The failings of Capt. Honors
Regarding Bruce Fleming’s Jan. 9 Outlook commentary, “The crude videos the Navy needed”:
Mr. Fleming’s admiration and affection for the men and women he encounters at the Naval Academy is obvious, and perhaps this is why he missed the point of why Capt. Owen Honors deserved to lose his position.
The point is leadership. When he was executive officer of the USS Enterprise, Capt. Honors had a duty to lead and represent everyone on that ship— which is, asMr. Fleming pointed out, close quarters indeed and a place where the objects of remarks such as those described can never really escape them. When an officer uses derogatory terms for anyone under his command, on video no less, he announces that this behavior is not only acceptable but, hey, it’s a way to have good time, too.
Mr. Fleming’s notion that the executive officer considered this some sort of teachable moment, and that the guys would merely chuckle and move on, strikes me as naive at best.
It wasn’t the profanity, masturbation, sex jokes or any of that nonsense that made this episode regrettable. It was that this officer failed to meet a standard of behavior that would show the crew and his nation that he could be trusted to lead, respect and protect all of them. The video inspires many things, but trust is not one of them.
The Navy made the right decision.
Elizabeth Jenkins, Gaithersburg
Bruce Fleming omitted a very important fact of Capt. OwenHonors’s behavior.
Mr. Fleming wrote that Capt. Honors was aware of concerns about the videos but that nobody objected directly to him.
This alone should have been the foremost reason for ousting Capt. Honors. Instead of being a great communicator, the captain was out of touch. And by referring to objections as “gutlessly” reported, he madeit clear that— contrary toMr. Fleming’s conclusions— he did not want to discuss real problems.
Messages from a captain should not be subject to interpretation: Was it satire? Which behavior is disallowed? For the sake of being one of the boys, Capt. Honors sent a mixed message, mistreated a critical topic and shut the door to dialogue.
Bruce Jones, St. Michaels, Md.
Bruce Fleming’s defense of Capt. Owen Honors’s videos was about as offensive to me as the video itself surely was to at least some of the men and women under the captain’s command.
He is certainly correct on one point, though: The most offensive aspect of the whole shameful production was the use of what he so delicately termed a “slur” for gay people. The fact that the term wasn’t actually aimed at a gay person hardly mitigates the offense, asMr. Fleming seems to think it should. One rather doubts, for example, that he would have risen so quickly to Capt. Honors’s defense had the captain been videotaped hurling the “n-word” at a white soldier for some perceived failure.
Capt. Honors’s attack certainly did not encourage people to talk about “ their struggles with life at sea.” Rather, it fostered a poisonous atmosphere in which gay men and women who are also defending their country are forced to live in dread not of the enemy but of the officers upon whose leadership their lives depend. Some leadership.
Frederick Taylor, Washington