Choice and Gender: (Work in progress 9/93)

“I will not allow any son of mine to be drawn into another European war.”

Josef Hornak, my grandfather, explaining his reason for emigrating from Czechoslovakia to the U.S.A. in 1920, following four years of forced military service along the Eastern Front with the Austro-Hungarian Empire during WW I.
Twenty-five years later, sometime in the Spring of 1945–the closing months of the European Theatre of Operations of WW II, my father, Vladimir Josef Hornak, son of Josef Hornak, lands with 3,000 other American soldiers on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France.
Fall 1968, nearly fifty years later, I, Eric A. Hornak, grandson of Josef Hornak, son of V.J. Hornak, choose to refuse the draft and begin work on establishing conscientious objector status against the war in Vietnam.
Seventy three years later, August 1993, Warren Farrell heralds a New Age of gender relations by liberating the power of choice for men to become soldiers or not from the domination of the social unconscious.

I had been involved in “men’s work” for over three years when, with the publication of Warren Farrell’s The Myth of Male Power, whole new orders of implications rose before my awareness, making me feel like I’d been blind and naive despite my efforts to awaken from unconscious assumptions about sex roles and functions.
At about the same time, a rare visit with my father found us reviewing old and familiar tales from my father’s life, but from wholly new ground. As early as I can remember, the above story of my grandfather’s choice to move to America had been a familiar piece of my family history. But this time, hearing how my grandfather’s choice to remove himself from his homeland revolved around the lack of choice he faced so grievously in WWI about being a soldier, moved me to recognize how it has taken over seventy years for such a choice to become a socially conscious possibility for more than an isolated and courageous peasant.
Perhaps my memory fails me, or perhaps I was more naive and ignorant of the scope of the debate at the time, but my recollection of the heart of resistance to the draft was whether a man had the right to refuse military service or not–of whether one could determine the scope of his military service depending on his own judgment of the justness of his country’s cause in going to war. I was not all that aware at the time that I, and the other draft protestors, were also creating the possibility for myself and other men to become conscious of the way we were being run by the Warrior Archetype. Even though as a draft resistor I had to endure the opprobrium of coward and sissy for refusing automatic submission to the collective expectation to throw myself at the chance to be a real man through socially sanctioned killing, I was only specifically aware of the political disruption refusing the draft created. I did not appreciate how such a refusal struck at a deeper foundation of the social order’s (even perhaps the foundation of at least the Western, if not the more global, collective unconscious) expectations of my gender role.
This can be a very confusing issue: It is one thing to refuse the draft and another altogether to refuse to be a soldier. The one leads immediately to political expediency questions about how a society would operate if its members recognized no obligation to serve the body politic. But this is of secondary concern to the focus of the other point which asks us to step back from what has become so totally accepted as the way of things that we no longer see alternative possibilities, much less the destructive consequences to such blindness.
Actually, Warren Farrell has created nothing new in his call to reflect on our socialization of men to be killers. His contribution amounts to the slightly less miraculous act of resurrecting a near dead vision–a vision that has haunted every generation of humanity, but visits with more color, clarity and urgency upon some generations than others: the vision of a humanity at peace. It is the members of those generations who find themselves in a time of war where their future options are lost by the implacable forces of required military conscription–with its expectation to kill and risk being killed–who reflect seriously upon the peace alternative.
With the cessation of the draft following the war in Vietnam, and without any major conflicts since that might have called forth its reinstatement, nearly a generation has passed without its members having to face the prospect of a future lost to war. Along with this blessing has come the loss of a popular urgency to look more deeply at how we might create a world without war–until Farrell that is.
To help illustrate the value of his question, Farrell draws from the feminists’ war cry, “My body, my choice!” Though we are still trying to work out the implications of this demand in the areas of abortion rights and the rights of the father to the unborn child, the demand itself is accepted as valid and is reshaping our regard of women’s’ reproductive processes and the experience of women in our society. The demand arose, in great part, as a result of the advent of birth control. This singular piece of bio-technology transformed women’s’ previous biological determinism as mothers into a career option.
No such option has liberated men from the societal determinism to risk bodily maiming, mutilation or death should his country demand it of him. Which is not to say technological innovations haven’t in fact served this very point! Of all things, it is the technology of apocalyptic ruin—nuclear holocaust—that has created the ultimate obsolescence of war—society’s once favored option of killing to solve its differences with other countries. Farrell captures this turn of events concisely and lucidly when he writes, “For the first time in history the politics of love are consistent with the politics of survival.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>