Well, I was hoping to be writing this from Norfolk, Virginia, this being FTX Weekend and the Navy having planned visit Norfolk Naval Base and stay aboard the USS Iwo Jima. Unfortunately fate conspired against me and I am stuck here in Lex Vegas with an infected right foot. Fortunately, it hasn’t been so bad. I was volunteered to help the individuals in charge of the Corps FTX with making sure we have proper accountability of everyone. Besides the bleary-eyed staring at my computer screen, the infuriating complexity of Excel, and the want to
strangleeducate those people who put the various rosters together and do not understand the importance of alphabetization, it really hasn’t been all that bad. I’m looking forward to being healthy again, though, I absolutely HATE being sick, but I think that just comes with the territory.
I’ve also been rather busy as of late, what with the joys of being a Mechanical Engineer (i.e. late nights, early mornings, little sleep, and mind-boggling amounts of caffeine). But I do enjoy what I do. We also had a funky schedule this week. Between preparations for FTX and a visit from former Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She was presented the Byrd Award for public service, which she rightfully deserves, but I can’t help but see the irony in the fact that we awarded a one of the members of the Supreme Court who struck down VMI’s single-sex education policy, much to the chagrin of many VMI alumni. That single ruling did more to forever alter the culture here at the “Mother I” than any other event in our history. From my experience though, many of the women who have lived within the walls of Barracks have done well and are welcome members of the VMI community.
Whether or not Justice O’Connor deserved the award or not, many of us Cadets felt that her remarks were entirely inappropriate. I will leave alone her rambling oratory and the many segues and tangents she flew off on and how much it was without direction, I’ll leave that to the reader to decide.
She felt it necessary to address the admission of women to VMI, and I agree whole-heartedly that she needed to as it was looming over the entire event. She could have easily done this by simply stating that women have lived up to all of the hype and have done everything the men have done and that progress has been made. I don’t believe many would have objected to that as it is the truth. Instead she chose to state that women were doing well, potentially better than the boys, and that they should all be recognized as pioneers. I’ll concede that it isn’t so bad, but when she continued on and offered up the opinion that not enough had been done and the Institute should be more like the rest of the world and the federal service academies. You could almost hear the jaws drop to the floor. It was not here place, certainly not after receiving an award, to tell us what she thought about the traditions and stances of our beloved Institute. I can fully appreciate where she is coming from, a self-made woman who had to fight against the “good old boys’ club” in order to find a job in law, but society and the country as a whole have made monstrous strides towards equality since she graduated with her juris doctorate, and for her to even suggest that VMI change is dumbfounding. Women are equal here, I can argue no other fact. They are treated just the same as any male cadet aside from anatomical differences. We have a saying here “One Corps, One Standard,” and it is about as equal as anything can get. Women strain just like the men. Justice O’Connor can, quite frankly, keep her opinions to herself concerning matters that she has little understanding of.
Also, the very thing that makes VMI what it is is it’s resistance to outside change. It is a citadel above the rest of society where such integral ideals as honor, courage, duty, and sacrifice are not taken lightly. If it had changed with the rest of society, like the federal service academies, those ideals would have been tossed out of the window. If we had changed with the rest of society, the Honor Code would be a joke. The appeal of the Institute is that it has kept up the Spartan tradition, and breeds fighters. The boys and girls who walk into Jackson Arch are just like the rest of society, those that walk out are vastly different. If we change like the service academies, and we let in the political correctness, the “self-esteem is more important than reality”- crowd, the moral relativists, and the diversity police, we will suffer the same fate as the academies: scandal after scandal, terrible publicity, and those that graduate will not be citizen-soldiers molded in the likeness of Cincinatus, but rather politically-correct sheep in a world full of rabid wolves.
I believe her speech illustrated a major problem in gender and race relations, though. The country is vastly different than it used to be. The “good old boys’ club” is all but dismantled and there are no more Jim Crow laws, and yet we still have inequality. The problem that as long as we make race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious conviction an issue, it will be. The programs that we have in place to prevent this inequality (affirmative action, Title IX, etc.) do nothing more than replace one form of discrimination with another. The best policy is to abolish all of these. If you treat everyone with the same standard, and establish a merit system, race, religion, sex, and every other petty difference will cease to be a problem. Everyone is different, it’s time to accept that fact and move on.
As for the rest of Justice O’Connors speech: she rambled on for a good thirty minutes, admonishing us not to become war criminals, and sharing anecdotes about the Supreme Court that had no relation to what she was talking about at the time. She barely even said thank you.