by Nikki van hiqhiowER
Never Give a Woman a Gun
I have always been somewhat amused by
the reaction of some men to the idea of
women in the military, particularly women
in combat. In fact, this could be the issue
that could block any resumption of draft
Perhaps I could better understand the
resistance if women were safe and protected in civilian life. However, there is not
a single little girl in our society that does
not grow up with the awareness that she
is not really safe on the streets, that women are perceived as easy victims of all
crime, and that they are the primary targets of rape.
As more and more data come out on
sexual and domestic crimes, we are also
becoming sadly cognizant of the fact that
the home is not a particularly safe place
for women either.
So, why all this fuss about women in
combat? When one gives the matter much
serious thought, it seems quite logical that
women, above all, should be trained in
combat techniques, first for a lifestyle that
demands self-defense, and second, for national defense. After all, life for women in
peacetime, will, in many cases, keep them
well trained for wartime.
I suggest that those who feel so strongly
about women not serving in combat should
start by saving them from their combat
roles in civilian life for which they are currently untrained. Once that is taken care
of, then we should deal with the issue of
women in military combat.
Another reason all this flap about
women in the military amuses me is that
it totally ignores women's past and present
contributions to our national defense.
During the Senate debate on the extension
of the deadline for ratification of the
Equal Rights Amendment, when Senator
William L. Scott of Virginia proposed a
substitute amendment which would exempt women from military combat duty,
even Barry Goldwater had to speak out
against the inconsistencies involved in the
effort. He stated during the debate, "As
the Senator knows, I have always resisted
women going into combat. However, today
we are training women in the U.S. Military
Academy, and in the Merchant Marine."
Senator Goldwater also quoted the following public testimony made by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
"When I was Commanding General
of the Seventh Air Force in Vietnam I presented over 200 Purple
Hearts. We do not give Purple
Hearts except to people wounded
in combat. These were women serving as nurses in hospitals, serving as
nurses in ambulances, and so forth,
which the North Vietnamese bombed.
So, before you talk about preventing
women from going into combat we
have to have a new definition of it."
Many women have been killed or injured in combat during all wars in which
we have engaged, and yet this fact gets
totally ignored in the debates over women's role in the military. Lt. Gen. William
B. Caldwell III, commander of the Fifth
Army recently stated, "I don't think we,
as a body politic, are prepared to see
women come home in body bags or as
multiple amputees." In a sense, he is right.
Although it has happened we, as a society,
don't seem to be willing to hear about it
or face up to the fact that it has already
happened. Since there is no demand for
women to prove their "manhood," there
is just no glory to be gained from sacrifices.
Is it really worse to see women in body
bags or as multiple amputees than men?
If the answer to that is yes, does that imply
that we place greater value on women's
lives than men's lives? It would be hard to
convince most women of that, particulary
the ones who have been the victims of
male violence. So if greater value of women is not behind this debate, what is?
Could it be the desire to keep women separated, disadvantaged in other areas of life,
and keep their image weak—so men can
Energy Crisis: Fuel for a New Era?
No single issue since the Viet Nam War
has brought into question the viability of
our government and economic institutions as has the issue of energy. Yet I
sense that what we have so far seen is
only the tip of a gigantic iceberg. The implications of the energy issue are so vast
that we can only speculate on its potential for change in our society from what
we know today.
On this issue, unlike that of Viet
Nam, it is not only the young who are
being most immediately and directly
affected. It is, as usual, the poor, the
elderly and those on fixed incomes who
are being hardest hit by rising energy
costs. Low income families, many of
whom spend half their budgets on energy
bills during the heating season, are also
forced to use relatively large amounts of
energy because they often live in substandard housing, which is inefficient
to heat and therefore especially costly.
Most of us who fall into the vast
middle class have already had to do some
conscious reallocation of our spending
priorities and, in some cases, modifications in our lifestyle, to adjust to rising
costs and shortages.
The problems related to energy will
leave no one out. As shortages continue,
the debate over allocation of resources
will draw in rich and poor alike. The
struggle for access is going to be intense,
for it is tantamount to the struggle for
Just as no one will be able to escape
the impact of shortages, nor will anyone
be able to escape the impact of pollution.
The reliance on money-making energy
sources has drawn us in the direction of
high polluting energy sources. "Un-
meterable" sources have received scant
attention from the energy industry.
Water and air pollution and the radioactive pollutants from a nuclear energy
plant accident cannot be confined to the
ghettos. We cannot put freeways around
it or over it, or build fences high enough
to keep it out of our bodies.
Acceptance is rapidly spreading in this
country that the energy matter has made
us vulnerable as a nation-vulnerable
to exploitation from the outside, vulnerable to exploitation and turmoil
on the inside. We're beginning to understand the tradeoffs that have been made
for the right to gluttonous usage of
energy. At this point, all alternatives
look pretty grim.
Disillusionment and fear are growing
that our future is badly out of control.
People do not know whom to believe
anymore, or if anyone really knows what
they are doing on the energy matter.
Cynicism is the order of the day.
A recent Associated Press-NBC poll
indicated that 68 percent of the public
still believes that the oil shortage is a
hoax. Many consumers anticipate that as
soon as prices get high enough, perhaps to
$1.50 per gallon, the shortage will at
least temporarily disappear while the
oil companies reap their windfall profits.
Regular reports of investigations, indictments and convictions of oil company
executives tend to confirm the worst
suspicions of the complicity of the oil
companies in the present shortages of
The nuclear energy issue has brought
a new and painful awareness of the limitations of science to solve our problems.
Science, the religion of the last few
decades, may not know what it is doing.
Some scientists vigorously resist this
demotion to humanity. They insist that
they still have the answers, that there is
absolutely no health risk from low levels
of radiation, and that Three Mile Island
only proved that the system works. However, hundreds of other distinguished
physicians and scientists cite nuclear
power plants as an "unprecedented threat
to public health." Although there are still
believers, it is becoming increasingly
evident to the public that we can no
longer place our health, safety and future
in the hope that some scientific cavalry
will come riding over the hill to save us
at just the right moment. David Rosen-
baum, a consultant to the General Accounting Office and a former professor
of theoretical physics at Boston Univer
sity commented, "The public has been
deluded into thinking that if all the
scientists just buckle down, they can
figure it all out. That's just not true
when you have a modern, complicated
technology. You just can't calculate
Probably the biggest toll in loss of
credibility brought on by the energy issue
has been the federal government. A
recent congressional report put out by
the Office of Technology Assessment
stated that neither the federal government nor the energy industry is regarded
by the public as a reliable source of information about energy. I'm afraid it is far
worse than the report suggests. There is a
serious question of whether our present
leaders, given the structure within which
they are operating, are capable of establishing an energy policy at all. So far,
they have been collectively incapable of
defining the "public interest." The immediate nature of the energy issue has
not allowed them to avoid the difficulties of long-range, far-reaching policy
decisions, as they are usually able to do,
through reducing them to a series of
non-threatening, incremental decisions.
The big stakes are high in this matter.
Everybody is into the act. Big money is involved in all the alternatives. These are
uncomfortable times for politicians, and
so no policy is being made.
Recessions, depressions, wars—these
are not unlikely outcomes of the present
So far, the government and those
economic institutions associated with
energy have not given us much reason to
hope for a secure future for our country.
Perhaps this issue simply outstrips their
capabilities for problem-solving. Let's
hope that their impotence and weakness
will draw out our strengths and creativity.
Maybe our present leaders are only
capable of functioning in a wasteful
environment. Now may be the time for us
all to rethink our lives, as well as our
ideas of acceptable qualities of leadership.
Maybe while we are sitting in gas lines
we can use the time to ask ourselves if
our technology has really taken us in the
direction we would like to go, if it is
enhancing our humanity or undermining
it, if we should be less willing to turn over
our futures to scientists, corporations,
and big government, and finally, if they
were so smart, and really knew what was
best for us, why we are sitting in these
gas lines, sweating, breathing carbon
monoxide fumes and fighting off rising
Dr. Nikki Van Hightower is the executive
director of the Houston Area Women's