The case of Alexis Hutchinson, the single mother and soldier in the U.S. Army who refused orders to deploy to Afghanistan because she put being a mother first, reveals the dilemma that single mothers in the military and U.S. society in general face. Hutchinson was unable to find a suitable caregiver for her infant son during her deployment and was arrested for her decision to place her family before her job.
Hutchinson—like so many other young women—found herself in an environment that is so lacking in basic support systems to raise safe and healthy children that she was forced to make a decision based on the economic realities of today.
Women—who now make up about 11percent of the U.S. forces deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan—are joining not so much from a sense of patriotism but rather from a scarcity of options. (NY Times, Aug 15.) Working-class single mothers are least likely to be able to afford skyrocketing college tuition, get a job with a livable wage or qualify for affordable health care. According to Child Trends Databank, “private health insurance is least common among Hispanic children (41 percent), Black children (49 percent), children in single-mother families (41 percent), and non-citizens (40 percent).”
While it is true that the women’s rights movement of the 1970s made great advances towards equality, women still only earn 78 cents to every dollar men earn—and in many other areas women are still far behind their male counterparts. (Center for American Progress, April 27)
The 2007 Census Bureau states that there were 4 million poor single-mother families. The fact that single mothers face unemployment rates that are twice as high as married women indicates that there is extreme difficulty for single mothers to find jobs due to family responsibilities. The “official” unemployment rate of single mothers in the United States is 12.2 percent —this, however, is the reported rate of those looking for work and those receiving unemployment benefits. The statistic doesn’t include women who are unable to look for work or have given up finding a job or those with inadequate part-time work.
The military is well aware of the dire situation that the capitalist crisis has put single mothers in and continues to feed off it. The slick Wall Street advertising firms, which spin romanticized lies portraying military life as a way out of economic suffering, has been a lure to many women of working-class families, who often enlist simply to receive health care coverage for themselves and their families.
Alexis’s case is not an isolated one and shows how the U.S. military is a destructive machine with little regard for human life that causes chaos not just to the families in Iraq and Afghanistan—whose lives are being disrupted by occupation, bombing and displacement—but to military families here as well. Once individuals enlist in the ranks of the U.S. military, their personal lives cease to exist and they simply become rifles and pairs of boots to be used in furthering U.S. imperialism. Personal situations, needs or rights become eclipsed by the mission, in this case the mission is the continued occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now that the Obama administration and Pentagon brass have decided to further escalate and expand the U.S./NATO occupation of Afghanistan, how many more single mothers will find themselves having to give up the most important years of their young children’s lives because their jobs don’t afford them the opportunity to say “no.”
March Forward! makes its demands clear that all soldiers, sailors, airmen/women and marines should immediately refuse orders to occupy and wage war against the people of Iraq or Afghanistan—neither of which are our enemies. We demand the right for the enlisted ranks to refuse illegal and immoral orders and militantly defend all those who choose to make this important decision against the will of imperialism.
How many families must be broken apart through constant deployments? How many parents must bury their daughters and sons before the ruling class will admit that Afghanistan is a war that is simply unwinnable?
March Forward! stands with Alexis Hutchinson who has made the decision that her son will not grow up without a mother in his life.
This is not our war!