Last night, Congressmen Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch met for a debate in Lowell as part of the Democratic primary campaign in the special election for U.S. Senate. It didn’t seem like there was too much new ground covered (Markey is pro-choice, Lynch is anti-choice; Markey was proud to vote for health care reform, Lynch was proud to vote against health care reform), but there was one truly head-scratching moment.
Congressman Lynch tried to explain his view of women’s rights on military bases, and I’m still trying to figure out what he was trying to communicate. Here is Lynch’s full, unedited response (starting at about the 18-minute mark in the Boston Herald’s video of the debate):
Let me just- I want to- I want to- I want to address the- the, uh, military base issue. Look, I’ve- I’ve been to Iraq fourteen times. I’ve been to Afghanistan eight times. I’ve spent a lot of time on military bases. There is no free choice for anyone on a military base. Everything goes by rank. If- if a woman- what I- look- if a woman is pregnant, has an unwanted pregnancy on a military base, it is very likely that another enlisted person, perhaps even an officer, is- is on that base, as well. If- if- look, I support giving maternity leave or emergency medical leave to any woman to get off that base because, when a woman is on that base, under the control and command of superior officers, she does not have- she does not have free choice. I would rather give emergency leave to allow that woman to go back home and really make a full and a fair and independent decision on her own behalf in her own best interest, not being ruled over by a male superior officer that may have other interests involved, as well. I just think if you really want free choice, you don’t- you don’t make it happen on a military base. That’s not the way things happen there.
Anybody want to take a shot at deciphering that? Where to begin?
1. What is Lynch talking about when he emphatically declares that there is “no free choice for anyone on a military base”? I mean, I understand the chain of command, but that doesn’t preclude a human being who is serving on a military base from making personal medical decisions. If a person serving on a military base, for example, develops an acute case of appendicitis, that person should have access at the base’s hospital to surgical services for an appendectomy. The malicious superior officers running Lynch’s hypothetical dystopian military base shouldn’t be able, simply on a whim, to preclude someone serving on the base from having access to a needed, legal medical procedure. On a military base, soldiers follow orders and adhere to a chain of command, but they are not automatons. So what is Lynch trying to convey?
2. What is Lynch talking about when he says “everything goes by rank”?! Is this a mangled attempt to refer to the chain of command, or does Lynch think that medical care goes by rank, too? Like, all the female Privates have to wait for all the female Sergeants to be done before they get a turn?! Honestly, what the heck is Lynch talking about?
3. Does Lynch think it’s logistically easier for a female soldier to ship out from an overseas military base back to the U.S. rather than simply to have a medical procedure performed on the base if she would so prefer?
4. Perhaps the most menacing language in Lynch’s comments is when he describes female soldiers being “under the control and command of superior officers” and being “ruled over by a male superior officer that may have other interests involved.” What is he getting at? What are the “other interests” that he is talking about? Is he presuming that this “male superior officer” is the man who impregnated the female soldier and is ostensibly pressuring the female soldier not to have an abortion – is that what Lynch is confusingly hinting at when he cryptically says that “another enlisted person, perhaps even an officer, is- is on that base, as well”? Is he referring in some way to the epidemic of sexual assault against women in the military? If so, why not make that clear and explain what he sees as the connection between that epidemic and providing reproductive choice on military bases? What is he talking about?!
Stephen Lynch’s word soup suggests to me that Lynch would prefer to offer us confusing gibberish to muddy the issue rather than state a clear position that we will simply oppose, a tactic he has employed before. Either way, his attempted response is truly a head-scratcher. What are your thoughts and interpretations?