Home > Political > The Last Gasps of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell

The Last Gasps of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell

February 7th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’m not sure I’ve ever made an optimistic prediction in my blog, so this may be the first. In spite of the contemptible inability on the part of Democratic lawmakers to ever accomplish anything, I believe that this year they will be able to repeal the military’s Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy.

When Admiral Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke against the policy this week at a congressional hearing, they removed the last shred of a defensible argument that proponents of DADT had left. Anti-gay lawmakers (a.k.a. Republicans) have been defending the policy for the last two decades on the basis that the military leadership was in favor of it. “I have nothing against gay people,” they could say, “but if the military leadership thinks it’s a bad idea for them to serve openly, I’ll defer to their judgment.” But now the military leadership is calling for an end to the policy, and anti-gay Republicans no longer have any solid ground to stand on.

Since the “military leadership supports the policy” argument is gone, what do the Republicans have left? Let’s look at their only arguments.

1- Openly gay soldiers are a threat to unit cohesion.

To be fair, this argument may have had some force behind it in the past, but no longer. Attitudes towards homosexuals have changed drastically over the last few decades, as now the vast majority of Americans under 30 have absolutely no problem with gays and couldn’t care less about anyone’s sexual preference. Furthermore, with our all-volunteer army I think the Republicans ought to give our soldiers a little more credit. If a soldier can’t do his job properly because he knows the guy serving beside him is gay, then he’s not much of a soldier. These guys wake up every morning knowing that today might be the day their balls get blown off by an I.E.D. and you want us to believe that they can’t handle a gay person in their midst? Come on.

The fact is, Americans under 30 have been exposed to depictions of gays and the gay lifestyle since we were little kids, and for most of us it’s just not an issue. Sure, we may be grossed out by the idea of gay sex, but we don’t see homosexuals as any kind of threat. We’re perfectly aware that not all gay people are sexual predators just waiting for a chance to rape the first person they can get their hands on. Just as The Cosby Show taught our parents that black people weren’t so different from white people after all, so have shows like Ellen, Friends, Sex and the City, Will & Grace, Entourage, The L Word, Six Feet Under, The Office…come to think of it nearly every fucking show on television in the last twenty years…have taught us that gay people are just people like everyone else.

That said, there are still plenty of ignorant, uneducated, in-bred hicks with an irrational hatred of gays, and many of them are soldiers. These are the only people who benefit from DADT, which brings me to the next argument.

2- The policy works.

This is what John McCain and Jeff Sessions insisted at the hearing, after Mullen and Gates spoke out against the policy. McCain was almost dumbfounded, insisting that he’d heard from many military leaders who say that the policy is working.

Well, what does that mean exactly? How is the policy working? Well, it’s working to keep gay soldiers in the closet. That is, after all, what the policy is designed to do. Were it not for the policy, there would definitely be a lot more gay soldiers being honest with their fellow soldiers about who they are instead of being forced to lie. So hooray for the policy!

But hello. Just because a stupid policy works doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get rid of it. A few illustrations of this point:

“I’m the boss of a company and I want to be smartest person here, so it’s my policy only to hire people that I know for a fact are dumber than me. The policy works—I’m the smartest person here! Our company may be doing very poorly, but why should I change the policy if it works?”

“I run a night-club and I only want good-looking people to come in and dance, so it’s my policy to turn away anyone I’m not personally attracted to. Because people come in groups they often all go away if one is turned away, so we usually only get 4 or 5 people a night and we’re losing shitloads of potential revenue, but those 4 or 5 people are simply gorgeous! The policy works!”

“As a Democrat, it’s my policy to pretend to fight for an issue like health care reform or financial regulation when I’m really just working at the behest of the lobbyists who fund my campaigns. The policy definitely works for me personally—thanks to the Republicans always filibustering everything I have a convenient excuse to tell my constituents about why we aren’t able to get real reform. My constituents keep supporting me and the lobbyists keep giving me cash. The policy may be incredibly damaging to the American public I’m supposed to be serving, but it does what it was meant to do: it keeps me in office. So why change it?”

And finally: “I’m an American military commander who is uncomfortable with gay people, who threaten my own sexuality. I can’t just kick gay people out because apparently that’s discrimination, but luckily I’ve got this Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy that forces the gay men I work with to pretend they’re straight. I don’t have to deal with the reality that gay people exist, so the policy works. Sure, I lose a few brave and talented men each month, but it’s a small price to pay for avoiding the feeling of awkwardness I’d have to endure if I knew I was in the presence of a homosexual. Please don’t change the policy.”

Ah, the poor homophobic military commander. The one who insists that the policy shouldn’t change because it works. Never mind who it works for, and in what respect it’s working—the fact is DADT has been on the books for nearly two decades and so far the military hasn’t fallen completely apart. There are still soldiers to command, guns to fire, bombs to drop, enemies to kill…something must be working. For all we know, it’s the fact that the gays are closeted, and if they served openly everything would crumble to the ground and terrorists would overrun America. Which brings me to the last remaining argument the proponents of the policy have left:

3- In the middle of two wars, it would be too risky to change the policy now.

So we’re supposed to wait for a time when we’re not at war? When will that be? The way things are going I guess we’ll have to wait until at least 2110, maybe even 3010. God forbid we stop firing gay soldiers when we actually need soldiers to fight.

Seriously, this is the silliest piece of crap argument I’ve ever heard. The fact that we’ve got two wars going on is exactly why the policy needs to be changed now more than ever. Every month we’re losing hundreds of soldiers to this ridiculous policy, many of them Arabic translators and other professionals who are in short supply and badly needed to accomplish our objectives.

“Well, we’ve caught one of the terrorists, but he refuses to speak English for some reason. Where’s Sergeant Homo?”

“Sorry, Colonel, but Sergeant Homo was discharged last Tuesday. Apparently his boyfriend came by the base, and…”

“Sergeant Homo was gay!? I am shocked! Shocked, I tell you! And outraged. I can’t believe we actually let him translate during our interrogations! Shit. For all we know he could have been flirting with the terrorists instead of translating our questions! That’s sick. I am disgusted. In fact I think I need to throw up, hang on a minute…”

“Um…colonel, what should we do with the terrorist prisoner?”

“Just send him to Bagram. He may have important information but we don’t have anyone left who could understand him. Maybe his English will improve after some sleep-deprivation.”

It’s insane. It’s ridiculous. It needs to stop. Firing gay soldiers, especially translators, hurts national security. If Republicans were consistent in their beliefs, they might insist that the safety of Americans is a little bit more important than the sexual preferences of those who keep them safe.

But they’ll stand up and fight against the repeal, even while the military leadership—at least the non-homophobic segment of it—insists that the policy must go. After all, it’s their homophobic wingnutty constituents who they need to pander to, not the military leadership. Support the troops, yes. But only the straight ones.

The Republicans will stand up and fight this, but I think this time they’ll lose. The political atmosphere regarding gay issues has changed drastically over the last two decades. Even in the deep south, lawmakers don’t want to risk sounding bigoted or prejudiced. And bigotry and prejudice are the only arguments against the repeal. All the lawmakers can do is insist that they are not personally prejudiced. We just need to cater to the prejudice of a few soldiers who don’t want to acknowledge the existence of the gay.

Such an argument lacks any force and I would venture that it is doomed to failure (though when it comes to progressive issues in politics, you never know how the Democrats might manage to screw it up).

Finally, I’m just curious about the implementation of the repeal if the Democrats succeed in passing it. They say it’ll take a year to fully implement, which hurts my brain to try and understand. Really? It will take you an entire year to stop firing gay people? Can’t you just…I don’t know…stop firing them? Seems you could do it tomorrow without doing any paperwork at all! Seriously, what does it mean that the transition will take a year? Are you only going to fire 500 gay people in March, 400 in April, 300 in May and so on? I mean how long does it take to stop doing something? Seriously…

So that’s my two cents on Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. I know you didn’t ask for it, but I told you anyway.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.