Morale: Official Puritanism

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January 10, 2006: A U.S. Navy lieutenant is being facing a court martial on three criminal charges; failure to obey a lawful general order or regulation; conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentlemen; and indecent language. That's because he made some crude sexual remarks in the presence of female midshipmen (from the U.S. Naval Academy). The superintendent of the academy, Vice Admiral Rodney P. Rempt, believes in zero tolerance when it comes to sexual harassment, and the admiral believes this is a case that should be prosecuted vigorously. Many of his subordinates, including the female officer who investigated the incident, do not agree. And it appears that the admiral is acting more to protect himself from accusations of being soft on sexual harassment. But the admiral is not alone. As of last October, it is illegal for any uniformed member of the armed forces to patronize a prostitute. Doing so, and getting caught, makes you subject to court martial, and punishment of up to a year in prison, forfeiture of pay and dishonorable discharge. So you can't say anything, you can't do anything, and, to a certain extent, you can think about anything lewd. There are also restrictions on the posting of "lewd" pictures in barracks, or the sale of same in the PX. As a result, out troops are not only deadly, they are pure as well.

As a practical result of all this, the troops risk punishment to get laid, drunk (booze is not allowed in combat zones) and sexually stimulated (the Internet is an excellent source of porn). The troops quickly learn which officers to avoid when using salty language. However, if you do get caught, and your commander is into "zero tolerance," your military is toast, and you might end up in prison as well. The risk is not so great that there is a noticeable effect on recruiting and re-enlistments. Senior NCOs, and many officers, unofficially conspire with the troops to ignore this official Puritanism. The troops understand that, being in the military means exposure to some form of official nonsense and harassment.

 


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