Vital Signs

From Mothers to Killers

There’s no way a man can sidestep trouble writing about the prospect of women as combat troops.  You know, mowing the enemy down with machine guns; blowing up things, not to mention people; cutting, slicing, jabbing, stabbing, whatever it takes.  For such is war, the elements little different in a high-tech age from those prevalent on the wind-swept plain of Troy.

You mean, buster, that women can’t fight?!  Like men?!  That’s the kind of thing you hear when you introduce the subject.

No, ma’am, now that you mention it, that’s not the point at all.  I know women can fight, will fight, have fought when they had to.  Molly Pitcher and so on.  We all know it.  We all honor it.  When it comes down to it, a woman’s moral courage is equal at least to a man’s—the will to do what has to be done, like, if you’re Scarlett O’Hara, plugging the Yankee deserter on the staircase or, in nonfiction, serving in one of the various services opened to brave, patriotic American women, around 200,000 of them, during World War II.  And, ah!—what about Joan of Lorraine, astride her warhorse, with sword raised high above her helmeted head?  The Church didn’t make her a saint out of admiration for her ability at tapestry design.

The question isn’t, can women fight? ...

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