The Frances Kaye – tdaxp Dialogue on ROTC

ROTC appreciated, but needs to respect civilians ,” by Frances Kaye, Daily Nebraskan, 31 October 2005,

Professor should respect the sacrifice of ROTC members,” by Dan, Daily Nebraskan, 1 November 2005,

Dr. Frances W. Kaye may be accustomed to reviewing books on Canada and displaying shock that the Homestead Act opened the frontier to people of all classes and hopes, but recently she extended her writings to include criticizing the collegiate-soldiers in the Big Red Battalion (UNL’s ). Her letter to the editor of the Daily Nebraskan, published on Halloween:

In the late fall afternoon, with an errand to run across campus, leaves and long shadows on the sidewalks, the “Hup, two, three, four” and the heavy boots slapping down under the camouflaged legs almost seemed like a game to me.

Their pennon blew stiffly in the wind. Then, more men in camouflage jumped up from the bushes and ran toward the marchers, and a little girl walking to the art museum pulled against her father in fear. One of the marchers explained to the little girl that they were just practicing and they wouldn’t hurt her.

Smartly, the marchers about-faced and began marching back toward me. I stepped off the sidewalk into the mulch around the shrubs. The marchers passed me, and the man who had spoken to the little girl told the man who was saying “Hup, two, three, four” to be more polite. “You ran that poor old lady right off the sidewalk.”

The hupper mumbled an “Excuse us.”

The most cogent argument for welcoming ROTC programs to campus is that they keep the military in contact with civilian society, force the student cadets to deal with the critical thinking and intellectual analysis that a university is chartered to provide.

So what are we to ask, then, about that sense of entitlement of the men in heavy boots and camouflage to frighten children and categorize a civilian professor as a “poor old lady”?

It is possible that before they launch themselves into the cauldrons of Iraq or Afghanistan UNL’s ROTC might want to think a little bit more carefully about empathy and respect, even if that meant pausing their exercise to avoid frightening a little American child, or moving their column to the center of the sidewalk so as not to need an “excuse me” that was more condescending than apologetic.

Of course, tdaxp could not let this stand. My response, published on All Saint’s Day:

I am sure Dr. Kaye’s responsibilities of teaching class, discussing native literature and avoiding paper cuts are difficult and dangerous, but I assure her that our professional citizen-soldiers sacrifice much more. Likewise, even if she was offended by the courtesy of those who remembered a “poor old lady,” she should remember that the Afghan and Iraqi women (and men!) who are able to vote for the first time in their lives because of the American war-fighter are not so dismissive.

So what are we to say, then, about the sense of entitlement of lecturers who call military discipline a “game”? Simply this: That the reason they can feel “entitled” to any right is that the American military fought for their liberty over, and over, and over again, whenever it has been asked.

While Dr. Kaye lauds the thinking skills of academia, I urge her to think of how much she owes to those “heavy boots slapping down under the camouflaged legs.”

I am not in the military, but I know those men and women in the military are sacrificing for the sake of Dr. Kaye, and myself, and the 300 million of us back home. Next time, before Dr. Kaye launches herself into the cauldron of our campus, she might want to think a little bit more carefully about empathy and respect for those who fought for us in the Revolution, the Civil War, the World Wars, the Wars on Communism and Terrorism and all the other places where they have given up their lives.

Update: France Key continues the discussion

Thanks to [tdaxp] for giving me an opportunity to repeat and extend what I said in my letter to the editor on Monday (“ROTC appreciated, but needs to respect civilians”). It is useful for ROTC to be on university campuses because, in that environment, they may be challenged. It is not true that all rights come from military force. Remember Rosa Parks. A civil society must be civil.

It is not true that everyone in Afghanistan and Iraq welcomes American troops.

If Americans are to bring democracy to that region, they must be truly sensitive to the “minds and hearts” of the people there. If soldiers-in-training unwittingly scare children and are graceless to women at home, in peaceful Lincoln, Nebraska, they are not likely to be learning the people skills that will keep them safe and effective wherever they are deployed.

Update 2: Jason A. Beineke enters the fray

In regards to the recent comments regarding our campus ROTC participants from Professor Kaye, I would like to offer a slightly different opinion from her comments.

Firstly, why does Professor Kaye feel the need to lecture these students? They are already some of the most dignified, mannered, respectful and among the highest academic achievers on our campus. I have never received anything other than respectful aplomb from these young men and women.

Yes, there are people in Afghanistan who do not like our servicemen and women; some of these people are called Taliban and Islamofascists. They would like to remove women such as Professor Kaye from their posts in education and force them into burkas.

Our servicemen have played soccer with children and passed out candy to children in Afghanistan and Iraq. In response, these Islamofascists have responded with bombs that kill women and children while targeting our servicemen and women.

Our ROTC students put a great deal on the line. They are held to higher standards on our campus and in our community than most other students. They know that they may well be asked to serve in countries far, far from home without the comforts and amenities that Professor Kaye enjoys.

Already these young men and women are restricted from their full freedoms of speech as they are not allowed to respond to Professor Kaye in the same way that she is able to castigate them in these pages. Allow me to say something on their behalf. When you see a group of these young men and women marching on campus, in formation and under the strict eyes of their superiors who are molding them into the exemplary men and women who defend our rights and freedoms, step aside and show them some respect. It might not hurt, as well, to tell them.

Update 3: Elizabeth Daugherty, a 2nd Lt in the Army ROTC, appreciates the defense of ROTC against professorial attacks.

Just wanted to thank Jason Beineke for his comments of support and gratitude to the Reserve Officer Training Corps students. I’m sure every ROTC cadet who read your response felt pride and motivation to continue working hard for those they serve. Your comments are appreciated more than you realize. Thank you.

2nd Lt. Elizabeth Daugherty

Additionally, over drinks tonight I was reminded that Dr. Kaye appeared as herself in the UNL-based reality show Tommy Lee Goes to College.