Thursday, May 06, 2010

Underwater Uncomfort

The tiny little man inside the computer tells me that this blog now has 200 entries. They got there in just under four years, so it works out to once a week during that time. I was a little behind this week and was thinking of shamelessly pointing to some personal favorites from the 200 for those who'd rather not go through ALL of them. Maybe I'll do it next week.

THIS week it's a target-rich environment, as the bomber pilots used to say about Iraq. There's the destruction of the Gulf of Mexico underway courtesy of a sunken BP oil drilling platform, the almost-repeated NY mass bombing that didn't happen, and the ruination of Boston's drinking water, which did. All worthy subjects.

Do you recall a few weeks ago when I talked about a conversation I'd had with a teenage girl, mostly about basketball? I concluded at the time that it was very dangerous to forget that the two genders (two MAJOR genders, anyway) frequently see things differently. This week I read that the US Navy is preparing to begin training women for duty on submarines. This has me, ah, concerned.
I'm not prepared to turn in my liberal credentials yet, and I have no doubt that the Navy has plenty of women who can measure up to this assignment. I'll even bet that they've been thinking about this little change for awhile and can rattle off ten problems, complete with solutions, for every one I could timidly raise. But I'm still concerned.
I think life in a submarine is about as unnatural as anything you can imagine. Spend weeks at a time below the waves living in quarters so tight that you can probably identify your shipmates by the sound of their footsteps, or even by smell. Add to that the fact that you're a young adult in the prime of your natural mating life. Plus, you could endanger lives with a single on board foul-up. My head swims considering all the ways these things change by adding ambitious, capable, physically fit women to the mix. With all due respect, we're not talking mixed doubles here, but a billion dollar weapons/espionage system surrounded by salt water, sharks, killer whales and a potential enemy or two.
It doesn't prove anything, but I'm not the only one to look at this and think "Yikes!" Groups of submariner spouses have also raised similar concerns, using terms that are less nuanced. Heck, I even wonder if they're asking the right question. Instead of preparing for mixed gender crews, I wonder if we can't in fact get all the information we need from around the globe and leave the subs in port. I know that building them employs lots of people who no doubt all vote, as do all the families of all the potential submarine service women. I understand that war's here to stay, but just can't help asking, "Does it have to be this way?"


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