Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Terrible Law

Sometimes, the United States makes horrible mistakes and then takes too way long to correct them and such is the case with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". I suppose it could be argued that President Clinton's promise to allow gays to openly serve in the military was too much too soon for a nation still stuck in its prejudice and that "Don't Ask" was a compromise step in the right direction. I say that's bull----.

The much-admired Colin Powell was opposed to removing the ban on gays in the military. Hard to believe that a black man would condone such discrimination against another group of citizens after all his own people had endured.  If there had been a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"  for African-Americans, I guess it would have said they could serve as long as they coated their skin with white dye and never admitted they were black. How idiotic and demeaning would that have been?

It wasn't the Republicans who foiled Clinton's campaign promise, although, of course, the R's did their usual baying at the moon about the horror to befall America and the military if "normal" people were forced to share quarters with homosexuals. But, really, it was Sam Nunn and some of the other old Democratic bulls in the Senate who set out to show the new young idealistic president who really ran things in Washington. Them and the Republicans and about a gazillion citizens who saw fit to register their disapproval. Clinton saw the writing on the wall, conceding defeat and accepting, not a half a loaf, but a stale old heel in the perversion of legislation that was "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Essentially, what it told Americans who were motivated to serve their country that they would be allowed to do it only if they were willing to deceive and cheat and sneak and deny their very selves. Yep, those are just the values the United States military wants to instill in it soldiers, aren't they?

So, it's 16 years later and that shameful, ugly law is still in effect. In the meantime, we've gone to war twice and booted how many dedicated and honorable people out of the services, even those who had capabilities we desperately needed, perhaps to save the lives of their  fellow service people, like fluency in Arabic?

Can you say, "willing to cut our noses off to spite our faces?' That's the ultimate sadness of prejudice. It harms the discriminator every bit as much as the discriminated against. If it strips the victim of his dignity, it strips the bigot of his self-respect.

Now there is a chance we'll rectify our error. When asked in a congressional hearing if "Don't Ask" should be done away with, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen said that it was his personal belief that "allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.

Of course, nothing will happen soon. Change has to grind through the bureaucracy like pounding rock into sand with a croquet mallet. But the military is going to start to think about how a different policy can be implemented. Naturally, many of the Republicans are "deeply disappointed" by this turn of events including John McCain, our could-have-been president. If the Republicans pull off a big sweep in the mid-term elections, all bets are off.

I hope that doesn't happen. Attitudes have changed since 1993. The younger generations are more accepting of differences but we shouldn't wait on them to lead the way. We have the opportunity to right a wrong and we should do it now.

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