Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Don't ask, don't tell, don't think.

It is interesting to watch the mental gymnastics used to justify what amounts to prejudice. It was first claimed that gay soldiers simply couldn’t do the job; that gay people are intrinsically incapable of performing military service. That myth has been blown out of the water by the vast numbers of gay military personnel who have done their jobs and done them well.

The second argument that I have heard used is not that gay service members are incapable of doing the job but that other service members feel uncomfortable working with them. That argument basically would make gays the only members of society who are denied the right to serve in the military based entirely on the prejudices of others.

But that argument is failing as polls show that young people, in particular, have no such negative feelings toward gay men and women. The actual individuals with whom gay service personnel would work are the least prejudicial of the general public. But prejudice increases with age. One suspects it is not the actual combat soldiers who feel uncomfortable as much as it is the older officers who sit in offices running things.

I spoke with a US military officer, a friend of mine, about this matter about a year ago when visiting his military base in Germany. He informed me that the vast majority of soldiers he works with have no problems working with gay men or women. While he is heterosexual he said he was often assumed to be gay and never had problems from anyone because of it -- including while stationed in Iraq. The reality is that it is mostly old farts in the Pentagon and Congress, along with the Bible-beating bigots, who are upset with gay military personnel, not soldiers.

One example of one such old fart is Marine Gen. Peter Pace who doesn’t want to change military policy regarding homosexuals. He argues simply that homosexuality is immoral and therefore immoral soldiers should be dismissed. Does he really want to open that can of worms?

Let us say that homosexuality is immoral. Many people also think that smoking, drinking, dancing, Hollywood movies, masturbation, oral sex, and fatty foods are immoral. Usually the line drawn on such matters is whether or not the actions in question violate the rights of others -- not whether some dinosaur has some old view and can’t accept change. And there is a long, time honored moral tradition (which I don’t subscribe to) which says that being in the military is itself immoral.

Pace is not a logical man by any means. Prejudice is rarely rational. Let us follow as he jumps through some hoops to explain his bigotry. He says: “I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.”

He doesn’t mean immoral in any way. He doesn’t exclude fornicators, drinkers, smokers, atheists, masturbators, gluttons, the envious, and a host of others, consider immoral by many people, from military service. He defines morality in a way that excludes gays and allows most other “immoral” people because they aren’t gay.

And Pace is clear that he means homosexuality mostly: “I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts.” Gee, does that mean if they involve three people they are okay?

Now this old man says that he does support the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. This reveals the real problem. Under “don’t ask, don’t tell” a soldier is allowed to serve, even if he is gay, put will be thrown out if his homosexuality is discovered. So Pace is saying he doesn’t mind having gay personnel in the military provided he just doesn’t know they are gay.

So if their “immorality” is something he is unaware of then he doesn’t care. Isn’t that condoning it? I mean if you actively overlook it, knowing full well it might be happening, then aren’t you condoning it? So it is not “immorality” that bothers him after all.

It isn’t the immorality of what these people do in the privacy of their bedrooms that bothers Pace. He just doesn’t like being around someone he knows is gay. He’s happy for them to be immoral provided he is unaware of it. This has nothing to do with immorality since he doesn’t want to stop the immorality. It merely has to do with the visceral disgust a bigot feels toward people they don’t like.

That’s why all those other immoral acts are ignored by Pace -- he doesn’t have prejudicial views toward drinkers, masturbators, fornicators or the like. It’s gays he doesn’t like and therefore he wants his prejudices cemented into law.

It’s time the dinosaur retire.

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