Can we afford to remain a land of eternal immaturity?
Anyone who reads this column knows I am no fan of modern culture with its crudity, inanity, and especially the constant noise which blots out the desire for all but the most shallow of pursuits. This noxious noise has rendered a large chunk of our nation incapable of any kind of deep thought. And by this, I do not mean only the corrosion wrought on the world by bad music, worse art and horrific cinema; I mean the degradation of our social mores to a point that allows these pervasions such great sway.
In days of old, young people had always been drawn to entertainment that perplexed and often disgusted their elders. But with the advent of the dominance of the Baby Boomers, a phenomenon has developed in that the ways of the kiddies have become the norm and their dictates have come to rule all of American society.
This is why anyone who decides to sit down and watch say, a football game — a sport which has been played professionally for nearly a century — must be bombarded with ear-splitting and taste-challenging “music.” The same is true for baseball, which has survived flappers and jitterbugs but now cannot apparently endure without the din of rap and heavy metal ringing through the rafters of its stadiums. Eternal youth for all through forced deafness!
Of course, those of a certain age know all too well the genesis of this. Lifelong irresponsibility is a child of the 1960s, one of whose many destructive mantras was, “Never trust anyone over thirty,” which seemed to mandate that all men must seek a state of perpetual adolescence, and thus, always remain “cool.”
Sports is just one example, where we tolerate the likes of Rex Ryan while venerating the memory of Vince Lombardi. But that’s just it; Lombardi and his ilk are treated like museum pieces; okay to visit now and then and even to raise paeans to, but to expect men to actually act that way? Prehistoric! But were it only confined to the spheres of sports or entertainment, its influence would be far less heinous. But sadly, this Peter Pandemonium has been spreading to nearly all walks of life.
I never thought I’d be more surprised or disgusted than when the hijinks of Bill Clinton in the Oval Office came to light. But nothing has so disturbed me as the sorry story of Captain Owen Honors, the U.S. Navy officer who, as executive officer of the USS Enterprise, made and starred in raunchy videos ostensibly produced to raise morale aboard ship. Since he was disciplined by the Navy, many have come to his defense, claiming that he was sacrificed at the altar of political correctness because of gay slurs on the videos. But I believe his immolation was the result of his own immersion into our national culture of eternal immaturity.
Yes, the content of the videos disturbed me but, as many have written, they were no worse than what passes for entertainment in today’s society, while the social conduct of men at sea has been legendary for its coarseness. But there was something else, something totally alien to any observations I’ve ever had of military men that unnerved me. So I contacted retired Navy JAGC officer, Captain Albert A. Reynolds, Jr., for his opinion:
The most egregious matter was not the scatological references, the crude and vulgar language, the simulated masturbation, the homosexual slurs or the feigned promiscuous conduct. What was worse, by several orders of magnitude, was the rampant fraternization in which Honors engaged.
It is strictly for military superiors to become unduly familiar with subordinates. Officers, and especially officers in command positions, must not relate to subordinates as equals, buddies, drinking pals, sex partners, gambling associates, or in any other way that might blur the authority and responsibility each party has toward the other.
For his part, the subordinate, by custom and law, should be conditioned to respect and trust his superiors. This is necessary because he must accept and react immediately to any lawful order given in the heat of battle, or otherwise. It matters not that a superior’s order may surely result in death or grievous injury to the subordinate. He must comply.
On the other hand, the senior must respect and treat subordinates properly and when appropriate, commend them, or as necessary, hold them accountable. Beyond that, the senior should train and equip his men and concern himself with their safety, security and well-being at all times. He must not undermine his own authority by engaging in any unduly familiar conduct with any subordinate, officer or enlisted. In other words, there must be standing, accepted, and mutual respect throughout the chain of command of a military unit that fosters a close knit and effective fighting force based on duty, honor and courage. Any officer who disgraces himself as Capt. Honors has done, clearly harms unit cohesion and effectiveness.
He was properly relieved of his duties, and I’ll tell you something else right now: any other officer having authority over Honors, including any captain of the ship or any battle group commander to which the USS Enterprise was assigned for workups or deployment, and who knew, or should have known, about this vast, ongoing pattern of fraternization, should also pay big time.
In my opinion, Honors should now be court-marshaled, dismissed from the Navy, stripped of his pension rights and serve prison time. He’s a disgrace and embarrassment to his rank, his ship, the US Navy, and to the United States.
So while we put it in different ways, Captain Reynolds and I were both disturbed by the same thing: U.S. Navy officers acting like frat boys. Which speaks to the true tragedy of the Honors incident: if our military cannot attract leaders who are mature enough to know the difference between morale and morality, we are truly sunk.