Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Truly American Military


...would look like America.  It still doesn't, but we keep getting closer.  If Congress is able to finally repeal the Clinton Administration's awkward attempt at a compromise with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this week, the Pentagon can officially begin implementing the changes.  Considering the 1993 law was born in Congress, it seems fitting -- even necessary -- that it should be laid to rest there.  Defense Secretary Gates has reminded us that it took five years to fully implement the 1948 Executive Order from President Truman requiring racial integration of the Armed Forces.  And while he isn't advocating this time frame as a model for the current task, he's asking for patience.  Fine, I certainly don't know enough about what has to happen system-wide to quibble about time frames, but I do know a journey of 1,000 miles requires a first step...and these boots were made for walkin', so let's get on with it.

The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell has the support of most Americans, the President and even the military's top brass.  It has been debated ad nauseum and all the old canards about "unit cohesion" have been set aside.  Mostly.  We can still rely on folks like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council to dutifully hoist the following:  I fervently believe the glorious Star-Spangled Banner should wave over our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard heros [sic].  President Obama wants to raise the rainbow flag of the homosexual rights movement over them.  Which will it be?  Setting aside the fact that this "patriot" cannot even spell the word heroes correctly, his suggestion that countless numbers of past and present gay troops (however closeted by choice or by law) who have fought and died -- who are now fighting to fight! -- would happily ditch Old Glory for anything is the height of insult.  Does Mr. Perkins not realize that the e pluribus unum represented in the American flag includes even the people he doesn't like or with whom he disagrees?  Gay people are part of the unum, and, as such, must have full access to the rights and privileges of it, including military service if they feel called to it.

Mr. Perkins' insult doesn't stop there, however.  He implicitly insults the troops he ostensibly is trying to protect.  Does he really think that someone who has volunteered, been trained, and is now ready to enter battle if necessary for our country really fears being in a foxhole with a gay guy?  I suppose there are troops who feel this way, but, seriously, how pathetic.  People like Tony Perkins have fanned the flames of this kind of fear, but I imagine the repeal and implementation of DADT without the sky falling will extinguish it.  Straight and gay troops alike are there to do a job, not to get a date.  Mr. Perkins uses the implied shibboleth of an aircraft carrier under a rainbow flag as some sort of floating 1970s-era disco as an alarm to good, decent Americans that they are under attack.  He's right, of course, but he's confused about who the enemy is.  He thinks gay troops are the enemy, but it's really discrimination of any kind that sullies the ideals of our country which are represented by our flag and by the motto e pluribus unum.

The Preamble of our Constitution states:  We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of our Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.  When DADT is finally repealed and all of "We the People" are allowed to "provide for the common defense" to "secure the Blessings of our Liberty", we will have moved one more step towards that "more perfect Union" that our Founders always recognized was not a fait accompli but a goal, forever in need constant focus and hard work.

[Hat tip for the Perkins quote:  Daily Kos' Bill in Portland Maine.]