilitating the discussion of such a sensitive, and often combative, nature for three years was very challenging, yet very rewarding for me.
If I can hardly believe that DADT is finally coming to an end, I can only wonder how one feels who loves his or her country so much that he or she was willing to join the military knowing that the DADT policy required him or her to suppress his or her identity and sexual orientation in order to serve. (Normally, because I am a man and because I choose a male identity for myself (It’s a gender thing, you wouldn’t understand…probably.), I would not bother with all the “he or she” and “his or her” distraction; I would simply just write “he” or “his,” just as I would expect a female writer to just write “she” or “shis,” I mean, “sher,” I mean, “her,” but I feel in this situation, it is important for me to highlight and reiterate the fact, in an effort to remind everyone, that both men and women have chosen to make this enormous sacrifice for their country. Talk about Patriots. All you heterosexuals out there go ahead and try imagining what it would be like to not only not be allowed to tell others who you love, but also to not be allowed to completely express your love to the person whom you do love. Hard to imagine, isn’t it, since it’s our privilege to not have imagine such an absurd way of life?
And I can hardly believe that my novel is finally going to be released because it, too, has been a powerful presence in my life for nearly as long as DADT has been. Consequently, I find it hard to believe that in a few short days I will finally be able to call the project complete.
And I also can hardly believe that my novel is going to be released on September 20, 2011, since it is only a few short days away and, because of a few issues I am contending with, I still have yet to complete the publication review process with the publishing service I am using. So, at this point, September 20, 2011, is more like a target release date than a set release date. But we’ll see.
Regardless of whether my novel is actually published on September 20, 2011, or not, the date will always be special to me since it was DADT, or more specifically, since it was all the harassment and abuse and even murder that was inflicted on so many service members because of DADT, that provided the unfortunate impetus for why I wrote the novel to begin with.
As you may or may not be aware, the end of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy will be officially and finally declared on September 20, 2011.
I honestly am very happy, and more than a little apprehensive, that its end is coming.
Additionally, in the spirit of my shtick, I am also not as honestly very happy, and a little more than apprehensive, that I have until September 20, 2011, to complete and release my novel THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR.
Why do I have only until September 20, 2011, to complete and release my novel, I hear you ask.
Well, how else can I best exploit for my own bloated self-interests the pain, suffering, and humiliation of thousands of those who served their country during the course of the life of the humiliating DADT policy than by releasing on or about the date of DADT’s death so that I can best leverage the public’s increased interest in the issue a book with themes that attempt to illustrate the same pain, suffering, and humiliation that those who served their country during the course of the life of the humiliating DADT policy experienced, I answer.
Key word in all that bumbling nonsense in the last paragraph: “attempt.”
But fear and puke not, for those of you whose stomach I just curdled:
And I certainly do have much woeful work on the novel yet for me not to complete between now and September 20, 2011.
Until then, you can check out the first five chapters of THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR at the “free reads” page, if you feel so inclined and/or charitable to my cause.
I joined the navy in 1983, which means that I served for about ten years when it was illegal for homosexuals to enter the military.
Even though it was illegal, I think it is safe to assume that there still were homosexuals serving during that time; but back then since I was young and singularly focused on doing all those things that sailors have always been renowned for doing…you know what I’m talking about: a yo ho ho and a bottle of rum and all that other fun stuff (wink)…I did not pay the issue of homosexuals in the military much mind. And as far as I can remember, neither did any of the sailors I hung out with back then.
Thinking back, I remember working with several individuals during the first ten years of my enlistment who were assumed to be gay, but it was no big deal. It was no big deal to me, to my friends, or to the command where we all worked. The assumed homosexuals came to work and did their job the best they could, just like everyone else and that was pretty much it.
The only time when my group of friends and I did talk about homosexuals in regard to their homosexuality was probably when we were making juvenile fun of what we saw as their eccentricities.
I am sorry about that. I guess I could try to excuse my behavior back then on the fact that I was young and a victim of a cultural socialization process that bent toward homophobia. However, while my opinions and attitudes have evolved since then, unfortunately, I am still not completely guilt-free when it comes to occasionally behaving in a juvenile manner, even though I know that this type of “harmless” behavior may be enabling someone elses more aggressive, dangerous behavior.
Evolution is a slow process.
Still, as far as I can tell, for the first half of my navy career, most sailors really didn’t pay the issue of homosexuals in the military hardly any mind.
That all changed under President Clinton’s watch, however. Once he made allowing homosexuals to serve in the military an issue, it became an issue for all service members — a big one.
Prior to Clinton’s presidency, I have no recollection whatsoever of there being any open hostility or harassment towards homosexuals in the military. I am in no way saying that there wasn’t any open hostility or harassment towards homosexuals for the first ten years of my career, I’m only saying that if there was, it did not leave an impression on my internal google, for I cannot pull up any recollections; nor has it left an impression on the external google, for I cannot pull up any major stories or websites profiling open hostility or harassment towards homosexuals in the military prior to President Clinton making it an issue. (My definition for major is at least a story or a website that makes it on the first page of google’s search results. If I have to dig deeper than that then to me it must not have been a major event. I know, that’s a weak rationale for a lazy research method but it’s what I’m going with.)
But it seems that once homosexuals in the military became a national issue, folks of all over the country began to take notice, especially the closet homophobes.
Soon afterward, open hostility, harassment, and even assaults towards homosexuals began making the news.
Presidential candidate Bill Clinton made allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the military an issue throughout his 1990-1991 presidential campaign.
This sailor was stomped to death in October 1992.
President Clinton issued Defense Directive 1304.26 which became known as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in December 1993.
This college student was pistol whipped and tortured to death in October 1998.
This soldier was beat to death with a baseball bat in July 1999.
And now, with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and with the nation’s attention focused more than ever on the issue of homosexuals in the military, we may wonder if there will be additional hostility, harassment, and assaults toward homosexuals.
I am afraid we may already have our answer.
Presidential candidate Barack Obama made allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the military an issue throughout his 2007-2008 presidential campaign.
Democrats began ramping up their efforts to repeal the ban in Congress in March 2009.
This sailor was gunned down and burned in July 2009.
This civilian was beaten by two marines in July 2010.
Maybe it’s a stretch to try to link these deaths and beatings to the fact that the nation is focusing on the issue of homosexuals serving in the military, maybe it’s not. Regardless, we all should hope for the best when the repeal is finally lifted sometime this year and homosexuals are allowed to openly serve. But while we are hoping for the best, we should also remain vigilante to the possibility that the risks toward our newly liberated brothers and sisters in arms may significantly increase as the nation continues to focus on this issue for the foreseeable future.
Because of my personal interest in this important civil rights issue, I have been closely following the national debate regarding the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell for some time now. My view on whether homosexuals should be allowed to openly serve in the military has significantly evolved since I first joined the navy in 1983. I believe, and have for some time, that homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly. I came to this conclusion for many reasons but here are the primary ones:
1. It is in the best interest of our national security. Our country is engaged in two active military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan while still keeping all of the other national security concerns–terrorism, Iran, North Korea, and many others–in check. Our nation simply cannot afford to waste valuable resources in any form, particularly its military resources. Our most valuable national and military resource is our patriotic citizens who volunteer to serve and protect our nation. Denying our military the service of patriotic volunteers because of their sexual orientation is not only shortsighted and stupid, it is potentially damaging to military readiness and our national security.
2. It is in the best interest of our national psyche. We all know very well that we are a country founded on the truth that all men are created equal under the laws of nature and of God. This is deeply instilled into our national psyche. Yet, we have had a painfully psychological, and at times very physical, struggle trying to turn this national belief into a national reality. We have learned from our long history of attempting to reconcile our fundamental beliefs with our country’s original sin of slavery, that when we as a nation say that we all are to receive equal rights under our laws while at the same time denying these rights to a segment of our society based on the color of their skin, our national psyche suffered deeply from it. We became dysfunctional, self-hating, and even came close to committing national suicide over it. The cognitive dissonance that occurs when saying one thing–that all men are created equal and are guaranteed equal rights under our laws–and then doing another–denying these equal rights based on race, sex, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation–is not only detrimental to our national psyche, it is damning to our national soul.
Much more work still needs to be done to ensure homosexuals receive equal rights under our laws, but as a nation, we can go a long way to securing our national security and improving the health of our national psyche simply by allowing them to serve openly in the military.
So it was with much anticipation and high expectations that I watched today while Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen briefed the findings of the “Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and then answered reporters’s questions. After Gates and Mullen finished their brief, the Co-chairmen of the study, Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Army General Carter Ham, provided a more comprehensive overview of the report and answered reporters’s questions.
I am still plowing through the 267-page report, but based on what I learned from today’s briefings on it and my read of its executive summary, I am very impressed with its thoroughness and its results.
Secretary Gates was asked how he would respond to Senator McCain’s claim that the report is the wrong report. McCain, although an initial supporter of the survey, quickly began rejecting the results once they had started leaking out earlier in the month, saying that the survey wrongly focused on how to implement the repeal of DADT instead of focusing on how the repeal would impact military readiness. Gates responded to the question simply by saying that while he respects Senator McCain, the senator is wrong about his assessment of the survey. And from what I learned from what was briefed by the military and from my read of the report’s executive summary, I agree with Secretary Gates.
By shifting away from his original position on the survey, Senator McCain has made it clear that is doing nothing more than engaging in the Republican strategy of blocking any political success for the president and Democrats, regardless of the political costs to himself and his party. Consequently, I have little hope that DADT will be repealed during this lame duck congressional session. Both our national security and our national psyche will suffer for it.