Friday, December 17, 2010


"You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight."

-Senator Barry Goldwater

As a veteran of two tours of duty in the United States Air Force, few policies were and are as offensive to me as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". From the moment you step off the bus at boot camp, in whatever branch of the service, "Integrity and Honor" are driven home as core principles. Day and night, from reveille to lights out, these notions are what military service is supposed to be about.

Asking these same young men and women to lie about who they love, and who they are makes a mockery of the notion of integrity and honor at the heart of serving your country. I worked closely with many men and women during my nearly eight years of service. I worked for some, and some worked for me. I knew these fellow airmen very well. Well enough to know that some of them were, in fact, homosexuals forced into the closet by small, closed-minded bigots who have no tolerance for those who are in any way, shape or form, different than them or what their twisted view of the "ideal soldier" should be.

One of these men I served with refused to be forced to deny who he was to those around him, those who served so proudly with him, and he came out, publicly to me and his fellow airmen. He was quickly and quietly drummed out of the Air Force by our commanders, despite a sterling service record...only because he was different. He didn't fit the bigoted view of the "Model Airman". He's one of more than 13,000 airmen, soldiers, marines and sailors that have been thrown out of our all volunteer force since DADT became the law of the land.

The same types of white men who've made these decisions in and out of uniform, in the command centers and the congress for generations also said that allowing African Americans to stand on equal footing alongside their white counterparts would bring a quick end to the mightiest military on the planet. This was 1948.

Bigots will always decry attempts to give those of a different color, gender, religion, or sexual orientation equal rights under the law. Despite the fact that we've been teaching our children since the signing of the Declaration of Independence that "All men are created equal," most of those founding fathers enslaved black men and women. George Washington, the beacon of conservative American white pride they love to drag out of his grave and parade around as some paragon of virtue ad nauseam, owned more than one hundred human beings as slaves. Ah, but that's okay...he chopped down the fucking cherry tree and didn't lie about it, right? That's a childish myth, of course. His slaves? They were very much a reality. Oh, but he was yeah. That's all history, water under the bridge and human beings under the ground, right?

Fast forward to December 18th, 2010. Saturday. Tomorrow. The United States Senate stands at the ready to take up a stand alone bill that would send to President Obama's desk the repeal of DADT as official military policy. A bill that would effectively, and finally end this policy of state sponsored bigotry. To allow "Integrity and Honor" to actually mean just that, and not force thousands of brave men and women to lie about who they are on a daily basis.

No thanks to men like Arizona Senator John McCain, who despite asking for surveys of our troops, and then when said polls show that seventy percent of them support repeal, remains staunchly entrenched in his homophobic position of hatred. And despite the fact that the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs have urged the senate to act now to end this policy of hate, McCain remains unmoved. Ah, but he's not alone. Most of his cohorts on the right cling to their hatred and bigotry as well, and will vote with Arizona's proud son against repeal. After all, to "Support Our Troops" means just the straight ones, right? And hey, you put a big yellow ribbon bumper sticker on your gas guzzling giant SUV, that's enough...isn't it?

Thankfully, there are a handful of brave Republicans who plan to stand with the Democratic Party line of an open, honorable policy of honoring ALL those who serve and want to serve, and are poised on the precipice of ending this state sponsored bigotry once and for all.

As I watch from the sidelines tomorrow, I applaud not only these brave men and women of the senate on the occasion of this truly historic vote, I salute those who serve. I remember and honor those not only in uniform today, but also all those who came before. Those who gave all they had for their country, those who even lost their lives to defend a democracy that despised them.

This is for you.

"When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."
- Epitaph of Leonard P. Matlovich, 1988


Blogger Al Penwasser said...

I was in the military for 27 years and am as straight as I can be. There is no way I can ever imagine finding it erotic to have another man express any physical attraction toward me. And yet......I don't see anything wrong with homosexuals being allowed to serve. Who these guys (and gals) choose as their dancing (or other activity) partner doesn't matter one whit to me. As long as I don't see two dudes engaged in a lip-lock in the chow line, no worries (to be honest, I don't really care to see a guy and a girl going at it over the creamed beef and toast, either). Asking people to lie is never a good thing, in my opinion.
I can understand the reluctance of some folks to share berthing facilities with a person of the opposite sex who may find them attractive. But, again, I frankly don't care if I'm eyeballed on my way to the shower.
Good post!

5:28 PM  

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