Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for Dec 31 20l0
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ooops, well there goes the country. First black people got into the Army. Then women. Now gays. What’s the world coming to next? Well, since so many of our old, draft-dodging chicken-hawk politicians keep getting us into wars, I guess we’ll need everyone we can get our hands on to keep our military well-stocked with the finest professional soldiers in the world.
But I found the battle over gays in the military particularly funny. Like gays haven’t been serving all along? And all the wink-nudge comments about being fearful taking showers with gay soldiers? Like straight soldiers haven’t been scrubbing up with gay soldiers all along? Snuggling in foxholes? Yup, though if you’re under fire I suspect the sexual orientation of the guy next to you is the last thing you’d be worrying about.
For years, it’s been a constant battle to officially NOT know that there were gays in the military, and in an effort to codify that NOT knowing, Congress invented DATA: Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell, which was supposed to legalize NOT knowing. Unfortunately, a lot of people were asking and telling so about 14,000 soldiers were booted out, including desperately needed Arab linguists at a time when the military was scraping the bottom of the barrel in a search to recruit enough warm bodies. So one military hand started desperately accepting citizens with criminal records while the other hand was kicking out highly trained soldiers. It was a destructive and pointless policy that constantly damaged mission readiness.
Despite the obvious futility (to say nothing about issues of simple equality under law of all citizens), the strongest opposition seemed to break along age lines. To the old generals (and old politicians), gays in the trenches were a scary thing that conjured up tasteless jokes about bars of soap and showers; to the young kids actually in the trenches and in the showers, it was no big deal. They’d grown up with gay friends amidst a popular culture loaded down with openly gay icons, had seen the rise of gay rights and had little problem with “gayness.”
Except for the Marines. As Congress ordered the military brass to “study” the issue, all the branches came back with a report that pretty much said, “No Big. With some minor tweaking, we will implement the new policy smartly, Sir!”
But not the Marines. Not the manly-men, macho Marines, guys famous for hyper-maleness, the rippling oiled muscles, the ripped abs gleaming in the sun, the testosterone-drenched manliness, the over-the-top HooRAH tough, chew-iron-spit-nails, take no prisoners, quintessential non-girly-men bonding in the deep mystical brotherhood of guyness. Which, let’s face it, is all sooooo gay. Probably explains why the mere thought of an actual, real gay marine snuggling up next to a straight marine in a foxhole had the top Marine brass rattled. Rattled!
Well, I have one word for those scared generals: Sparta.
Politically, the age break was also sadly apparent in Senator Grumpy Gramps McCain who in his dotage has turned into a spotlight chaser who waffles and flips over anything that’ll get him some TV face time. That’s what he did on this issue, first declaring he’d listen to what the top brass had to say, then, when the top brass had their say, decided he didn’t like their say and voted against repealing DATA, declaring “this is a sad day.” It was, indeed. A sad day for Gramps McCain and other politicians who fail to see that arc of justice, bending.
Said Senator John Kerry of the historic vote; “The military remains the great equalizer. Just like we did after President Truman desegregated the military, we’ll someday look back and wonder what took Washington so long to fix it.”
Ah, well, that’s always the question that goes unanswered when all the injustices we fight so hard to keep in place finally fall. When the change comes, often after a terrible struggle, we blink and suddenly the world is the same but slightly different. Then we ask, “Uh, what was all that about, anyway?”
And there never is a good answer.