Loose Lips Sink Ships’ Captains

The news media’s disseminatory apparati have kept us current with the travails of U.S. Navy Captain Owen Honors, formerly the commanding officer of the United States Ship Enterprise. The Navy relieved Captain Honors of that burden recently, after it learned (or was reminded) of a series of home movies he produced and aired during movie nights aboard the Enterprise. The films are allegedly sexist, homophobic, or both.

Having not seen the work, we’ll reserve comment on the captain’s capabilities as auteur. But we may safely say this: Captain Honors is neither gentlemanly, polite nor proper. He leads (or lead) a very well-equipped and superbly armed set of Americans, a rough-hewn bunch. The members of the United States military are, of necessity, warriors and fighters. They tend toward manners and conduct accordingly, especially within closed systems like Naval ships.

Civilians might not approve of, or understand, the manners of soldiers. Their ways may seem retrograde. This doesn’t mean that it’s so; only that it may seem so to non-soldiers because soldiers inhabit a culture parallel with, yet removed from, civilian life.

Captain Honors, in whose defense Internet sites have grown legion, is a member of that culture and, till shortly ago, a leader of it. By most accounts he was an exemplar of its best qualities: an effective officer who cut through red tape to let sailors take leave to visit sick relations and a man able to keep morale high.   

He was not, however, polite and proper. Others similarly situated might not be either. It is nevertheless incumbent on citizens to accept this without offense because, when it comes to defending American interests around the world at the points of swords, better we have rough-edged warriors and fighters, though uncouth, than rely on the polite and proper. The best apologists of Captain Honors might do worse than cite a film (though not one of the Captain’s):

My existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall… I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said “thank you,” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest that you pick up a weapon and stand a post.

-Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men

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