Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Who the heck do we think we are?

I was watching an episode of JAG the other night, I'll pause here so you can all mock me for my viewing choices... Ok, got it out of your system? Let's move on...

This episode focused on a fictitious story of a female lieutenant in the Navy who was stationed in Saudi Arabia, and she refused to comply with the Navy regulations for how women were to behave and dress when they were off base. While the story was fictitious, the regulations were factual.

Women had to wear an abaya and a veil, and they were not allowed to drive, they had to ride in the backseat, and they must be accompanied by a man. This woman stubbornly refused to comply, and as I watched this show I got angrier and angrier, until I wanted to somehow reach into the tv and punch her in the face!

Do I agree with the customs pertaining to women in Saudi Arabia? No, I don't. Do I live there? No I don't. If I was stationed there, would I follow those regulations? Absolutely!

To my way of thinking, those customs may be archaic and unfair, but it is their lifestyle, not my own. What right would I have to go to their country and flout their laws? I also believe that if someone enlists in the military, they are accepting that they will comply with orders issued to them by their commanding officers. They know that their personal comforts will be put on hold for the greater good.

I started to feel not only anger, but shame as I watched this. It really made me understand why so many people in the world hate Americans. If their only experience with an American was someone like this Lieutenant who refused to put a leash on her pride and bulldozed her way through a foreign land without caring who she made uncomfortable, no wonder they hate us!

I know that this was not real, but it very well could have been, and sadly probably has happened. I can understand the feelings of frustration that a woman in our military would feel when faced with these restrictions. It would be incredibly aggravating to know that the men who you outrank wouldn't have to salute if you were veiled, to know that you'd have to have one of them accompany you everywhere. But I also see that true leadership isn't about rank, it isn't about showing everyone that you are in control. I think that a true leader would put his or her own pride aside and graciously accept the customs of the country that was hosting them. Wouldn't it be the sign of a true leader to show that you don't think yourself above the law?

I also started thinking about the "oppressed" women of this nation. I'm not being sarcastic or snotty, I put it in quotes because I wanted to show that while in my view these women are oppressed, maybe in their view they aren't. I can't pretend to understand or know how these women feel. And I think it's complete hubris to project our views onto an entire culture.

We take our freedoms for granted, and we assume that everyone else in the world wants exactly what we want. Maybe they don't. Maybe we don't know what's best for everyone else in the world.

I don't want this to sound like I am anti-military. That could not be further from the truth. I am so thankful for the freedoms I enjoy, and I am thankful to the countless men and women who have given their lives so that I could have them. I can't comprehend the sacrifices they have made for me, and that they willingly do it. I was just really affected by this episode of JAG and the selfish pride of that woman.

I know that I probably set back the feminist movement a few decades with my thinking, but I think that if we want to be respected by other nations, maybe we should show them the same respect.

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