Wednesday, January 05, 2011



[scroll down for UPDATE]

Captain Owen Honors was considered the best man for the job, and had been on the job since last May.

The best man for the job until last weekend, that is.

Now, just
a week or so from deployment to missions over Afghanistan, MY SON’S commanding officer on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise will be the second best man for the job.


Why this sudden change of heart, oh fickle lover? Because
Captain Honors is a career Navy guy, with all that this implies, and the Navy culture is what it is and always has been – rough, coarse, vulgar, edgy, raunchy, excessive, pushing the envelope, anything to get you through the long and tedious hours at sea between the moments of knife-edge tension and microscopic finesse points on the dial that launches a $40 million aircraft off an ironing board.

What a shock to learn that modern technology has created new ways for bored men in the military to channel their inner Belushi. [You remember Belushi, folks -- that frantic, over-th
e-top comedian who was, and remains, one of the hottest talents ever to win the admiration of hip, ivy-league, liberal sophisticates as they toked up on a Saturday night when classes were over, probably at their prof's house. That guy -- the one who went on to fame in various instalments of Animal House.]

Military command has always taken a sideways glance away from certain aspects of the day-to-day grind among the rank and file. Camp-following concubines have been around for more centuries than we can count. In
HMS Pinafore, W.S. Gilbert heaps hilarious mockery upon the land-locked Admiralty Lord who professes profound shock, and sends the Captain to his quarters, because the word “damme” [that’s “damn me”] was uttered within earshot of the ladies – it was Gilbert’s way of saying, “Dude, this is the NAVY – are you F#&*-ing kiddin’ me???

[UPDATE: Here's the opening appearance of the Captain, with the first super-absurd send-up of the notion that any British sailor might be called "exceedingly polite" and refrain from "bad language or abuse". Ironically, this particular clip also incorporates the Captain's later fall from grace, and demotion, caused by something only slightly more ridiculous than a lewd sense of humor: the discovery that he was born a peasant instead of an aristocrat. Enjoy.]

What about the British tradition of the Concert Party for the
ir soldiers in the Great War? There were always a few, er, transsexual moments involved. The Canadians even had a troop of entertainers called the Dumbbells, whose skits en travestie were legendary.

And remember the cross-dressing Honey Bun number from South Pacific? Classic Navy hijinks. [Apparently this stuff is perfectly acceptable if you're Alec Baldwin doing it at Carnegie Hall.]

can you say "WWII Nose Art"? Google it, and see if it twits your tweeter.

The arenas of battle in both world wars were serviced by tent-city brothels that were more or less official encampments.

I could go on and on.

So when Captain Honors is demoted and his career destroyed for being part of some crude, sophomoric home videos [yes, he even eats the Oh Henry bar masquerading as a turd from the toilet – whoa, TREASON!!!!!] created for the crew’s amusement
three or more years ago when he was the XO on the Enterprise, all I can do is quote my paraphrased Gilbert above, and say “Are you F#&*-ing kidding me?” Everybody, and that means everybody (hello, Captain) knew that these videos were part of the XO’s movie night, and they could take them or leave them.

Not so lucky was my dad in 1945, an innocent Catholic boy from Duluth who could not escape the pornography of the day, when a copy of the banned book
Tropic of Capricorn was obtained at some port and then read aloud over the public address system to while away the hours at sea. No freedom of choice, no religious exception there, swabbies – and hardly possible without the full consent of the captain of Destroyer Escort 152.

My father emerged from the Coast Guard with a lifelong revulsion at “dirty” language and entertainment. He’d have been delighted to be on a ship where it was optional, or to have an XO who clearly recognized the true absurdity of the constant invoking of the “F-bomb” among Naval personnel (one of then-XO Honors’ well-edited sketches in the viral video).

So did Captain Honors really lose his livelihood over the vulgarity and periodic sexism of his “morale” videos? No, of course not.

He lost it over the repeated use of one word: “gay”. You know it, and I know it, world. The video opened a window (for the twelve people in the universe who had been unaware) on the Navy version of the military culture that has traditionally been dismissive and scornful (if not downright hostile) to homosexual men. (Lesbians, I suspect, have a different and less high-profile experience in their much more recent presence among military out in the field.)

Yes, friends, buy a paper – that’s the culture. Destroying Captain Honors may temporarily appear to have closed the window that the video opened, but the culture will remain – that’s guaranteed. In fact, when the guys below decks see a popular, effective, and highly accomplished XO sacrificed on the altar of gay-positive Political Correctness, it’s fair to predict that the culture (one which, by the way, is devoted to mocking everybody in one way or another) will simply stiffen its resolve and dig in, with the dismissive tilting more towards the hostile. I’ll be curious to find out.

And I will find out, because my real concern will be MY KID, heading off into enemy territory with the next-best Captain at the helm, on less than two weeks’ notice. Or perhaps they’ll delay deployment while the new guy finds his sea-legs – an even more genius move on the part of upper management.

I’m sure Captain Honors wasn’t the only guy available who has what it takes to command an aircraft carrier. Presumably his replacement will be qualified. But the cost of chucking out a highly respected and much beloved known quantity, at the very very last minute, goes extremely deep, and could prove to be a cost that will affect the good order of the ship, under very dangerous conditions.

Forget the possible deepening of hostility to homosexuals in the military -- what about a general loss of confidence, reaching well beyond the 6,000 residents of the Enterprise township, as a whole branch of the armed forces is forced to wonder, "What the hell kind of Navy am I in, anyway? Do they really have my back?"

Let us hope, and pray, that all involved will just dig in, rise to the occasion, and get ‘er done.

But I will expect a full report on all the repercussions from MY KID upon his return. And if there’s been any erosion of the good order of the ship, I am Mom, hear me roar.

Food for thought:

Can you be a good XO and make naughty videos with your underlings? I will let the better-informed voices of Blackfive address that question.

Many folks have been pointing out that, once upon a time, the ultimate penalties were reserved for officers who (a) negligently got their people killed, (b) negligently destroyed their vessels, (c) flagrantly disobeyed orders, (d) wantonly played footsie with the enemy. Stuff like that.
What kind of an officer was Owen P. Honors?

Mrs. Grundy rides again, in the person of the notorious Amy Goodman. Check out this smirking latter-day Salem witch-sniffer, this woman with face like an old boot and a flagpole up her [BLEEP]. Is she not straight out of some nightmare film about sadistic nuns? Clearly she's shocked, SHOCKED, that there are profanities, vulgarity, and sex-talk on a Navy vessel at sea! WEEK AFTER WEEK!!! [Says the Yale Law School professor in his earth-toned civvies: "An aircraft carrier is not a fraternity house." What's your evidence for that statement?!]

One or two media outlets are irresponsibly referring to this episode as
"Tailhook scandal", presumably showing off their vast knowledge of aircraft carrier mechanics. Sorry, folks, but Tailhook scandal is a virtually copyrighted name for a particular bad scene, involving criminal assaults. So knock it off. Let's see what J.D. Gordon, a former Navy public affairs officer familiar with the actual Tailhook affair, has to say about the present Navy surrender.

And we will take note of the Support Captain Owen Honors Facebook page, which reportedly has jumped in “likes” from 1200 to over 20,000 in the past few days.

We must also ask, was
Corinne Reilly, reporter for the Hampton Roads-based Virginian-Pilot (she who broke XO Honors' video story, of such earth-shattering importance) totally ALL OVER the Ft. Hood massacre story, with all its Virginia connections? Uh.....not so much. She was right on top of a 4-part PTSD story (army abandons violent vet) and a Navy SEAL story ( SEALS prosecuted for prisoner abuse) this past year though, showing great interest in military affairs. Are we seeing a pattern here?

People seem to think it only fair that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas -- with the clear implication that some real nasty stuff may have gone down, along with a lot of tequila. And what has Vegas ever done for the safety and security of the United States and the world? But what happens on a fine old ship carrying thousands of the world's volunteer protectors, in often hostile waters, sending planes over hostile lands -- well that's dirty laundry for the international public washline. Nice. Thanks Corinne -- you're a credit to womanhood.

Would I want to be Owen Honors' wife? Not my call. Would I want him in charge of my boat? Not my call either. My kid's call. I'll wait to hear the fallout.

That is all. Dis-miss.