Two contrasting stories for you this morning, so let's get right to it.
We have a lot of veterans in the United States right now, due to our decades-long state of war. War and killing does remain a male-dominated industry, but approximately 10% of those veterans are women, and many of them have seen combat.
The V.A. medical system is intended to care for those who served; except it is extremely closed-minded and exclusionary in most respects.
I enlisted in the Army in 2003, spending four years as a medic, including a 12-month deployment to Iraq. My body and mind paid the price and, when I separated from the service in 2007, I had both seen and unseen injuries that I wouldn't share with a Department of Veterans Affairs health care provider for years. I waited for many reasons, but one lives in a moment.
When I left the military, I met with a psychologist who told me, "You do not deserve care for your mental health. You are a woman."
I stared at the Ansel Adams photograph behind his head. It was a black and white waterfall. My stepmom had one just like it.
"OK, thank you" was all I said.
I am not sure where this idea comes from amongst veterans that there is only one pie, and we are all fighting for a piece of it. It is not true.
My care will not replace your care. I am not taking a piece of your pie. I don't want your pie; moreover, I don't need your pie. I need cake.
What I mean is, women's health care looks substantially different from men's health care. The resources we are seeking are separate and outside of what men are seeking. But having a robust VA health care system that is equipped to handle a large variety of issues benefits everyone, including he, his and him.
That last argument, that purposefully including women excludes men, is one that is raised around a lot of topics.
Please consider that men are the default. They are the known, the guaranteed.
In this instance, no one questioned men's right to access VA health care.
No one ever told a man that being a man excluded him. No mission statement ever called into question the value of the service of men. No one ever weighed men's right to the knowledge of care against the cost of updating words.
This will not change. Men will be included, as they have always been included.
This debate, like all debates around women's health, puts us in the position of fighting to justify why we deserve what men are freely given.
The new mission statement, "To fulfill President Lincoln's promise to care for those who have served in our nation's military and for their families, caregivers, and survivors," is just that, a statement.
There is no debate.
Ah, except there is a debate. I shouldn't have to tell you where the most violent opposition to this sort of thing
is coming from, but their initials are "G", "O", and "P".
House Republicans expect to press forward with legislation targeting Pentagon policies they view as "woke" despite recent attempts by Defense Department officials to defend initiatives aimed at diversifying the force.
At several congressional hearings over the last month, top department officials and military officers have attempted to swat down GOP attacks that diversity and inclusion efforts are distracting from warfighting, arguing that the efforts are needed to attract a younger, more socially conscious generation -- and in some cases are required by law.
Asked recently by Military.com whether the Pentagon's testimony has satisfied Republicans or if he expects there to be anti-woke provisions in the annual, must-pass defense policy bill, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., promised that "there'll be some legislation." Still, he added, it's too early in the process to say exactly what the language in the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, will be.
Republicans came into the House majority at the beginning of the year vowing to target Pentagon policies they deem to be woke. The term, which originated as Black slang to describe someone who is mindful of racial and social injustices, has been adopted by Republicans and others on the political right to describe what they see as a more general and destructive preoccupation with social justice among those on the political left.
The term, especially on Capitol Hill, has also more recently become a nebulous insult for left-leaning policies Republicans disagree with.
The GOP has cited the Pentagon's preparations for climate change and the now-scuttled COVID-19 vaccine mandate, as well as President Joe Biden's decision to delay shooting down a Chinese spy balloon. The woke term is often used against efforts to make the military more welcoming to women, minorities and other historically marginalized populations.
Republicans argue such efforts take away time from military training and turn off potential recruits by injecting politics into the military. They point to military recruiting woes in recent years -- which defense officials have attributed to a strong job market, lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of qualified young Americans, among other factors.
"When I talk to people and say, 'Well, why aren't you looking to join the military?' A lot of them say, 'Well, the military has been over-politicized. Well, the military has gone woke,'" Rep. Cory Mills, R-Fla., said at a recent hearing with the senior enlisted leaders of each military branch. "We're saying that this new focus, this new shift, this new kind of woke ideology is not impacting recruitment and not impacting our readiness and lethality? I have a hard time believing that."
We all know that a house divided cannot stand. But that snippet of Lincoln's speech is somewhat out of context today. Read the entire thing, and substitute today's divisive issues.
We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.
Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.
In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed -
"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved - I do not expect the house to fall - but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing, or all the other.
While fighting no longer rages up and down the Shennandoah Valley, there is still clearly a battleground in the halls of Congress. Speaking for myself, we are still literally "Brother against brother", with clearly no end in sight. We have just had the anniversary, Bobby Lee surrendered 158 years ago this week.
Those wounds have never healed properly.