Two Marines write in about the Persian Gulf memoir "Jarhead," and readers respond to Laura Miller's review of "Mismatch: The Growing Gulf Between Women and Men."

Published March 14, 2003 8:00PM (EST)

[Read Laura Miller's review of "Jarhead," by Anthony Swofford.]

Well, you probably expect several if not many angry letters from former Marines denouncing this book they haven't read yet. This is one of them. I am not saying that anything in his book is not or could not be true. I am somewhat predictably saying that his experience in no way mirrors my experience or that of anyone I know who was also a Marine in the Gulf during 1990-91. Maybe it's because I was a reservist. Maybe it's because I was in an artillery unit instead of an "elite" infantry scout/sniper unit. Did we feel like the same people we were back home? Naturally not. Did we feel like we were fighting for something other than noble purposes? Sometimes.

I wondered about why we were there at times, but as we were pulling out of our last firing positions to go back to Saudi Arabia and then home I saw the reason that I came. As our convoy rolled by, a Kuwaiti woman waved to me from her plywood shack in a hastily built shantytown that she was living in post-Iraqi occupation. She was grateful to be alive, and that was enough for me.

As for Swofford's comrades-in-arms, I have known Marines that acted like the people described in your review. As they say in my profession, "garbage in, garbage out." I hope he sells a lot of books. I don't plan on buying one if your review is true to its content. I don't want to hear it.

-- Jay Norton

I just finished reading your article about the book "Jarhead" and felt obliged to write you a thank you letter. I too was once a marine, and feel almost exactly like Anthony Swofford when it comes to talking about my experience in the Marines. Soon after I was honorably discharged, I moved to liberal Austin, Texas. There I found out pretty quickly that I should keep my mouth shut about my former occupation. I was moved by your views of the book, and plan on purchasing it out of a desire to get to know someone a bit more like me. At one time I was quite proud to say I was a Marine; now I find that I just say that I worked within the U.S. government so as to not get labeled. The label is true in many cases, but I did meet many sensible, people-loving Marines. I still have friends in, yet I find it hard to imagine that I could do it again.

I am so glad I am out.

-- Chris Lepard

[Read Laura Miller's review of "Mismatch," by Andrew Hacker.]

Laura Miller closes her piece on Andrew Hacker's "Mismatch" by noting that she is surprised that there is not a knock-down, drag-out war between the genders. I suspect that if she went into almost any middle-class household containing children with a woman who works outside the home, she will find exactly that -- a Balkanized state with two entrenched warriors, neither of whom is willing to give (her -- some financial independence and a sense of self; him -- a sense of entitlement and the ability to opt out of much of the child-care and household tasks).

I am not sure which version of CNN she's watching, but if there were a CNN Household, the scuds would be flying.

-- Liz Emelko

Bah on Hacker, and good on Miller. The more you point out the differences between men and women, the more the opposite sex seems to become some incomprehensible, threatening alien. Really, we all just want to be happy and supported and loved, right? I'm 29, well-educated, female, and a veteran of several rewarding, long-term relationships. Seems to me that part of demanding equal rights and opportunities also means accepting that the man doesn't necessarily have to make more money than you or be smarter than you. Maybe he should even be way hotter than you. I've also met plenty of guys who aren't hoarding power, wanting to be number 1 at home. They'd love to give up the rat race, stay at home with the kids, watch sports, and have their MBA-toting wives bring in the dough for the both of them. Heck, some of them have OCD and really dig vacuuming.

-- Valerie Wu

If, as Laura Miller writes in her review of Andrew Hacker's "Mismatch," "only a fool or a saint willingly surrenders power and privilege," we men -- we white men, we heterosexual white American men -- might just as well make our last stand, and try to rule the world arrogantly and alone.

Anyway, just what is the Bush administration up to these days? Whatever it is, it is also, as the protesters say, "not in my name."

-- Paul Statt

Do women graduating from coed colleges outnumber the men graduating from those institutions? I only ask because it seems to me that there are quite a few good all-girl schools, and not a terribly large number of all-boy schools. I'd love to know how much that skews the 57-43-percentage difference.

Second point: Black women vs. black men as a harbinger for future trends. I think that the situation of black men in this country is somewhat different from that of men in general. It depends on your point of view, of course, but with a large proportion of black men going to jail at some point in their youth, along with other issues, it seems like there are forces holding black men down. So the question is, what is going to create an analogous depression in the ranks of educated men in general? Are we going to devolve? Are we just too slow to compete with women? I think that the increase of women vs. men enrolled in college must be slowing down somewhat, since a big part of its initial speed was the process of giving women the same rights as men to attend.

-- Micah Drayton

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------