Don’t Act Don’t Tell Asks Questions and Tells us Society’s Deeper Issues

How is that we have courageous, valiant soldiers overseas– battling hunger, separation from family, the daily fear that this day may be their last—who fear the thought of serving their country side-by-side with a harmless and average citizen, who simply takes a liking to “their own kind”?  The military is a unit, a family, where each member spends the most grueling and challenging times together.  With Obama’s repeal of the DADT “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in December 2010, many voice their opposition and support of this action. This is yet another testimony to the U.S’s habitual trend of segregation of a group of peoples.  In the 50s, we were segregating the blacks and the whites…and in the end, people realized, “Hey, they’re actually not so bad.” So how is this situation with homosexuals and heterosexuals in the military any different? Now, for the first time since African Americans were integrated into the military, inequality of sexual orientation has been and will be a rampant issue in forthcoming years.

What is wrong about the repeal of the DADT? Some military officials are led to believe that this repeal would pose a risk on the unit cohesion of the “family.”  Former Colonel Dave Bedey, a former senior member of the faculty at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, noted to Washington Post: “I oppose repeal of Title 10 Section 654 because of the risk that open service by homosexuals poses to unit cohesion and, more importantly, to the stability of the larger military community that supports those units.” The basic idea of the military is that everyone around you is family and you trust the person next to you. But you immediately lose something about that when you have to lie about yourself. There is an immediate disconnect.  The sentiments are similar to keeping your deep secrets about your past from your spouse.  “The basic conversations you have are, ‘Are you married? Are you in a relationship?’ And you have to always lie. When that foundation at the very start is a lie, you lose that family aspect about the military,” says Josh Seefried, an active-duty Air Force officer.[1]

Some, such as Gen. James Amos, is wary that the repeal will “cost Marine lives” because of the distraction of serving with gays on the front lines.   A survey conducted by the Pentagon, revealed that those in combat are most opposed to repeal.  Yet the report found that most service members already know gays in their units, and reports from the front line indicate more tolerance for gay troops than conservatives believe. And Amos has since saluted the change and said he will “personally lead” the integration of gays into the Marine Corps. “That’s a problem for unit cohesion in general,” said Seefried, a finance officer based in New Jersey. “When you treat people differently, that’s when the mission goes awry.”[2] There is also a concern from the opposing side that there will be a deep need to find new recruits for the military because of the repeal of DADT.   Some are fearful that the repeal of the act means that wary parents will not allow their kids or future potential recruits to enlist in the military.  Tony Perkins, a Marine Corps veteran, calls the repeal the “Bring Back the Draft Act.”  Are that many people going to prevent their children the honor of serving their country because of this repeal?

.Experience, confirmed by peer-reviewed academic studies, has shown no impact on recruiting and retention.  The Army also handles incidents of anti-gay bullying and discrimination in much the same way it tackles racism and sexism. “I would be lying if I say there was no bullying that happened, but it is certainly less than other offenses such as racial or sexual harassment,” Lt. Col. Colin Bulleid of the British Army Equality and Diversity Policy Branch told The Independent last year. “There has been no overt homophobic hate wave. We occasionally get the odd prat who behaves inappropriately. But he gets stamped on when he gets found out. We have a reasonably good complaints system.” [3]

So what about those in the army now? How are they dealing with the new change in law?  Whether we like it or not, there is going to be bigotry and discrimination.  But social movements such as this are not easy at first.  It was not as easy as pie when blacks were finally permitted to serve in the same line of duty as whites.  It took years for discrimination to settle down and for genuine integration to take place.  Even to this day, the historically conservative military, faces discrimination.  There is data, however, that proves optimistic for the gay and lesbian community: In an attempt to assess the conduct and professionalism of the training from leadership, OutServe found that a majority of troops (58%) said that it was “very professional,” “generally professional,” or about “neutral.” When asked whether or not troops would feel comfortable bringing their significant other to military sponsored events, almost 60% of those surveyed said they definitely or likely would.[4]

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum noted in a GOP debate that “the fact they are making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to, and removing don’t ask don’t tell.”  There are no special privileges given to homosexuals under this act.  The only special privilege they have is the “privilege” to exercise their compassion and love for their family and loved ones freely the same way every heterosexual does too. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council warns that “homosexual misconduct” such as sexual bullying and male rape will soar.  If this is the special privilege that some are afraid of, the military has something to say in correspondence: Military leaders dismiss such scenarios, noting that gay and lesbian troops will be held to the same standards that prohibit sexual misconduct by straight men and women in the ranks.  I agree with Santorum when he says “[removing the Don’t ask, Don’t Tell] I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military’s job is to do one thing: to defend our country.”  Santorum is right—those serving the military and a purpose of heart and honor to defend our country.  And so it shouldn’t matter what color or sexual orientation is fighting for that purpose, right? It’s a bit ironic to me, that enforcing the “Don’t Act, Don’t Tell” is injecting social policy in the first place.

If there was no DADT act in the first place, there wouldn’t be as much socialization and division within the military. Our “macho man” “alpha-male” society gives way to this fear that any male that isn’t “machismo” is not “normal.” In other cultures and societies, where the “be a man or else you’re a girl” mentality is not as poignant, inclusion and integration is more common.  Moreover, American society facilitates the judgment that when boys start crying or anything that is a bit “girly” they are “gay.” So, what’s wrong with that? I can’t really come up with an answer of why that is a problem (except for a religious concern, but I’ll get into that in the coming paragraph).  Other than that, there is nothing to be feared of a boy being and acting “gay.”  It has just been a fear instilled in our minds and brains from socialization in the U.S. that it is not okay for men to show emotion or “be less macho.”

In 2000, when the U.K lifted their ban, the biggest news about the change was that it resulted in no news. Academic studies published in peer-reviewed journals found that allowing openly gay troops to serve in the U.K. had no negative impact on cohesion, readiness, recruiting, morale, retention or any other measure of effectiveness.  In Israel also, a country tastefully dubbed as the “gay capital of the Middle East,” there is a supportive inclusion policy in the military.  America still deals with a grave deal of social and segregation issues  In essence, if we make it a big deal, it becomes a big deal.[5]

Another concern that others had was that due to the repeal, there would be a “mass exodus” of soldiers and chaplains in the military.  Republican Sen. John McCain warned that the equivalent of at least 14 army divisions or 265,000 troops, would leave the military sooner than planned because they object to serving with open homosexuals.  Pentagon leaders dispute that under contractual obligations no one can simply say “deuces” and leave. Conservative Christian chaplains are among the most opposed to homosexuality, and some retired clergy predict many will leave the military to avoid counseling gay troops. The Pentagon said chaplains won’t be forced to change their world view but will be encouraged to “continue to respect and serve with others who hold different views and beliefs.”[6]

I am a Christian and a strong follower of my faith and sometimes I am afraid to proclaim this out loud because there are many many Christians who take the words of the Bible out of context and use them as a means to justify their social beliefs. I don’t think the Bible should be a means of governing our lives in our political system.  In the nineteenth and eighteenth century, when slavery was common and every white man was permitted by law to do whatever they wanted with their “possession,” many justified this course of action with the Bible.  To those who convict that slavery was alright, they may use the verse from Out of context, this verse seems shocking and even appalling.  But let’s look at this in context, disassociating our modern notion of slavery (that which is more cruel and inhumane): Slavery during that time was equivalent to hiring a maid or a housecleaner in our times.  Those who could not pay back debts to their lenders would work for them (for pay too) because debtors simply couldn’t go to a bank and ask for a loan.  In context, slavery was just like having a servant or a baby sitter.

Similarly, a large majority of Christians condemn the “sinful” and “evil” nature of homosexuals.  As I had mentioned above, typically conservative Americans are afraid of guys acting “girly” because of the fear that they may be gay.  Aside from our society’s issues of socialization, this fear can also stem from religious reasons.  Those against homosexuality, justify their beliefs by proclaiming verses of the Bible, such as “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” Leviticus 18:22 “ In the 21st Century, many Christians subconsciously link modern homosexuality with ancient practices of homosexuality, which is in reference to sexual abuse of slaves, pederasty, rape of foreigners, and pagan fertility rites.  Many Christians use verses of the Bible out of context without understanding archaic definitions of words in the Bible.[7]  Of course, there is a wide array of debates concerning the interpretation of the Bible but I think those against homosexuality for these reasons need to truly read the Bible in context of history and not our modern history, if they want to truly follow the word of God.

All in all, there are three main points I want to summarize in my little blab session: One, is that the opposition of the repeal partly stems from American society’s grave and deeper issues.  The issue of homosexuality in the military is a microcosm of our American’s mindsets’ and socialization.  It’s the “black and white” mindset and socialization that men are supposed to be one way and women are supposed to be another.  The blurring of those two groups casts worry on many, while it should not.  If we make something a big deal, it becomes a big deal.  Israel had no issues with this and neither did the U.K.  My second point is that we should not criticize what we don’t understand.  Criticizing homosexuality with backing by the Bible is premature thinking and understanding.  Lastly, change is difficult but we should not be afraid of it.  The repeal of the DADT certainly will create battles for many homosexual officers in the military and just because the repeal has occurred, it doesn’t mean things will be easier for them.  The challenge is for heterosexuals to welcome and embrace those “coming out” as they did before their “proclamation.”

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