Thursday, October 23, 2008

Deconstructing the Mormon Foodie – Part 5: Of Grievances and Garments

After being condemned to Hell, I shut the door and went to bed. The Baptists were on to me, though. They were nothing if not persistent. The Petty Officer who had accosted me before started calling to me every time he saw me, “Newman! Come here.” and then proceed to show me, in no uncertain terms, why my religion was all blasphemous dogma while his religion was pure doctrine. Mostly he quoted various scriptures in the New Testament and followed up with, “And now you see why Mormonism is wrong.” The subtext was always, “and why you're going to Hell.”

I kept my defenses polite, “Interesting. I see that scripture as saying ...” insert your favorite alternate interpretation, here. The subtext was always, “Believe it or not, I've read the Bible. Please leave me alone.”

At this point, he'd usually pause, get a puzzled look on his face, and say, “Well, I can see why you might think that,” but of course, in his eyes, I was still wrong.

One afternoon it changed, though. He called me over to his desk, in his usual fashion. Instead of regaling me with another scripture, though, he told me a joke. Not a very funny one, but hey, this was different. I think it involved toilet paper as a prop. In an odd way, through all the persistent attempts at changing me from my heathen ways, and my equally persistent refusals, we became friends.

Eventually I was released from physical therapy. After a few false starts, I was finally transferred to my new job as a warehouseman at Camp LeJeune, in North Carolina. After the transfer, food experiences became more scarce for me. The Marine Corps cooks were okay, but not a match for the Navy ones I'd left behind. Jacksonville, the surrounding town, pretty much existed only for the purpose of supporting the military base, and I never hit the restaurants outside of trips to McDonald's when I went off base, or on the way to or from church activities with the local LDS singles group. Mostly I just worked, and bided my time.

I ran into a bit more persecution in North Carolina, but it wasn't initially as overt as what I'd found in Virginia. It was a bit more troubling, though. Most of that had to do with two higher ranking woman Marine clerks. They just didn't like me. I don't know why. They just didn't think I was a very good Marine, I guess. Part of me thinks they had something to prove. They didn't have anything to prove to me. They were sergeants and I was a lance corporal. They outranked me. What was there to prove?

They weren't part of my regular chain of command, but they did work in the warehouse offices, so I had daily contact with them. One of them decided to “straighten me out,” I guess, and started a series of inspections. She announced to me, one day, that she was going to come to my barracks room and inspect my locker, so I better get it squared away.

Okay, it's not what you think. She wasn't looking for an excuse to get into my room and have her way with me or anything. I was cute, but not that cute.

What you do need to know is that she had the rank, but not the authority, to do this. I was in a difficult situation, though. I've always felt that “flying under the radar” is the best policy in the military. What brought it all to head, though, is when she found my temple garments.

LDS people who attend certain sacred temple ceremonies wear special undergarments. They are sacred to us, and there are versions of them designed and approved specifically for military personal. That way, they can be worn with the uniform. This is not only a Church approved garment, but a military approved one. When this sergeant found mine, along with the onse I wore with my civilian clothes, she came unglued. “You can't have these, Newman. Get rid of them. They're not military issue.” Never mind the fact that my civilian clothes weren't military issue, either. That wasn't in her frame of reference.

I tried to explain that these garments were approved for wearing with the uniform, and sacred to me.

She would have none of it. She either didn't believe me, or didn't care. “Get rid of them, Newman. You've got two days to replace them with regular issue boxers and t-shirts before I come back.”

I was done for. What could I do? She wasn't directly in my chain of command, but she outranked me. I couldn't just tell her off. I'd get in deeper trouble.

The next day I talked to the corporal directly above me. “Can you transfer me?” I begged. I told her that I didn't want to raise trouble for the sergeant, I just wanted this mistreatment to stop. “Can I just be transferred to S-4?”

My corporal told me not to worry. She would talk with the warrant officer in charge of the warehouse. That wasn't what I wanted, per say, but the harassment stopped. I got the most angry looks every time I walked into the warehouse office area, but I was never persecuted again.

You know, at some point, I should probably get back to talking about food.

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