Friday, January 7, 2011


Owen P. Honors, Jr. has caused quite a national stir, in case you haven’t heard. He is the recently dismissed commander of the USS Enterprise. Honors, who has served in the U.S. Navy since 1983, was relieved of his command because of videos like this one:

The videos in question were made a few years ago and broadcast on closed circuit television on the Enterprise. At the time, none of the people serving on the ship complained to authorities about the content, and supposedly no one in the Navy outside of the Enterprise knew about the videos. Honors was second in command, and a big question now is how it is even possible that his commanding officer, Admiral Lawrence S. Rice could not have known about this. It is also unclear how the videos surfaced years later. With scenes showing simulated masturbation, simulated eating of feces, a simulated rectal exam, anti-gay slurs and a pair of men and a pair of women showering together, it is surprising none of the 6,000 who served aboard the ship at the time came forward to complain when the videos were shown on board.

More surprising, however, is how polarizing this incident has been, nationwide. On Facebook, almost 25,000 people have joined the page titled, “Support Captain Owen Honors – USS Enterprise, (left) and most of them are outraged at his dismissal. Here is a typical comment from the page:
“Until we can remove far left loons from positions of power and send political correctness, which is nothing more than an assault on free speech in America, to the bottom of the ocean where it belongs--others will be unfairly subjected to a similar fate.
We need men like Captain Owen Honors in our military period end of ...story!”

And there are a lot of postings like this:
“To all the trolls... We don't care about you and your disgust for a situation you know NOTHING about. You've seen one side of the story. I bet if you saw all the footage, about 10% of it would be offensive... Because that's all we saw. We don't have access to the entire archive and I'm pretty sure that overall, it's very entertaining for those on board.”

The Virginian-Pilot newspaper first reported this story and has received comments like this one:
“Capt. Honors [right, in a scene from one of the videos]
was not an officer and a gentlemen in his behavior. It's one thing what you say and do in private with your peers. It's another when you are charged to be the leader and set the example for our forces. His college fraternity pranks days were over a long time ago and totally out of order for a man of his stature and position. Very poor judgment and demeaning for someone of his rank. Sad to lose the talents of this high ranking officer but it was a self inflicted wound.”

Most comments on the Facebook page from Navy personnel or even from those who served on the Enterprise under Honors are highly complimentary of him as a Naval officer. It is generally agreed he did a good job.

So, why all the fuss then? The fuss has to do with the sophomoric way Honors chose to “entertain” his crew. Yesterday, a friend of mine on Facebook who is in the military posted this:
“I don't think the rest of America can have a say in the Navy USS Enterprise videos. Let the Navy sort it out. Stop making it news. I've watched the video; it is an amazing representation of lewd military humor.”

I wrote back to him:
“The rest of the U.S. is making efforts to eliminate things like sexism and the Navy immune from these efforts somehow? When "humor" is used to denigrate entire segments of the Navy's population, the rest of the U.S. needs to speak up. Military organizations are not separate societies. They are part of American society.”

That is really the issue here. Do we continue to consider the military a highly separate microcosm of the larger society, or do we get real and hold military personnel accountable to the same standards as the rest of us? If Honors worked for IBM or Shell Oil and produced these videos, he would be fired so fast he would not know what hit him. If Honors worked for a university and produced these videos he would be gone so fast his head would spin. So, why is it that in the military, where discipline and order are supposed to reign supreme, it is somehow okay for a commanding officer to produce videos that are not just lewd, but insulting to entire population segments? It is not okay. It just is not.

This is not about “political correctness” or the “far left” or the “liberal media” or how tough conditions are on a ship that is out to sea for eight months at a time. This is not about whether Honors humor appealed to a lot of people on board. This is about social change. Our society is suffering the raw growing pains that accompany the climb to a more civil, humane culture. As a society, we have decided not to call each other fags and niggers. We have decided to incorporate minority populations into the mainstream majority. We are working toward respecting people for who and what they naturally are. If young men and women enter the military and see just the opposite of this, how will they possibly assimilate themselves into the larger society once they are discharged?

Honors is probably the good man that many have come forward to say he is in the past week or so. He probably did an admirable job in the service. He just did a really stupid thing, and every stupid thing has consequences. I support the Navy’s decision to relieve Honors of his command, even if they did it simply as PR move to save face with the American public. It is not business as usual in America. We are shifting, radically, and for the betterment of us all. The protracted growing pains required for the shift will be worth it in the future. We will be bigger and better. I, for one, can’t wait for that day to come.

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