Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don't ask, doesn't matter, never did

Today marks a big step forward in American civil rights.  Today the Senate voted to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military.  The House passed the measure four days ago.  President Obama will sign the bill into law next week. The news was met with cheers and sighs of relief across the country. Welcome, my friends, to the land of the free.

I remember when "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was instituted during the Clinton era.  Clinton tried to lift the ban on gays serving openly, but the opposition was so strong that they came up with this compromise.  We just won't ask. Ignorance is bliss. As long as you're willing to deny your truth and pretend you're something you're not, we'll let you risk your life to protect us.

Pardon the sarcasm. Openly condoned prejudice makes me cranky.

I feel like I should say I'm proud of my country, or that it's progressive of us to repeal this ban, but that's not how I feel.  Don't get me wrong.  I am thrilled the ban was repealed.  I feel light and happy and I want to celebrate.  But to high-five our government would be a bit like congratulating the class bully for finally releasing his classmate from a chinlock.

Today a friend, Will, shared his own experience of serving in the military. He fought during the Gulf War and won the Bronze Star during Operation Desert Storm, as well as several other medals of merit. He served his country gratefully, risked his life, won honors for his bravery, and after eight years he was discharged because he decided he no longer wished to remain silent about his sexual orientation.  You can read his story here.  I had the pleasure of working alongside Will several years ago and know him to be a person of intelligence, kindness and integrity.  Why on earth would we not want someone like that representing us in such an important capacity?

As Will's story demonstrates so eloquently, by asking servicemen and women to hide such a basic part of their identity, the military both teaches and denies integrity at the same time.

I admit that with the exception of spiders in my kitchen, I'm pretty much a pacifist.  I don't like conflict of any kind and when it rears its head I like to put my fingers in my ears and say "la, la, la, la, la".  But I recognize the need for a military and I'm exceptionally thankful for the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us.  If someone feels the calling to serve in that capacity, it shouldn't matter to us, to Congress, to anyone at all whom they choose to love.  All that matters is that they are willing and qualifed, and for that we should only be grateful.


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12 comments:

  1. If I'm honest, I can say I was not totally on top of this story. I knew there was a DADT policy, I knew it was wrong and went against the grain as far as my beliefs and ethics went, but that was as much as I knew.
    I've spent part of my morning getting up to speed and have read your friend's story too.

    Eloquently written, your sentiments are mine.

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  2. Thanks Naomi. I think a lot of people felt that DADT was sufficient because it allowed gays to serve. But the whole premise was that you could serve only if you did not live openly and honestly. So contradictary.

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  3. For once, a legislative and social hypocrisy recognised and corrected. It is a memorable day for the military in the US.

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  4. Amen. An excellent post, and too true.

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  5. Hallelujah! Now, to tackle society itself. x

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  6. @ Watershedd - yes, it's huge. I hope the incoming Congress doesn't overturn it. The ever-swinging pendulum of American politics.

    @ Eva - Amen indeed! And thank you.

    @ Maxabella - Society... that may take a bit more doing. Onwards ho!

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  7. Wow, embarrassed to say I've been living under a rock and had NO idea that there had been an enforced ban on people openly admitting their sexual orientation if they wanted to be in the armed forces. I'm speechless!!

    Your analogy of the class bully is perfect.
    Beautifully written again x

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  8. It is hard to believe in 2010 that this is such a big deal (but it is). It is a step forward for all humanity that people can just be what they are without fear. I totally do not get what the issue is with homosexuality. What people do in their own time is of no consequence to me. Let people be people. Let people love who they love. Good ol' Obama! making the big moves :)

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  9. "to high-five our government would be a bit like congratulating the class bully for finally releasing his classmate from a chinlock" - right on the button. Succinctly put.

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  10. It's my opinion that there should never have been a ban, to need repealing, in the first place.

    I don't mind the occasional spider in my kitchen, but I'm hell on ants. Stay away from my foods you little crawlers!

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  11. I hope this is just the first step of many on the path to equal civil rights for all!

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