Don’t ask, don’t tell?

| Staff Columnist

Recently, a California judge ruled the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy unconstitutional. According to the Washington Post, the Justice Department declared that the ruling should not be enforced by an injunction banning the discharge of openly gay service members; however, the injunction could be applied in a limited manner to the group that brought case, the Log Cabin Republicans. Citing the need for “further study” on how to incorporate openly gay service members into the military, the Justice Department urged that the injunction not be enforced until the Pentagon had completed its research. This week, Republican Senators stalled consideration of a bill that contained a provision to end the policy immediately.

This whole debacle only serves to reinforce my cynicism toward democracy and politics in general. I’m far from an anarchist, and at this point, no other system of government piques my fancy (apologies to Kim Jong-Il and Thomas Hobbes). However, my immediate reaction to this story was a face palm worthy of Jean-Luc Picard. I have to check with a doctor, but I have a sinking feeling my hand is slowly fusing with my head.

Despite the enormous outpouring of lip service to individual rights and equality in this country, it would appear that these words have fairly narrow definitions. Based on observation of American society, the definition of a “right” encompasses such inviolable freedoms as owning guns, referring to President Obama as a Muslim on TV and gorging oneself on hamburgers. I’m being snide and ungenerous, of course, especially towards the demographic that typically encompasses Tea Partiers. I also have the right to vote, practice any religion and freely criticize politicians. At any rate, it’s not as though Democrats are anywhere near perfect either; after all, the Justice Department’s decision is enfolding under a Democratic administration.

Being born an American is one of the best arbitrary circumstances in which I have found myself in terms of political liberty and economic opportunity. However, I’m consistently amazed that a supposedly civilized country that attaches so much rhetorical importance to concepts of equality and liberty falls so short on actually delivering on its promises. Forcing gay soldiers to hide their sexuality labels them as inferior and discriminates against them. It’s that simple.

I’m also perplexed as to why integrating openly gay military personnel would be an issue needing “further study.” Homosexuality is not some sort of overriding trait precluding normal interaction with straight people of the same sex. Americans’ Puritan heritage, with its outdated sexual mores and predilection for burning witches, should be confined to third-grade Thanksgiving plays, not to shaping government policy. Why the army would reject perfectly fit personnel, willing to fight and die for their country, on such an illogical basis as sexuality is beyond me. I’m impressed that gay individuals are still willing to serve in a system that tacitly regards them as second-class citizens.

Technically, of course, gay men and women can still serve, albeit covertly. Does anyone really believe that if “don’t ask, don’t tell” were repealed, soldiers would start proselytizing for homosexuality or flagrantly hitting on their fellow soldiers? It’s not as though everyone in the military would have to start listening to Lady Gaga and worrying about whether that their uniforms clashed with their eye color. Nothing would change, except the elevation of gay soldiers to the same level of respect as their straight counterparts.

It would be erroneous to suggest that everyone who supports this cautious attitude towards repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” is homophobic. This is a touchy subject. It would inevitably cause some discomfort; it might even cost a few politicians a re-election. The racial integration of the military worked out just fine. Honestly, the military has more important things to worry about (dangers overseas, maybe?) than its personnel’s sexual preferences.

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