Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Vice President, Joe Biden recently predicted that the repeal of the law known as "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" has essentially made the passage of marriage rights for gay Americans "inevitable." I would add that the most newsworthy aspect of his statement may be the fact that he managed to utter it without an expletive or a gaff. Certainly, for anyone with a modicum of understanding of American history or civics, his was an exercise in stating the obvious. Biden merely made note of the quintessential characteristic of the American heart and mind: Equality. Perhaps those among us who are surprised or appalled at the repeal of DADT, have simply failed to grasp what it means to be an American.

Much ink was expended in the Longview News Journal a week ago by columnist Jeff McAlister, who hyperventilated about issues of "unit cohesion," and the perils of living in "close quarters" with homosexual servicemen and women. Correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t U. S. military personnel been efficiently going about their duties with their gay comrades in arms for decades? No such deterioration of "unit cohesion" has been reported thus far, and I believe the sexual licentiousness alluded to by Mr. McAlister probably rests squarely with the heterosexual contingent of the armed services, which has never been known as a bulwark of moral rectitude.

Nor has any slippage in military effectiveness been noted in any of the other armed services around the globe which, once again, are way out ahead of the U. S. on the issue. Britain (which abolished slavery a century before we did), dealt with the issue of allowing gays to serve ten years ago. Last I heard, they have a military that, despite dire prophecies like those made by McAlister, is still functioning admirably. Indeed, according to a New York Times article, when British soldiers took the not insignificant risk of being open about their sexual orientation, it often had the effect of strengthening unit cohesion (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/16/world/europe/16iht-gays.4.5740115.html).

Ultimately, this coddling of the homophobic segment of the armed services is insulting to the vaunted toughness and determination that is perennially ascribed to soldiers in general. Gay Americans, as has been noted, are already risking life and limb for their country. Is it really too much to ask that they be allowed to serve without the added burden of anxiety over who might find out about their orientation? Why not pass a provision that homophobes should not be asked about their ignorance and bigotry, and if asked, shouldn’t tell, or else face expulsion from the military?

Conservative angst over the issues of gay military service or marriage equality might be more convincing if their track record on excluding other segments of society could stand up under scrutiny. The list is as impressive for its length as for the remarkable consistency conservatives have shown for being wrong. Black Americans were once thought to be too stupid or cowardly to be field medics, fly aircraft, or serve in combat. Women were thought incapable of doing many things for which their stellar performance is now taken for granted, including voting, leading corporations, and serving in the military with bravery and distinction. In each case, conservatives wailed and railed about our doomed society. For a doomed society, we look pretty good.

Candidly, McAlister revealed what I suspect was the driving concern behind his screed: Religion. He did this in the belief that bigotry which has its source in religion was somehow no longer bigotry, or at least was bigotry sanctioned by God. Mr. McAlister is of course free to hold retrograde ideas like that. It is his right as an American. But as there is no religious test for serving in our government, perhaps the time has come to drop such restrictions to serving on the field of battle. The reason for doing so has nothing to do with political correctness, or social experiments, or with the vagaries or passing fancies of culture. It simply has to do with plain American equality. If we are to be true to our creed, equal needs to mean equal. And a theology or god incapable of fairness, risks being outshone by a constitution fashioned by the hands and hearts of mere men.

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