Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ft. Hood, respect and menstruation

Since I don't know all the details of the case, I'll keep the discussion of Ft. Hood brief until I read more. But I will say, for the moment, that I do not believe the shooting was an act of terrorism. Although the shooter had embraced a radical sect of Islam, it seems unlikely that the shooting was motivated by ideology, which is the definition of a terrorist attack. More likely, since the shooter was also dealing with personal issues, including possible mental problems, it's far more likely that he was another troubled man with violent, possibly psychotic tendencies that reached his breaking point. It's happened many, many times before, and will happen again, maybe on another military base.
On a related topic, I read a post on Facebook from a friend saying that he would defriend anyone who said that the military was unnecessary and never did anything for anyone. It received a flurry of comments denouncing "elitists," which I took to mean "liberals." While, as the title of my blog clearly indicates, I do not mind being called a liberal, but I do resent when liberals are called elitists. On a recent episode of 30 Rock, Jack told Liz that she needed to get in touch with the "heartland," where people are "kinder" and "simpler." A trip to a rural Georgia comedy club proved that the people in small towns can be total jerks as much as those in big cities. However, in big cities, since more people interact more often, the animosity comes to the surface more often in a more concentrated area. And while California, the bastion of liberal elites in the eyes of dogmatic conservatives, shot down the legalization of gay marriage, the very middle America state of Iowa has passed pro-gay marriage legislation. There are good and bad, liberal and conservative, people everywhere.
Where the military is concerned, I can vaguely recall a routine from the late great George Carlin where he is arguing against the automatic respect that those in certain positions, like police or military officials, have come to expect, which is encouraged by society. Carlin says that, for him to respect someone, they have to earn it through actions. I do not automatically give someone my respect just because they're wearing a uniform or served in a war. As the case of Steven Green in Iraq illustrates, there are soldiers in our military who abuse their power and enlist for entirely the wrong reasons. The recently executed Beltway Sniper John Allen Muhammed served in the first Gulf War, Charles Whitman was a former Marine, and serial killer Arthur Shawcross served in Vietnam. There are respectable people, even heroes, who have served in the military, and, on the other side, I don't automatically hate someone who has been in the military. But just because someone enlisted in the army does not make them a hero, or even a decent person.
The second installment of my reviews of the European Union Film Showcase: Slovakian documentary The Moon Inside You, which examines the myths and perceptions surrounding menstruation. In interviews with pubescent girls and boys, the stuttering comments of squeamish men, psychologists, gynecologists, and the incoherent babble of New Agey types, the director examines views of the natural, but hidden, phenomenon. The point made frequently, which got to me too, is that even modern women do not talk about their menstrual cycles, and, for many women who grew up in more traditional families, it became shameful as a result, making the mere fact of openly creating a film about it a brave act. While the film could have gone into more depth, particularly in examining the ways that governments and social scientists have tried to impede the progress of women by publishing "studies" that the hormones of the menstrual cycle deter women from fully functioning in the workplace. One of the more illuminating, and disturbing, interviews was with a (male) Brazilian doctor who has given women implants to stop them from having periods, and calls menstruation "unnatural" because it's so painful. It recalls the organic fetishists who seem to think that anything "natural" is automatically good, although this is not at all true, considering all the poisonous substances that occur naturally in plants (the cyanide in apple cores is an excellent example). Luckily, the director of the film was available for questions after the showing, and she mentioned that the implants offered by this doctor have been under investigation for causing severe health problems. The symptoms connected to menstruation can be so severe and so shameful that women are willing to have an experimental object implanted inside them to keep it from happening. On the other side, there were psychologists from Australia who advocated embracing the natural rhythms of the body, and, while a bit New Agey for my tastes, it still seemed more reasonable than implants to prevent the very natural, though annoying, process of menstruation. The director told the audience that, because of the topic, she's had trouble finding distributors, particularly in squeamish America, although an American education foundation has expressed interest. The element that put of American public television was a comment by a Spanish gynecologist that masturbation can relieve menstrual cramps (which, through research and personal experience, I've discovered is true except in extreme cases). The most illuminating part of the film was a discussion with pubescent boys, describing their impressions of a woman's period, mostly describing how awful and creepy it sounds, a view which, unfortunately, does not change as boys get older. Although I thought the images of blood that pepper the film were a bit much while watching, an audience member made the point that we see blood in action and horror movies and think nothing of it, but when images of blood are connected to a woman's reproductive process, we automatically recoil. Because menstruation is still considered a taboo, shameful subject. But hopefully a film like this one, where the subject is openly discussed, will trigger more discussion and thoughtful examination.

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