The four best sailors of the year

(Note, July 31: comments continue to be posted in this entry. The discussion also has a follow-up in another entry.)


Reported at NPR:

History was made this week in a little noticed ceremony in Washington when the U.S. Navy awarded its “Sailor of the Year” award to four women.

The Navy gave the awards, among the most prestigious for enlisted personnel, to two hospital corpsmen, Ingrid Cortez and Shalanda Brewer, Navy reservist Samira McBride and cryptologic technician Cassandra Foote. Each was promoted to chief petty officer.

James N., who sent the item, writes:

You CANNOT make this stuff up.

You mean to tell me that in the United States Navy, which is 85 percent male, that there are NO MALE SAILORS who deserve one of these awards? I don’t know what’s worse—either the probable, which is that this was ordered by higher-ups and the deserving male sailors were screwed out of the award, or the possible—that these four girls really ARE the best the Navy has to offer.

- end of initial entry -

Dan writes:

I got out of the Navy last year and it is no mystery to me why they are all females. The most successful sailors I’ve known were women. What the Navy values most in its sailors keeping your uniform clean, filling out pointless qualifications paperwork, covering your ass and staying out of the trouble. The men who get their uniforms dirty by actually fixing things and maintaining the ships are tolerated. The ones who drink too much and get into fights and act like sailors are harshly punished. The punishment usually lasts at a minimum a quarter of their enlistment or until they hate the navy so much that they can’t function. The only people I knew who reenlisted in the navy are guys who got someone pregnant and had to support them or guys who are so afraid of the outside world that they rather get a guaranteed pay check at a miserable job than risk life in the real world. Oh and women. Women are really good at getting ahead, but they cry a lot and are usually unstable. The navy is the worst of all the branches of the military because the bulk of the navy hasn’t been challenged since world war 2. I’d hate to see what happens when they face a real opponent.

Vincent Chiarello writes:

Does not something about the photo of these four US Navy women strike you as bizarre?

Was there no opportunity for these women to have had their necessary supply of water prior to taking the photograph? Were the water bottles necessary props for the photo? Why is it that, when you see people walking with water bottles in their hands regardless of the season, as though the liquid was unobtainable and their lives depended on keeping the water around in case of a national emergency, so few take notice? Clearly this would have been considered strange behavior thirty or more years ago.

While she was Secretary of State, Madeline Albright went to Denver to deliver an address to a college audience, and while on the dais, she routinely swigged water from a bottle! I’m sure she thought that was her way of “connecting” to her audience, but it also demonstrated a serious lack of civility, something that was the sine qua non of diplomats. I’ve been in many conferences where bottled water was present, but so were glasses. Perhaps what this photo represents and the water bottles present are just another sign of the times in which we live.

Perhaps we can learn something about this situation from Horace’s Satires:

No poems can please for long or live that are written by water-drinkers.

a presto

LA replies:

Vincenzo, I see no water bottles, I see the “sailors’” hands hanging empty at their sides.

However, I have noticed the general behavior of which you speak since it began in the ’90s and have been stunned by it. Two main aspects of it: people, including high level politicians, at public functions, panels, etc., drinking water from bottles rather than from glasses, this unbelievably crude and rude act; and the constant drinking of water from bottles everywhere.

Here’s part of an entry I wrote about this in April ‘07 about the British sailors captures by the Iranians:

I’ve had the text of the letter by Faye Turney of the British Royal Navy to her “mum and dad,” reproduced in the March 29 New York Post, sitting on my desk for a few days now, as I’ve tried to come up with some witty yet appropriately shocked and disgusted way to describe it. But I can’t. The awfulness of it defies language.

Some believe that Turney did not write it herself, that her Iranian captors wrote it. Normally that would be a reasonable assumption. But I don’t think it’s true, because I don’t think any Iranian Muslim apparatchik could conceivably have conjured up this:

I want you all to know that I am well and safe. I am being well looked after. I am fed three meals a day and have a constant supply of fluids.

It’s that business about “a constant supply of fluids” that is the key. In the last several years, Western liberal people have become obsessed with having a constant supply of fluids. The idea must have spread among the politically correct that if you are not imbibing water every minute throughout the day, your free radicals might make you age prematurely or you’d get some dread disease. That’s why one of the most common sights in contemporary New York City (though the fashion seems to have declined in the last couple of years, as such fashions do) has been of people, preponderantly female, carrying a bottle of Poland Spring water in their hand wherever they go. They don’t put the bottle in their shoulder bag and stop and take it out to drink from time to time, oh no, that would fail to convey the importance of constantly drinking water, on the sidewalk, crossing a busy street; they have to have that continual supply of fluids. As though existence itself were a threat from which one could protect oneself only by the incessant consumption of water, or at least by the totemic act of carrying a bottle of Poland Spring like a weapon in one’s hand at all times.

And that’s why I think this letter was written at least in part by Faye herself, this symbol of the degradation of Britain and the West—miserable cowardly Britain that places aboard a Royal Navy ship this soft young woman, who looks so becomingly sweet and feminine and passive in the head scarf and robe in which her captors dressed her, in which she seems, well, entirely at home and herself.

[end of excerpt of 2007 entry]

Nicholas T. writes:

Just caught your entry on the “Sailor of the Year” awards. Amazing. I’m stunned that none of your commenters have mentioned that two are black and one is Hispanic. The whole thing is clearly in the interests of positive press. It is simply impossible these are the top four Navy employees of the year.

As for the water bottles, it’s an interesting observation. I always wondered if there was something symbolic in performers’ swigging from water bottles during the set. Certainly it might get hot up there, but there was a time when people did not do this, or at least were more discreet about it. I had a (female) coworker recently who interrupted a very long meeting so that people could take a, quote, “bio break”, which seemed like a rather clinical way to put things. Something clearly has been lost here—decorum, taste, maybe even a kind or artistic or aesthetic sense. “Bio break”? It seems overly clever but in the service of a kind of base materialism that I can’t quite express.

July 29

Michael S. writes:

You wrote:

Vincenzo, I see no water bottles, I see the “sailors’ ” hands hanging empty at their sides.

They’re not holding the bottles. The bottles are on the ground next to them. I count three.

Maybe the water in the bottle is a souvenir, to remind them that they’re in the Navy. Maybe it’s seawater! Maybe it’s part of the prize.

Lois W. writes:

What I find most pitiful about this picture is the unprofessional appearance of these women in their ugly, baggy khakis. Only one has the least military bearing and posture: the others look unfit and slouchy, if not downright dumpy. They look more like garage mechanics than sailors in the United States Navy. Could they not at least have donned a nice, crisp uniform of Dress Whites for the occasion? (Yet I see the title “corpsmen” is still in use in the Navy, even for females.)

Patrick H. writes:

Three of the women have water bottles right by their feet, ready to give them their “constant supply of fluids,” no doubt. Probably the fourth woman has a bottle next to her but not visible. Remarkable, really, whether or not the bottles were put there for them or they put them there themselves. These women appear to have had the staggering demand placed on them of sitting in some chairs and then standing up for a while. In the open air! With the sun beating down on them with staggering stunning solar power! And perhaps they were even asked to speak … and we know how utterly dehydrating that activity is. But none of this matters. It could have been a cloudy day, no speech required, no standing, no sitting, nothing. None of it matters. The bottles would have been there anyway. The supply of fluids must be constant. Constant.

It does raise odd Freudian questions about suckling at the maternal teat, doesn’t it? To say nothing of the bizarre modern obsession with “detox,” achieved by flooding the system with enormous quantities of water, as if bodily toxins could simply be flushed out of one in a kind of miniature solipsistic version of the story of the Augean Stables. (And another obsession … the unfounded belief that everyone is dehydrated, almost all the time, whether they feel thirsty or not. The result is that we are expected to drink preposterous amounts of water—eight glasses a day!—whether we feel thirsty or not. This is, of course, insane. Our sense of thirst is very sensitive to real dehydration, and we could not possibly live day after day in such a state.)

All in all, a revealing picture. And not least because of the utterly unimpressive appearance of the women. Their sexlessness is obvious … those weird little hats women in the military wear have the effect of robbing even the most beautiful woman of any hint of sexiness (the intended effect, I am sure). But don’t the women also look utterly bland, dull, unformed, and singularly uninspiring? They don’t even stand at attention well (except for the third, the black woman who does look as if she might have some character, some strength in her). And yet, they probably deserve their award. After all, no matter how unimpressive the recipients of the award are, and how much more unimpressive are the ones they beat. And ultimately, how much more impressive they are than the ones who gave it to them.

Ferg writes:

James N. says

You mean to tell me that in the United States Navy, which is 85 percent male …

Dear God, only 85 percent now? I did not know it was already that bad. Heaven help us.

David P. writes:

First, there are three water bottles, but they are on the ground. Clearly, one of the sailors does not need a constant supply of water. Maybe female naval personnel carry water to remind them that their service is water based.

Now for the personnel themselves, they do not seem particularly fit. Despite pulling themselves together for the photograph, three of them seem pudgy.

Also, from the names I would guess:

Ingrid Cortez—Hispanic

Shalanda Brewer—black

Samira McBride- black, but with a name like Samira—possibly Muslim?

Cassandra Foote—white.

If this turns out to be the case, then these four are not just the best personnel in the Navy, but have been carefully chosen for ethnic and religious diversity. Thus not only have men in the Navy been unfairly discriminated against, but also the vast majority of women in the Navy.

When the Navy does things like this, it is not just setting a very bad example but creating bad blood among its personnel. I pity these four women. Male sailors may just shrug it off, but I don’t think women will let these four women off so lightly. What will the Navy do when these four run crying to the administration?

Dan is right. Men tend not to be tidy. They drink far too much and get into fights with other branches of the military, or get into fistfights with Royal Navy personnel on foreign shores (it’s a cultural thing). This creates a whole lot of problems for the respective navies to solve. Far better therefore that Western navies be all female. Then we can be assured that our navies are “manned” by the very best.

Roger G. writes:

You wrote:

” … Faye herself, this symbol of the degradation of Britain and the West—miserable cowardly Britain that places aboard a Royal Navy ship this soft young woman, who looks so becomingly sweet and feminine and passive in the head scarf and robe in which her captors dressed her, in which she seems, well, entirely at home and herself.”

During the Second Opium War, a British soldier captured by the Chinese refused to kowtow, and was executed.

The Private of the Buffs

LAST night, among his fellow roughs,
He jested, quaff’d, and swore;
A drunken private of the Buffs,
Who never look’d before.
To-day, beneath the foeman’s frown,
He stands in Elgin’s place,
Ambassador from Britain’s crown
And type of all her race.
Poor, reckless, rude, low-born, untaught,
Bewilder’d, and alone,
A heart with English instinct fraught
He yet can call his own.
Aye, tear his body limb from limb,
Bring cord, or axe, or flame:
He only knows, that not through him
Shall England come to shame.
Far Kentish hop-fields round him seem’d,
Like dreams, to come and go;
Bright leagues of cherry-blossom gleam’d,
One sheet of living snow;
The smoke above his father’s door
In grey soft eddyings hung:
Must he then watch it rise no more,
Doom’d by himself, so young?
Yes, honour calls!—with strength like steel
He puts the vision by.
Let dusky Indians whine and kneel;
An English lad must die.
And thus, with eyes that would not shrink,
With knee to man unbent,
Unfaltering on its dreadful brink,
To his red grave he went.
Vain, mightiest fleets of iron framed;
Vain, those all-shattering guns;
Unless proud England keep, untamed,
The strong heart of her sons.
So, let his name through Europe ring—
A man of mean estate,
Who died, as firm as Sparta’s king,
Because his soul was great.

Gintas writes:

Men typically do the really dangerous and vile and physically demanding jobs. When women move into a once-dangerous field, it’s been tamed by men or is no longer dangerous. Thus, the Navy must be a safe place for women now. If serving in the Navy is a safe thing, that means there aren’t any major threats. No wonder it’s a hothouse for social engineering, the Navy is complacent and bored in its traditional task.

Richard B. writes from England:

The bottles are at their feet.

P.S. Am I imagining something or does the white woman look uncomfortable?

Randy B. writes:

I suspect when you look at the women’s records of those chosen as Sailors of the Year, you will find all three have at minimum letters of reprimand, or sexual complaint filings. My daughter is in the USAF, so I say this with the knowledge of its personal impact: women have destroyed not only the comradery of the men in the Armed forces, they have destroyed unit integrity, as they fight full time to stop men from being men. I have met some of the men with whom my daughter has trained with, and she is much more of a man than all but one I met. That is a bad statement of our military.

LA writes:

The sight of those three water bottles lined up neatly on the ground between the “sailors” (and there may be a fourth, unseen bottle to the left of the leftmost “sailor”) is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen. It takes the cultural significance of the Ubiquitous Water Bottle, as commented on me previously, to a new level. At the very least, it makes the water bottle an intrinsic part of the Navy uniform and Navy gear. At the most, it makes the Ubiquitous Water Bottle not just an object carried conspicuously everywhere in the female hand, like an iconic weapon wielded against an ever-threatening and dangerously dehydrated world; no, the Ubiquitous Water Bottle has itself become a bearer and recipient of military honor, standing at attention at a solemn Naval ceremony—indeed, standing at more erect and proper attention than the “sailors” themselves. The culturally mandated female hysteria about the need to have every instant at hand (and in hand) a constant supply of fluids has been turned into a symbol of the Navy.

James N. writes:

With regard to Cassandra Foote. No, I don’t think she looks uncomfortable.

She DOES look different, though. What she looks is ship-shape and proud to be a sailor. She does not look dumpy, she does not look angry, she does not look bored.

Perhaps Richard, in England, can only understand pride in service as “uncomfortable.”

When you look at her as a proud sailor, it makes the others look even worse.

LA replies:

I must say I have trouble seeing in the four individuals the specific qualities, whether positive or negative, that various readers attribute so definitively to them.

July 30

LA writes:

At The Thinking Housewife, Laura Wood has quoted Patrick H.’s comment from this entry. The following exchange then ensues:

Jenny writes:

I haven’t looked at the article yet but did want to give my thoughts on the water bottle issue. They are everywhere! People cannot live without them it seems. Now that my little one is old enough for the water fountain, I’m finished packing them around for him. Good riddance! I will admit, though, to carrying one with me at all times when we first moved out west. I was thirsty all the time, but after a few months, my need for water went down dramatically.

I don’t mean to offend anyone. For me (the family pack mule) it is so freeing not to have carry around water bottles and then have to take them home and wash them and have them sitting out on counters to dry. Freedom!!!!

Laura writes:

I was in a restaurant the other day and there was a little sign on the table that listed all the medical ill effects of dehydration. It said that if your water intake drops slightly, you are likely to become confused and unable to function mentally …

Think of it—every moment of our lives, we’re that close to a breakdown in our mental functioning! Only constant vigilance and nonstop water drinking can protect us.

But then what happened to the liberal idea that the universe is safe and nothing bad can happen to us? Oh, I’ve got it. The universe is safe when it comes to crime and predation, because man is naturally good, especially nonwhite men, and therefore every time a white woman is raped or murdered, no matter how reckless her own behavior or how crime infested the neighborhood where she went jogging alone, it comes as a “shock.” So the human universe is naturally safe. But the civilized universe is dangerous, because it doesn’t naturally provide us with a constant supply of fluids and therefore we must be attentive to that need every moment of our lives or else suffer a mental breakdown.

So, young women of America, go jogging in Riverside Park alone at 6 a.m., go walking alone in a provocative outfit at night looking to hitch a ride outside a concert stadium, but be sure to have enough electrolytes in your water bottle!

Mark Jaws writes:

I wouldn’t read too much into the water bottle issue, Don Lorenzo. With the high temperatures and oppressive humidity, military personnel are encouraged to have water bottles at all times.

Here is a little story for you. Back in the summer of 1984 when I was in Officer Candidate Schoo (OCS) at Fort Benning, our company participated in the retirement ceremony of some general who was the last of the WW2 generation to retire. It was a big deal at Fort Benning, since this officer himself has been a graduate from OCS and jump school, he went on the serve in one of the airborne divisions. The point is, however, that several of my fellow candidates while standing in ranks were taken ill by heat exhaustion. Beginning about 20 years ago, to prevent such injuries, the military ensured water was readily available to personnel during these dangerous conditions.

LA replies:
I’m all in favor of people drinking enough water. I’m all in favor of the military not idiotically and robotically forcing its members to stand for hours in the sun without water. But what we’re talking about here is turning water drinking into a cult. The urban women who guzzle from water bottles while they’re crossing a street, carrying the bottle in their hand (rather than in their purse or bag) so as to convey the message that they can’t afford to stop drinking water for a single minute; the politicians who guzzle from a water bottle (rather than drinking from a glass like a civilized person) while giving a speech or sitting on a panel, are not attending to some indispensable physical requirement; they are following a liberal fashion; they are participating in a cult.

Mark Jaws replies:

I am not talking about that cultish aspect, but rather what these best of affirmative action selectees had to endure standing out in the sun during their ceremony. I am simply defending the military in this case. I too had to endure the lunacy of standing in a parade field in 90 degree temperatures for one or two hours.

LA replies:

I completely agree that that is insane, and an example of the insanity that can take over organizations when they behave according to some protocol and not reason and common sense.

I cannot forget the 340 New York City firemen needlessly dead in the World Trade Center because their protocol told them to climb up a burning building, even though the fire was far above the level where they would be able to do anything about it.

I am not in favor of demonstrating toughness and courage solely for the sake of demonstrating toughness and courage.

Obviously I would not make a good Marine.

Patrick H. writes:

That was a funny discussion in general, wasn’t it? Lots of really good points. And what a relief to have a writer of the calibre of Laura Wood react to a comment of mine, instead of Dennis Mangan (who continues to sink, by the way, in every way a man can sink).

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how your posts on women’s appearance, demeanour, deportment, clothing, and beauty so often get strong reactions in the comments. It seems that a traditionalist perspective on these matters cuts to the quick in a way that discussions of foreign policy simply do not (except of course, when the discussion is about that country).

LA replies:
Re Mangan’s decline, here is something I didn’t notice before. First, here I am quoting him, in a VFR entry last week:

Mangan surpasses the anti-Semites

Dennis Mangan writes:

Why Auster Spends So Much Time and Energy Attacking Alt right

Actually, I don’t really know, I was just wondering. I did get a hoot out of this:

This is the amoral tribalism that dominates the thinking of the paleocon/HBD faction, and renders them incapable of offering anything of useful in the political and cultural sphere, because people who reduce all human values to the genetic and the tribal cannot build or defend a civilized social order. As I have been saying for the last twenty years, the neocons reduce truth to abstract universalist ideas; the paleocons/HBD’ers reduce truth to tribes and genes; both visions are false.

And Auster reduces everything to what’s good for his tribe, which he would I’m sure denote moral tribalism.

[end of excerpt of my entry quoting Mangan entry.]

Now, someone could disagree with my analysis of the paleocons versus the neocons. But whatever one thinks about it, I’d say it’s a meaningful and cogent intellectual analysis. Also, it’s a point I’ve been making for 20 years, and one that I’m the only writer or virtually the only writer to have made. Also, despite the fact that I’ve made the point many times, including during the years when Mangan thought I was terrific, he never disagreed with it before.

But does Mangan criticize it and say it’s wrong? No, he says he gets a “hoot” out of it. Meaning that what I said about paleocon tribalism versus neocon universalism is so ridiculous it’s not even worthy of a reply. He thinks his “hooting” at me is sufficent to show that my idea is rankest nonsense. In its own way, his “hoot” is as loud a confession of intellectual bankruptcy as his saying that I don’t belong in America and that I reduce everything to what’s good for the Jews.

Patrick H. repliels:

I have to confess I feel slightly ill when I read his blog, which I still do occasionally. He simply does not know how revealing all of his posts about you (he calls VfR The Israeli Conservative!) have become. He simply cannot find it in himself to retract his statement that you love Israel more than the U.S. Or worse, that you don’t even love the U.S. at all. Which is really truly utterly mad. Golly, what is the matter with him?

LA replies:

You wrote: “he calls VfR The Israeli Conservative!”

Further evidence that just about the only kind of argument he’s capable of mounting against me nowadays is taking an argument of mine, reversing its terms, and using it against me. Thus I call The American Conservative by the name The Palestinian Conservative, and he oh-so-cleverly gets back at me by calling VFR The Israeli Conservative. He’s become stuck at the pettiest and most spiteful level of ressentiment. Have any of his friends pointed this out to him?

I cannot believe such intellectual deterioration. And to my knowledge, no other conservative blogger, whether of the anti-Israel camp or not, has commented on it.

LA continues:

Also, the answer to Mangan’s question, “Why Auster Spends So Much Time and Energy Attacking Alt right,” is the same answer to the question why any writer writes about any subject: because he finds it interesting and remarkable; because it reveals something worth knowing about the world and people and the way people act and think. Mangan’s notion that my writing about Alt Right—or about any subject—requires some special explanation of my hidden, sinister, or neurotic motives shows that he has lost the writer’s vocation and is writing out of resentment.

And by the way, what will Mangan’s response be to this present exchange? Something like, “Auster is a hoot. Auster is an embarrassment.” Such is now his level of dialectical acuity.

And speaking of subjects that are intrinsically worth writing about, what could be more interesting and instructive than the spectacle of an intelligent, witty, and civilized blogger steadily losing his mind in tandem with his embrace of anti-Semitic thought-forms? Unless Mangan reverses his direction, he will be stuck forever being the man who wrote that Lawrence Auster doesn’t belong in the United States. Unless he repents his folly and admits he was wrong, he will keep digging himself ever deeper into the mental hell he’s created for himself.

Hannon writes:

What struck me about that photo, after the bottles had been pointed out, is that it is a setting unbefitting the occasion. The backdrop is urban and familiar, friendly even, like a chamber of commerce ad or perhaps an outdoor teacher’s lounge. How does this convey anything to do with the armed forces, let alone the Navy?

LA replies:

Before I looked closer and realized they are standing in front of chairs, they looked to me as though they were standing in front of parking meters on an urban street. Which gave rise to the thought that the photo was intended as a subtle reference to the Beatles’ ironic “Lovely Rita, Meter Maid,” with its (perhaps) sexually ambiguous love object:

Lovely Rita, meter maid
Lovely Rita, meter maid

Lovely Rita, meter maid,
Nothing can come between us.
When it gets dark I tow your heart away.

Standing by a parking meter,
When I caught a glimpse of Rita,
Filling in a ticket in her little white book.
In her cap she looked much older,
And the bag across her shoulder
Made her look a little like a military man.

Lovely Rita meter maid,
May I inquire discreetly,
When are you free to take some tea with me?

Took her out and tried to win her.
Had a laugh and over dinner,
Told her I would really like to see her again.
Got the bill and Rita paid it.
Took her home, I nearly made it,
Sitting on the sofa with a sister or two.

Oh, lovely Rita, meter maid,
Where would I be without you?
Give us a wink and make me think of you.

Lovely Rita, meter maid
Lovely Rita, meter maid
Lovely Rita, meter maid
Lovely Rita, meter maid
July 31

Kristor writes:

The whole water bottle thing is an attempt to control the uncertainty and fear that necessarily follows, somehow or other, inevitably, from a lack of conviction that the world is at bottom finally ordered. It’s of a piece with panic over the weather, and the need to keep always abreast of the breaking headlines, and to invest hundreds of hours in bootless wasteful fundraising efforts that, while ostensibly aimed at fighting dread diseases, are really all about giving participants the sense that they are doing something meaningful.

Roger G. writes:

Remember that movie The Gods Must Be Crazy. about a Bushman who find an empty coke bottle?

There’s a point to be be made here, but I’m not profound enough to figure out what it is. That’s why we have you intellectual heavyweights.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 28, 2010 06:46 PM | Send

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