Friday, December 17, 2010

Reflections on what we hope is the Eve of the End of DADT

It is the eve of what is widely expected to be an historic day for LGBT justice in our nation.

Tomorrow morning we will be watching for the Senate to approve the repeal of DADT in a bill Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he will introduce. Coming on the heals of Thursday's action by the House -- and with the "strong support" of the White House -- tomorrow the Senate could and should end a shameful chapter in this country's history and allow gay and lesbian members of the military to serve their country without having to lie about who they are in order to do so.
House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2965 – Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 -- (Rep. Murphy, D-Pennsylvania, and Rep. Hoyer, D-Maryland)

The Administration strongly supports House passage of the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 2965, which would repeal the statute underlying "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" after the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that implementation of the necessary policies and regulations related to the statutory repeal is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces. Congressional enactment of this legislation would allow a repeal to be implemented under terms and a timetable that would be informed by the advice of our military leadership.

The recently-released comprehensive study by the Department of Defense shows that overwhelming majorities of our Service members are prepared to serve with Americans who are openly gay or lesbian; it concludes that overall, and with thorough preparation, there would be low risk associated with the repeal. The existing statute weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness, integrity, and equality.
"Fundamental American principles of fairness, integrity, and equality." That's what my son signed up to fight for when he joined the Army in 2004. It's what he believed he was putting his life on the line for when he served tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And it's what I believe was behind the customarily succinct response I got when I queried him about DADT when he was home for Thanksgiving:
Q. "Do you think DADT should be repealed?"
A. "F--- yes!"
We'll see what happens tomorrow morning. And while I hope we will have another incremental victory to celebrate, it is clear no matter what happens there are miles to go before we rest. And if anybody doubts that, check this out ... the comment thread on the piece I posted about DADT yesterday:
Bateau Master said ... "Don't Ask Don't Tell" will likely be repealed this weekend. Understand that its repeal is going to cost some lives of gay and straight service members. This won't happen very often and probably not in a combat situations or deployment, but will happen in basic training, AIT, and in garrison.

Infantry, Artillery, and Armor organizations are no bastions of enlightenment or for that matter, critical thinking on social issues. There are no women, it is a land of testosterone, cruelty and open misogyny. Their job is to kill people and break things – they are the trigger pullers. A gay man wishing to make a point will be in danger of bayonet between the ribs or a faked suicide. He will most likely be the only out gay man in the unit and unless he has mad social skills, he will become a target. The Army will investigate, the unit will close ranks, and the perpetrators will, most likely, be caught. One man will be dead and the other lives will end in Leavenworth. This will happen more than once."

It is not right, but it will be a reality for a period of time. It will be the price paid for the privilege to serve.
And then:
Susan Russell said ... "And your point is what? That ignorant homophobia kills people? We knew that."
And then:
Bateau Master said... "My point is what I wrote ... be prepared for a cost in lives lost and ruined. Pray the period is short lived and passes quickly."
Do you hear it? How the "problem" isn't homophobia and the those who continue to fan its flames? No-Siree-Bob. It's "a gay man wishing to make a point."

That one over there -- the one who believes in the fundamental American principles of fairness, integrity and equality enough to put his life on the line to protect them.

And if he'd only been willing to stay in the closet ... if those wretched gay lobbyists with their annoying insistence that "liberty and justice for all" really means "all" would have just kept their mouths shut we wouldn't have to pay the price of "lives lost and ruined."

Here's my newsflash for "Bateau Master:" Lives are being "lost and ruined" every single day by the scourge of homophobia.
And the way to end that -- to be beacons of light, love, justice and compassion -- to respect the dignity of every human being -- to embrace fundamental American principles of fairness, integrity and equality -- is to stand up ... to speak up ... to challenge at every possible opportunity the dehumanizing, un-American and un-Christian bigotry that relegates gay and lesbian people to second class humanity and citizenship.
The "H" word here isn't Homosexuality -- it's Honesty. And because we follow the One who promised us that the truth would set us free, let's say our prayers and go to bed in hopes that we'll wake up tomorrow in a country where we've taken another step toward being a nation where honesty is celebrated and homophobia is eradicated.
It could happen.


IT said...

I'm getting tired of the accusations that gay soldiers are going to do the equivalent of wearing a pink feather boa.

From the Pentagon DADT report, from a special ops soldier:

“We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He’s big, he’s mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay.

(reported by Andrew Sullivan)

Bateau Master is harkening back to another era with his expectations that the frontline forces will turn on their gay comrades.

Bateau Master said...

Okay, let me jump into the fire, but let me paint a clearer picture.

In the macho all-male basic training environments of Benning, Sill or Knox – initially you are meat. Your job is to appear inedible. Do not stand out to the platoon, do not stand out to the Drill Sergeants. You don't want to be the Jesus Freak, the Hood Rat, the Gang Banger, the Fat Kid (mash-potato kid at Sill), the Farmer, or the Gay guy. You become a target for the trainees and the Drill Instructors. For god's sake, don't cry ….. Drill Sergeants love cry-babies – they gang up on them like chickens on a junebug. It is ugly. But if you are not the guy crying, you are thanking God that it is him and not you that is getting all the attention.

The Drill Instructors at these three Posts are MOS qualified. They are training the soldiers they will later have as privates when the Drill Sergeants become Platoon Sergeants. They want to weed out those they think will weaken their future units. The Drill Sergeants are experts in their field, but they are not agents of social change. Their mission is to change snot-bubble blowers into soldiers in a very short amount of time.

Your fellow trainees are not much nicer. They know there is a totem pole and they also know they don't want to be the bottom guy on the pole. After about four weeks this pressure lessens, but never goes away at Basic or OSUT.

Therefore, please tell any young man joining the military to be invisible and show no personality beyond “Yes, Drill Sergeant!” or “No, Drill Sergeant” until they reach their permanent first duty assignment. Have them talk to somebody that has been there and done that. And, I'm not talking about some Ft. Jackson graduate – totally different for the guys in the rear with the gear.