Sexual Assault in the Military: Scandals Represent Obama's "Katrina Moment"


Dear Mr. President:

Although you may not know it, the scourge of Military Rape and Sexual Assault is your "Katrina Moment" — a crucible; the meeting of multiple, overlapping crises that test our moral commitments to ourselves, and whose resolutions will necessarily determine our democratic encumbrances moving forward. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina dared the ability of white-Americans to survey the face of the frighteningly unfamiliar and swarthy-other, and locate a shared humanity. Related, Hurricane Katrina tested black-Americans’ buy-in to the American Dream; our willingness to ignore, and failure to address, persistent poverty while seeking consumption-parity … our desire to “Keep Up With the Jones’” by robbing Peter to pay Paul. In both cases, Hurricane Katrina highlighted our shared-moral-atrophy resulting from years of willful ignorance and decadence. And President Bush viewed from on high, flying in Air Force One.

Will you continue to similarly fly by, while rape and sexual assault in your military similarly tests the nation? This crisis dares us to question when, why, and how rape became a de facto national defense policy, and to what degrees it will be sanctioned. Both the rape our armed forces weaponize and levy on opponents in wars, battles, and conflicts. And, the incestuous rape that our armed forces commit against itself, as symptoms of its very existence and operation. 

On your watch, we can’t ignore the banality of rape, and the tax that rape and sexual assault have on every social relation. The ways that rape preeminently undermines our troops’ readiness and moral; to the ways that rape determines the formation and quality of families as the most basic building block of society and nation. The ways that rape determines gender and sexuality and race; to the ways that rape determines electorates … and elections … and your elections. Rape already and always implicates us all.  

President Obama, only you have the unique opportunity, occasioned by your office and the near-every-day revelation of horrendous rapes across the country and around the world, to set a gold-standard precedent on how to systematically dismantle rape culture using the most systematized organization on the face of the planet … our military … as a testbed. 

The sheer gravitas of your (in)action will force other organizations to conform to remain coherent. Failure to adequately respond will leave you morally bankrupt and unable to call leaders to the floor for human rights abuses, within and without our own national borders…in Steubenville, Penn State, India, China, and Syria. Just as Jim-Crow diminished President Truman’s moral capacity to address the Soviet Union, rape and sexual assault within the ranks of your military will diminish your moral capacity to address a world in crises.

Your failure to appropriately respond will set your legacy, as you have the constitutional authority and duty to regulate the country’s Armed Forces and can uncharacteristically operate free from conservative obstructionism. There are no Republicans to blame; you are the sole commander-in-chief. There are no filibusters to overcome by whipping 60 votes; here, only the vote of one, your vote, matters. There are no fiscal deficits to balance; only the nation’s moral deficit to contend with. No campaigning. No politicking. Only right and wrong. Only Sinking or Swimming. Only you. Where is Kanye West when you need him?

P.S. Let's try to do something about black unemployment too. Otherwise, you're doing a bang-up job.