Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
Location
New England, USA
Title
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
Bio
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.

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JUNE 27, 2009 1:21PM

Military Leaders: Grow Up and Let Them Tell

Rate: 45 Flag

As I write this post, Lt. Dan Choi has a hearing coming up about the crime of offering to translate Arabic for the US government while being gay.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell is mere institutionalized bigotry based on irrational fears, the like of which the US military has successfully overcome in the past with other feared groups. The military could just as easily educate its way out of this phantasm of a threat, but simply elects not to.

To not be able to mention a loved one is, to the speaker, a lie. Consider the fuss made about Peter denying Jesus (three times before the rooster crows) in the Bible. Clearly, many of those who champion this ridiculous policy, since they often quote chapter and verse about Christian values while advocating as they do, are aware of the issues of shame surrounding forced denial of someone loved. They should understand that, for all intents and purposes, to deny someone loved is no harmless compromise but rather places the speaker under duress, compelling the worst kind of lie. Shame on anyone who chooses or endorses the ridiculous policy path that leads to such a “need.”

Gays are not asking for the right to draw others into sex. Inappropriate sexual conduct should not be tolerated in someone gay or straight. Any abuse of power, sexual advance without consent, or explicit display of sexual practices in an inappropriate venue is already something to be avoided by all good citizens, gay or straight, military or not. The rights gays really crave are much more modest; they include things more like the right to say they are gay at all, the right to speak the name of those who wait at home praying for them, the right to have photos of these loved ones visible on their desk or bunk.

There have been, are, and will be gays deployed in the active duty military, to include the battlefield. Surely the military does not deny this. The fact that no problem results from that is proof this is a non-issue except insofar as peoples' uninformed fears are catered to. If there are people who insist on being worried by misinformation, those are the people who are a danger.

Controversy surrounding the discharge of Lt. Dan Choi, a linguist fluent in Arabic, is unbelievable. The petty nature of this problem should be a wake-up call to us all. If anything, his act of “coming out” was brave. Yet he has paid dearly for exercising his conscience in ways he never should have been required to. This situation should be seen as a Rosa Parks moment for anyone who's been putting up with this issue until today.

At Nuremberg, alleged war criminals used the “just following orders” defense, and were told “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.” The nature of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is quite different than what happened at Nuremberg, but we can still learn a lot from philosophy underlying this lesson. The military has many rules, and yet underlying everything must be a sense of humanity. I suggest that for gays to be compelled to suppress information of this kind, not just for a moment to serve some specific situation but over an extended period of time while acting in service of their country, is nothing less than unconscionable. A higher sense must prevail here, and we must come to see that it is not the violation but the policy that is out of order here.

We're having so much trouble getting people to volunteer for the military, yet we're discharging someone who's qualified? We've got budget shortfalls, yet we're wanting to throw out someone who is already trained and qualified, paying still more money to train his successor? We've got trouble finding people fluent in Arabic, but are opting to lose this mission-critical resource because of our concern with the gender of the person he beds down with after a day's work?

Our military leaders need to help us, as a nation, grow up about this matter. That includes President Obama, in his role as Commander in Chief, if he stands by this policy. It's time we admitted what the real threats to the US are— and what they are not.

A letter of support for Dan Choi is being assembled. Please read about the letter, sign your name and add your comments.


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Click here to see Rachel Maddow interview Lt. Dan Choi.

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I never understood why Clinton got all this support from the Gay community when he instituted "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Clinton got support for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." because prior to its passing recruits were asked about their sexuality in the initial interview. Many recruits were automatically rejected because of this. "Don't Ask. Don't Tell" was seen as a compromise between right and left as a way of saying: "You can be gay in the military, just don't tell anyone, because it's still against the rules." The right would not allow for a blanket acceptance of homosexuality in the military, so this was seen as the closest thing. I personally wish that a persons sexuality was not seen as a concern to anyone, but until that day comes the "Don't ask. Don't tell" is the only thing that allows gays to even be allowed to serve.
Kent, I'm probably going to get backwash for this, but this makes me furious.

First: I support Gay rights and have no dog in the fight against gay advancements. But don't ever expect the military to do any social advancement that even a simple majority of Americans aren't willing to do. We didn't get racial integration until then. Women didn't stand a chance until then.

Second: Don't ever tell our troops to grow up. We are, will be, and have been more grown than you have even one clue about. Heck, military children are more grown and sophisticated than a lot of adults are behaving right now.

Third: Have you ever considered the myriad of OTHER considerations that having openly gay soldiers would involve?

Who would get jailed, tortured or executed in a country which administers the death penalty to gays? There was no death penalty for Being Black or Hispanic. There was no death penalty for being a woman. How would this affect the treaties and arrangements which allow us to have military bases in countries which consider it illegal to be gay?

We are not in America, even when we're stationed here. We are under the Uniform Codes Of Military Justice, not under the Constitution of America or any other nation. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is as far as it's going to go when we can't even get gay marital acceptance and benefits in all 50 states! President Obama's hands are tied to the pitiful set of things that he did, because we can't even get Congress to allow him to do more!

It's not just the younger troops who are amazing in their more accepting, tolerant and excellent progress in dealing with gay issues. They are grown.

Our military leadership IS grown and is vastly experienced with gay issues as they apply to the real world and to the entire world.



Finishing: There's a whole lot more acceptance, tolerance, and opportunity for gay soldiers in the military (and there always HAS been), than you are aware of.

There are a lot more of screw ups and people not suited for military duty who are gay than you're acknowledging. I have had to deal with a few of them. Being Gay is not an antidote to incompetence.

Gays (especially White ones) have historically had promotions, recognition, awards, opportunities and the brass rings of retirement afforded to them when others were ripped off.

In the military, all are in a community, an extended family, and a workplace at the same time.

Being gay isn't considered the most pressing or important part of any one's business or life, any more than being Catholic or being a Republican or being a horny straight single, or young, or old. No one gets away with too much of making their personal issues the main topic of everyone Else's day.

And military life is life in a fishbowl. Where you live, who you date, how your marriage is going, whether your kids are angels or devils...it's all out there.

Beginning with: We don't need to insult soldiers again. We have and will put our lives on the line so you can sit up and write anything you please. We will not bully military leadership into making changes without thinking about the vastly complex consequences.

The military reflects general society to a great extent. General society hasn't even accepted gay marriage in all 50 states. The military is not anyone's cheap and easy way to social advancement beyond what your own fellow American and world citizens are prepared to do.

Work, instead, to get Americans to approve Gay marriage in all 50 states. Work to get other countries to end the death penalty for being gay.

But please stop excoriating good men and women who sacrifice daily to serve our country. There is no issue or cause that gives anyone an excuse for that.

And this issue and cause is nowhere near as easy as "just doing it". That's a commercial aimed at overpaid yuppies who want to jog.
another great Stonewall observance post

Obama should have the balls to do what Truman did when the generals didn't want racial integration in the armed forces, just give them their marching orders, maybe there's an announcement coming today since he's invited gay spokespeople to the White House to honor the day
"And military life is life in a fishbowl. Where you live, who you date, how your marriage is going, whether your kids are angels or devils...it's all out there."
This is very true and why we need to get rid of 'don't ask, don't tell'. Gays should have full rights, like the rest of society, and not have to fear for their jobs based on who they love. I can't help being a woman, I can't help being white, and I can't help being bisexual. I was born this way and deserve the right to marry, have benefits with my spouse and serve my country if I so choose. Straights have those rights- I deserve them as well, and that is not entitlement, that is fundamental equality.
Zuma, you're reading into what I wrote things that are not there. I nowhere spoke about the troops. The word "troops" does not even occur in my article. By I spoke of Military “leaders,” (in which I include Obama particularly, by the way—he's the commander in chief, but I also intended the Secretary of Defense and others who are capable of affecting this policy because they have the president's ear), I mean the people capable of making policy or advocating for more effective policy. If you want to read insult where none is attempted nor intended, that's your business. But please at least get your facts right. The matter of being able to translate Arabic is key, and there should be a clear message from all the intelligence people: stop making it harder for us to get correct intel. Moreover, stop making there be artificial things people can be blackmailed over.
Julie, it all goes back to a remark I've made in other posts and forums: There are no political answers, only political questions. It's often assumed that the status quo is apolitical and that only by taking a certain action does it become political, when often the real truth is that the status quo favors the political goals of a comfortable group at the expense of a marginalized group that is painted as radical or disruptive in order to keep them in check. For some issues, this is what democracies are for. (Not that the military is a democracy.) But some issues are more basic. The military could make a rule that people who like the color green have to do everything standing on one foot, too. And there might be some mission-critical situation where this was appropriate. But telling them over an extended period of time that they must live this way or risk being thrown out requires some pretty substantial justification since it affects the very nature and quality of people's lives. And I don't see adequate justification here.
I think we need to let the military set their own standards. That said, I am not aware of any serious problems resulting from having gays in the military; there may have been such problems, but I am not aware of them. The only problems I've heard of is when gay members of the military give TV interviews, etc.

I believe there are a number of military leaders who hold that the current policy needs to be reevaluated. Given the current demands placed on the armed forces, I don't think we have the luxury any more of excluding people who, other than sexual orientation, are fully qualified to serve.
Deborah, I think nerdyjen's analysis sounds plausible, and it may indeed have been a necessary, perhaps even useful, compromise not in the sense of allowing rights but in being a clumsy step toward proper rights. The one feeble claim one could have made before DNDT was there was no evidence that having gays was safe, etc. I think there's some sort of weird fear some people have that gayness will rub off or that gays don't know how to control themselves. DNDT provides the foundation for a lot of people to say "I was there, I have self control, no harm came." And that datapoint seems the last thing anyone could really need to show how ridiculous the origina premise was. But DNDT doesn't have to go on forever for that to be so. There is surely plenty of data by now.

nerdyjen, thanks for that recap/analysis. I knew most of it, though didn't realize it was actually asked about in the initial interview. You'd think they'd have not used such a thing since it seems like an easy thing for someone to lie about to get out of the draft, but maybe this question came up subsequent to the end of the draft.
Excellent points, eloquent writing. Rated.
Eric, yep, religion is fine and I'm sure very important to many in the military. Over-reaching religious fervor is another thing entirely. Many of these people will die for us. Asking them to die holding a secret like who they love and perhaps are willing to die for is a crying shame.
Roy, I agree. It's clear that Obama has a high tolerance for compromise and that he's a good deal more conservative than many who elected him (making it ironic that the Republicans worry the country is going too far to the left under him), but he's a smart man and he should be capable of this. Although I'm really start to worry about some of his sensibilities on these matters, I hold out hope that he's waiting until he's more of a lame duck to do stuff like this and that for now he's trying to stay as uncontroversial as possible in order to spend his goodwill on things like health care. Those things are important, and yet to say we got our health care on on the backs of what I think should be people's basic rights seems feeble. We are, after all, talking merely about dignity, not something that would cost. Indeed, it would save money to allow these people in. We'd have to do less recruiting, less prosecution, and less re-training to find substitutes for people who committed the sin of truth-telling.
Mishima, thanks for stopping in. I don't think this is entirely a military matter because I think this is a basic matter of human dignity. The military could make a rule that people can't talk about their religion, but I think if they did make such a rule, you'd hear outcries from many religious organizations who are now pleased as punch with DNDT suddenly saying that suppressing discussion of deeply held personal beliefs is immoral. Yet surely one's feelings about one's partner is deeply held and personal, too. I don't see it as so easily separated. But I'm glad you and I agree, at least, on that it's a waste not to take them. It would be ok with me if this was won, at least for now, on the pragmatics. I think once it's the rule, people will stop caring. I hear gays are accepted in many foreign militaries and it leads to no problems.

Coconut, thanks for stopping by and for your support.

Karin, thanks! I'm glad the presentation choices resonated with you.
I think the US miltary leadership establishment is entrenched with fundamentalist Christians, so this would be a major anathema to the leaders. They should wake up and embrace diversity. It is the "Christian" thing to do.
Kent writes: "I don't think this is entirely a military matter because I think this is a basic matter of human dignity."

I agree completely. But I'm not in the military. The people in uniform are the ones who put their lives on the line every day, not me. Thus I am willing to defer to their judgment concerning who they need to best accomplish the mission. And the mission takes priority over dignity, in my humble opinion. Again, I'm not getting shot at, and I defer to the people who are.

But I believe there is a growing awareness within the military, both officers and enlisted, that gays and lesbians can and do perform just as well as anyone else. I think it's just a matter of time. Not all the things we would like to see happen according to our schedules.
My sister-in-law helped run the Iraqi detainees from the first Gulf War in Germany and she would always tell me that before the military will ever address the gays in the military, they need to address the sexism and sexual misconduct in the military.

As she said (as a heterosexual female), she knew who was gay and who was not and they NEVER caused a problem and were exemplary soldiers as much, if not more so than the straight soldiers. But she said the level of sexual harassment was out of control. So how hypocritical is the military when they fear gay members (it makes me think of Tom Hanks' co-workers in "Philadelphia") in the ranks but allow sexual STRAIGHT predators get away with such actions? Status quo is the answer.

Rated
Don´t Ask Don´t Tell? If it weren´t so serious, I´d think it´s a joke! Very good post, thanks for the PM, you really got my attention to come and read.
Rated!
Blue, people fix problems they perceive might affect them and often take their time on things they think are isolated. It's sad. But it might imply that you have the order reversed on what has to happen first—not to change the reality of the risk, but to change the perception. Either way, though, you're right that problem needs fixing, too.
Marcela, you're right, it sounds a lot like a joke but it's not. (I added a hyperlink in the article to Wikipedia's description of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell”, by the way.) Thanks for stopping in.
Kent, of course I agree with your general moral conclusion, and surely society is going this way, so it's just a matter of time before the military changes too. Whether the military leads the change in society or follows it, is a matter of how enlightened our leaders are.

All that said, I've heard a direct argument about why gays in the military are problematic. Few of us have much experience with poorly educated military grunts. Let's leave aside the officers, and the college graduates, for the moment. Think instead of the hundreds of thousands of 18-year-old rural patriotic high-school grad farm hands (over the last centuries), who are being turned into a functional modern military. There's boot camp, and basic training. How do you actually get such a person to follow orders, risk their lives, and kill others?

The answer seems to be a kind of brainwashing, where you break down their existing loyalties, and build back up loyalty to the military, and to their immediate troop more specifically, often by hitchhiking on emerging sexual feelings. Their gun becomes their girlfriend, etc.

All this is hard enough when women get introduced into the mix. Add gays, and further cracks might show up.

Perhaps there is a more enlightened way to train professional killers out of naive teenagers. I just think we ought to all be a little skeptical of our ability to translate our morals from a safe 1st-world village community, to the practical matter of molding young men into a modern infantry. How many of us would be able to succeed at that job? Can you really honestly say that including open gays would have no effect?

(All this said, yes of course your model will become reality eventually. And thank god for that.)
Don, some years ago, I might have almost bought that. I doubt anyone who's gay thinks allowing him or herself to be admitted will magically erase prejudice. There will be problems to iron out. And some may choose voluntarily to keep the information to themselves, as they always have. Sexual preference should be a private matter. People shouldn't be asked at all about private sexual matters, and if asked [absent some seriously relevant reason like investigation of a related crime] they should be allowed to refuse to answer or, frankly, to make up stuff (since otherwise the set of people who refuse to answer will be thought “guilty” of something). We can't simply decide to be paternalistic and refuse equality based on an idea that they'll get hurt being treated as adults.
OE, it's strange because Mishima's intuition that the military should decide for itself is turned on its side if what “the military” is becomes dominated by the church, or worse, a particular church.

Larry, indeed—that's what I meant by “irrational fears.”
Kent,
Frank Rich's column for Sunday is about the 40th anniversary of Stonewall and Obama's reticence in addressing both DOMA and DADT. It's a puzzle and Rich takes a guess at several explanations, but it's deeply troubling to me that we're still even having this discussion. Each person is entitled to full civil rights, and the fact that it's 2009 and gays are still denied full citizenship boggles my mind.
Thanks for the post.
Sorry, Kent "Troops" is too much of an inside term, and it's not even grammatically correct. It means all of us.
Zuma, I think no one who isn't described by the criticism should feel criticized. If you're making policy that tells others they have to behave in this way, you should feel I'm talking to you. But I think other people are somewhat stuck with it. There is a middle ground where it's good for people to speak up, but that's a complicated personal decision I can't advocate for everyone.
I think it is part of the societal standard. Until the states give people of all sexual orientations the same rights as anyone else, I can't imagine the military will do it either.

As Kent said, no answers - only questions. Something to think about.
Jodi, history works in funny ways. Sports led the nation in some ways, and you might have expected the other way around. But they had something to gain by being open-minded. I think the same is true for the military. So I don't think it's a closed question whether the Army has to wait on the general public or vice versa, though I certainly acknowledge they are both battlegrounds in their own right, so pressure on both is good. You're right though, I'm not offering a solution so much as continued questions and pressure. The only solution is for someone in authority to finally just say “we're ready to try to do that.” and then for there to be years, perhaps decades, of working out the details.
Mishima, when the military set their own standards, blacks were unable to serve with whites and Arabic translators PRIOR to 9/11 were fired. They discovered just a few days after 9/11 that one of the messages which would have been translated dealt with something big happening on 9/11. It's entirely possible military "standards" cost American civilians their lives. As Lt. Dan Choi was another Arabic translator who has been fired, the military seems perfectly willing tocontinue losing valuable intelligence over some archaic rule. Now, military "standards" include lowering recruitment standards, recruiting people with criminal backgrounds, gang problems and even white supremicists. Personally, if I was in the military, I think I'd feel safer keeping the gays in and the criminals out. There are lots of qualified gay men and women who are unable to serve in the military or, as like Lt. Choi, are being fired. It seems pretty stupid to me.

(ahem) Kent, sorry about my little rant. Thank you for this post and for drawing it to my attention. Rated, dugg, redditt, etc.
Hey, RL, that's what the thread is for. Your reply was better than mine. Thanks for chiming in.
As I write this post, Lt. Dan Choi has a hearing coming up about the crime of offering to translate Arabic for the US government while being gay.
That reads as just insane to me.

And this: To not be able to mention a loved one is, to the speaker, a lie.

I've done that many times in my life. It never feels good and no matter the why, demeans the relationship.
Waking, I admit I took some poetic license in the first sentence, but I think the essence of the problem is fairly stated in spite of that, and yeah, it sounds ... well, I'll just say ridiculous and incomprehensible. But I won't quibble with you having picked a stronger term.
Good points, Kent. It shouldn't make any difference what your orientation is while in the military. As you mentioned, displays of affection is inappropriate and unprofessional whether you're straight or gay. Social progress can be tiringly slow, but this policy will eventually change.
Patricia, I'm sure you're right that it will change. Matter of time. Just trying to hasten it a bit... The normal way change comes is when the opposition dies. You'd think we could evolve past that. I don't like the idea that some people are counting on others to keel over in order for there to be social progress. The younger generations are already going to dislike older generations because they have to take care of them at the same time as they pay back the debt they've been saddled with. The least the older generations could do is give the younger generations a reason to like them and to want to keep them around.
Thank you for directing me to this post.

I read all the comments as well, and disagree with many.

That does not mean I disagree overall.

Jesus, as I re-read this work, it's like the end all... nobody's that smart.
Jay, thanks for stopping in. If you want to be more specific about what you do and don't agree with in either the post or the comments, I'm now properly curious.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell policies may be quite common, though not always as formalized as the policy in the US military. The Boy Scouts of America, though their official policy is not to allow gays in the organization, in fact has thousands of members, adults and children, who are gay. Of course, only people who make their sexual orientation known are subject to having their membership revoked, so most don't. It was this policy, and the conservative politics that reached their zenith after the beginning of the war in Iraq that eventually led me to disassociate with BSA. As far as I know, no changes in this de facto policy are in process.
Rich, interesting way to frame the BSA. By the way, there are individual troops or individuals in BSA that are conscientious objectors to the whole hurtful biz of their policy about gays, so there are other ways to deal. The problem with things like that is that organizations and communities become, over time, more like what they tolerate and less like what they do not. So they drive away tolerant people and it's little wonder as an organization they become more intolerant. Some change can happen from the outside, but some may come from the inside, and I'm glad there are people boycotting the Boy Scouts and people not doing so, but instead continuing to work from within.
Kent, I took the approach you suggest for a number of years. As long as the policies were more or less in the background and honored in the breach, I was fine. But after the Supreme Court settled BSA v. Dale, things changed, at least for me.
(A little bit of background: I was a long-time Assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 408 in Pflugerville, Texas. I also spent several years working as Adult Boy Scout Training Chair for the Tomahawk District. My wife was troop committee chair for several years and Advancement Chair for the Capital Area Council. I am the father of two Eagle Scouts.)

First, for me whether or not one is a homosexual is not a "values" matter. Substantial evidence suggests sexual orientation is not a matter of conscious choice, and I share this view. The BSA sees things differently (and so do the United Methodists, incidentally): they use the language "avowed homosexual" to defend their position, meaning they see this as a matter that could easily be remedied if homosexuals simply "chose" to act in a heterosexual manner and conform to the values in the Scout Oath and the Scout Law, as interpreted by the wingnut conservatives (primarily LDS church members, incidentally) who run the national organization. I find their position repugnant, quite frankly.

When the local United Way removed BSA from its supported charities in 2003 due to its non-discrimination policy, a local radio personality, Bob Cole, made an impassioned plea on behalf of BSA over the air, calling for people to discontinue donating to the United Way. ( You may read about that kerfuffle here. I wrote Bob Cole a letter (to which he never replied), protesting his position, especially inasmuch as homosexuality is not a "vow" and United Way is simply honoring its own values.

I made my position more widely known by reposting my letter on the BSA council list serve. My letter was publicly answered, in pointed fashion, by Calvin Gray, Scoutmaster of Troop 405, Capital Area Council. I can no longer find a copy of Mr. Gray's letter, but it pretty much made the case that I was never Scouter material in the first place, questioned my integrity and values, and wondered why I had ever joined Scouting in the first place. Now, every friend I had in Scouting reads that list serve, and not a single one of them wrote a reply to Mr. Gray's letter to stand up for me.

That's when I left.
Awwww, Rich. I hate that that happened. Hate it.

People can be so dumb. (And yes, I realize that comment alone dumbs down Kent's piece by light years. I apologize.)
Kent, this is excellent. It's posts like this that make me think what you say in your bio could happen...the paid writers at Salon aren't writing this way.

Of course, it was Clinton who put the 'don't ask, don't tell', idea into action. Odd from a president who got it on with an intern in the oval office. Now, personally, I have no problem with that liason because I do not know the inner workings, the dynamic, or anything else beneath the surface of the Clinton's marriage. And it wouldn't matter if Idid. What did matter was his lack of discrimination. Funny word to use here...using discrimination...how different that would have played out if he had excercised some of the values you describe above. Gay or straight, the oval office, the battlefield, the military office, work place, is no place for behaving in a sexually inappropriate manner.

Ha! That's what blogs are for!

And without the fine citizens at Stonewall, my blog wouldn't be here. When I put Send up, I decided I wasn't going to be about gay rights or issues so much as perhaps a look at the whole life of a gay person...that we have many interests, ideas, and experiences that do not include sex at all. Well, no more than exists in the Freudian psychological landscape for all humans.

This trial of Lt. Choi is heartbreaking to me. It's the kind of thing designed to make us give up-a kind of terrorism. Destroy us from the inside. Withhold employment, goods and services, and maybe we'll just die off.

No.

We're Here. We're Queer.

xox
Rich, I had to re-read several times to get it through my head someone was trying to say boycott the United Way because they'd stopped funding the BSA. I was already boycotting the United Way because they were funding the BSA. How strange. I do totally get what you're saying and largely I agree with your position. I was just making the small point that there are a few people trying the other approach, too... I wasn't advocating you should. Your analysis seems fine to me.

Waking, no comment is too small or dumb, as long as it agrees with my own. (Just kidding. I actually very much value constructive disagreement, too, when it comes along.) Actually, I'm a bigger supporter of “me, too” posts than some discussion board people are. I think if someone says something obviously right and no one chimes in with “me, too,” it can skew the sense of how many agree... though one of the very very few things I like about facebook's interface (it's mostly a piece of junk) is the thing that allows a person to “like” a particular remark in a less-verbose way than having them all write something if all they want to say is “I agree, approve, or sympathize.” But meanwhile our interface is what it is, and if something catches your eye that you want to remark on like that, that's fine.

Robin, thanks for the compliment on the writing and the interesting other bits of analysis. It's useful to be reminded that this item I was writing about is not standing in isolation but is a skirmish in a much larger event. It's pretty clear Choi drew this on himself at some level, and that's what heroes for a cause do, they work forward in spite of personal risk. My sense is that it's not that he thought “oh, they won't penalize me for this because it's righteous” but rather “I'm willing to stand and face the penalty if that's what it takes to point out how unjust it all is.” (I frame it in that form because my remarks in a post last month called Disobedience, Civil and Not-so-civil are relevant here.) Anyway, thanks for stopping by and joining in!
I had similar thoughts as Rich about BSA's antiquated and bigoted policies regarding gay leaders. When I was Troop Committee Chairman in New Hampshire, I helped organize a World AIDS Day observance that was taking place in the sanctuary of the church that is my troop's sponsoring organization. My troop was responsible for providing refreshments. I required that the boys wear full uniform and that they be respectful of all the people who came. Several panels of the Quilt were displayed, including one that had been created in memory of a dear friend of mine.

It was an incredible meeting of the minds that day.

Several months later, after BSA came out with what I think is a terrible policy, I was contacted directly by one of the church ministers and told that a faction of church members wanted to terminate the troop's charter because of the anti-gay stand of BSA. In defiance of BSA's posture, I promised that our troop would consider persons for leadership roles based on their fitness and qualifications to lead. Period. Our troop was to be open and affirming to all, just as the church is.

I have had discussions for many years with Scouters over why the phrase "morally straight" in the Scout Oath does not mean "not gay." And I will continue to have these discusions.

Being as far away from Texas and the headquarters of BSA as we are (even living in Boston, I am still listed on the Troop Charter as a registered Scout leader) may give us some insulation. I agree with Rich's assessment as to the fact that BSA has been co-opted by other organizations and I am sure that that sad fact has been detrimental to the growth and stature of BSA as a program that shapes healthy minds and bodies.

If more people stand up and demand equality, perhaps more of our brothers and sisters will be treated with the respect they deserve.
RenaissanceLady writes: "Mishima, when the military set their own standards, blacks were unable to serve with whites and Arabic translators PRIOR to 9/11 were fired. They discovered just a few days after 9/11 that one of the messages which would have been translated dealt with something big happening on 9/11. It's entirely possible military "standards" cost American civilians their lives. As Lt. Dan Choi was another Arabic translator who has been fired, the military seems perfectly willing to continue losing valuable intelligence over some archaic rule."

I agree. I don't think it's a good policy.

My only point is that as a general principle I think we should defer to the military in matters of service eligibility standards, even if I personally disagree with the policy.

For example, the military has age limits on when someone can enlist; I think it's around 33 years old. We all know that there are marathon runners and other professional athletes older that that, sometimes much older. There are a hell of a lot of older people in prime physical condition who would probably do fine in the military. Nonetheless, I'm willing to defer to the military on that issue. I think it's not good in general to try to second-guess the military on such issues.

I support gays and lesbians in the military, not because it's "fair," but because as far as I can tell they do just as well as anyone else in military service. I just don't think that that's my call to make.
Coyote, thanks for offering that example. That's the kind of thing I was thinking of. And the idea of using the fact of the uniforms as a teaching tool for showing respect to others is the especially neat.

As for morally straight—gag. What a perversion of interpretation. As a kid, I thought that meant moral, as in the sense of being good and honorable. Who would have guessed it would become code for learning to be bigoted to certain groups? We moved a lot and I'm pretty sure I was in several troops, yet I don't recall any of them being so heavy-handed and specific. (I don't even think they did enough digging to see if I was going to Sunday school. They were more concerned about me being helpful and kind.) Alas, the world has gotten so weird. And the good terminology has been kidnapped. What we need is what I would like to call “a return to family values,” except that term has been co-opted, too.
You, and I and others here believe that everyone has the right to serve in the military regardless of gender or sexual orientation. That is because we are rational people who care about equality. Unfortunately, not everyone shares this sensible viewpoint. No matter what we say, there will always be those who cannot accept others for whatever reason homosexual, heterosexual, black, hispanic, jewish, fat, female. When Clinton signed "Don't Ask. Don't tell" he acknowledged that it was not the solution, but more of a stepping stone in that direction.
The military leadership is saturated with conservativism. The entire military culture embraces this image of masculinity that really doesn't exist.
Women and Gays have both struggled to successfully break their way into this macho culture that sees any diversity as a sign of weakness. I'm not trying to play devil's advocate, only trying to explain why "Don't Ask. Don't Tell" was seen as the only option at the time. Yes, it does need to be changed, but that will take an enormous struggle and many are not willing to take that challenge.
Thanks, Kent. For my part, I agree with Style's approach, which maintains control at the local level. One BSA District Chair put it this way one time when I was complaining about some policy directive or other: "Fuck national!", he said. I'm pretty sure that's an exact quote.

I know we ranged a bit wide of your topic here, but thanks for giving me a forum to say it. I've been needing to get that out there for a long time.
Hey Ken...I'm glad I stopped in! And I think the military should absolutely never be blindly deferred to...(Mish)...that's 'our' military. I worked in a military environment for 14 years...and only one boss knew I was 'married' to a woman. Beyond that, the military is made up of fallible humans, followers, sometimes leaders, and many many who sort of signed up, quite unsure of what they were getting themselves into...or on a shred of idea about God and Country. And they're young. I had some shred ideas at 20...some I made decisions on...fortunately, none that were life altering to any huge degree. But, I've changed a lot since then....
Religion plays a big part in American poititcs. The politicians don't want to lose any precious votes fom the large block.
Good Post Kent!
Wow, great post, and I've come too late to add much. But the discussion here is fantastic, and I agree wholeheartedly with CoyoteOldStyle: "If more people stand up and demand equality, perhaps more of our brothers and sisters will be treated with the respect they deserve." This piece seems like a great step in that direction.
I would just like to add that part of the problem with DADT was that the don't ask part was not adhered to and that there were those who continued to go on gay witch hunts because of religious and other personal reasons. Telling was not the only way the services had of finding out who was and who wasn't gay. The policy was faulty enough for all the reasons you so ably mention above but not complying to the don't ask part made it unworkable.
I am an ex-military brat and have worked extensively for years with military kids. They are kids like any others. With rare exception, they are typical for their age. Are some kids more mature than some adults? Yeah. But, they can be kids from any walk of life.

Don't ask, don't tell needs to go away. Countries who have gays serving openly in the military have not encountered insurmountable problems in their dealings with other countries. Neither will we.

We do not need to have gay marriage approved in all fifty states for gays to be treated as equals in the military right now. Marriage is a word that has religious significance. People tend to be believers in this country, believers of the Bible. For reasons I am not clear on, believers tend to latch on to some things the Bible forbade, but tend to forget others that the Bible clearly states as abomination. "But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you." (Leviticus 11:10) I don't see us clinging to this the way I see us clinging to other passages. Quite frankly, waiting for all 50 states to independently agree that gay marriage is a good thing is going to be a lot like getting all fifty to hand down death penalties on shellfish consumers. It's not going to happen. Civil unions will happen in time as the prevailing law in the country. Marriage, no.

Times are changing. Young people have a very different outlook on gay people than their parents and grandparents did. Don't Ask Don't Tell will go away, the young people of today will see to it. They are already starting to see gay as abomination like shellfish as abomination, if you will. Neither as abomination makes a lot of sense.

There is something very wrong with a person being allowed to put their lives on the line for a country they love and support with all their might, yet have to live in fear that same country will kick them out 2 years before retirement because suddenly they are derelict in their duty because someone outs them. They are the same person they have always been, doing the same job for the same country they have always loved. Talk about insulting soldiers. Or is it okay to insult this class of soldier--just not straight ones? It's okay to excoriate homosexuals serving their country? Apparently, you can do a whole lot better than just insult them. You can use them and then toss them and their service to the country aside like used tissues...they're "derelict" today, although they weren't yesterday--not based on anything they're doing differently, but based on someone who's shocked over a kiss or a picture of a loved one on a dresser. That is, based on someone's prejudice or ignorance. There is nothing fair or good about Don't Ask Don't Tell, except that it was a stepping stone for gays, and it was also an educational stepping stone for straight people.

I am older and have lived through the whole women can't serve because they need protection argument. If they serve in a combat area, who would protect them from rape and certain death at the hands of the enemy...or worse. So, it is interesting to see the same argument now trotted out to keep gays out...even though they are already in. If the enemy finds out they're gay, they'll be executed. So, we're really keeping gays in virtual burqas to protect them. Come on, now. We're only protecting the status quo, not gays.

As to a lot of gay people in the military being incompetent...no more so than there are straight, incompetent people in the military, percentage wise. Being straight is no antidote for incompetence.

Military leadership has grown a lot, though they can thank Clinton's Don't Ask Don't Tell for a lot of that growth. It wouldn't have happened without the "outside" push. We now need another push...a push that will come from the president at some point. That push will be, "do it." And it will be done. And we'll all be better off for it--when everyone has their civil rights and not in a place backward enough to say that "all men are created equal," but not really mean it. Equal is equal...either you are are you aren't. Right now, we aren't...and we aren't as a policy. As an entire society, though, we ARE growing and we are growing in the right direction. The US, and it's armed forces, which have so often been leaders in social change, will continue in the role they/we elected to follow when we elected to become a country--dedicated to the proposition that everyone is created equal , endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Kind of hard to pursue happiness when you're getting kicked out after 20-some years of service to the country because someone saw you get kissed by a loved one--something everyone else has a right to do, but not you.
First just let me say that I am a Conservative and a firm believer in the U.S. Constitution and as such I believe that it is foolish for us to discriminate against the gay soldier over that of any other soldier. Allow me to explain. Gays serve their country just like anyone else and under the law and the Code of Military Justice, if they violate either they should serve equal not separate forms of punishment.

I commend all Gays in the military and thank them for their service to their country.

Now.....anyone got a problem with that?
T.S., I have a lot of trouble with it. It's an unjust law. It is not a separate kind of justice, it is no justice at all. I'm not saying he's entitled to special justice because he's in some protected class who broke the rule; I'm saying the rule should be struck down as unconscionable.
Oh, and T.S., the problem with your commending them is that when they show up to shake your hand, they expect to hear from you as you do “Thanks again for your service. Now stand over there while we process your dishonorable discharge for having acknowledged yourself as one of the people being thanked.” Maybe Carly Simon could write a song about this.
Kent, I believe I said the law is stupid? I did. I believe Dick Cheney said the law was stupid? He did. I believe Obama thinks the law makes sense...complain to him about it but whatever you do don't get Carly Simon to sing anything....he likes Stevie Wonder.

We agree, I know that pains you but we agree...I have nothing but respect for all members of our military and because a soldier is gay is no reason to curtail his service or his record.
T.S., sorry for being slightly confused, since there's no tone conveyed in text. I didn't miss the text you wrote, but you had seemed to be saying that although you agreed it was a bad law, he still broke it and should still be punished. Glad if that's not true.
Kent, now we see eye to eye. The law is bad policy. The law is antiquated and ignorant. I complained immediately when I read about this man's plight. Here we have a tremendous need for Arabic translators and some military bureaucrat is going to judge this soldier on his sexual orientation and not his performance within his military MOS....makes no sense whatsoever.
As a former Marine I will say this. If they get rid of the policy that is fine with me. However, I believe that those who indulge in homosexual activity should be given non-combat occupations. There is far to great a risk of someone being infected when blood begins to mingle on the battlefield. Let them declare it at the time of enlistment. I'm sure I served with gay Marines although I didn't know any. In a force of 275,000 the odds are against nobody being gay. I CAN tell you that it IS a morale issue and must be handled with care. Let the military figure this one out for themselves. They will have to live with their decision.
This law has been and continues to be, not only stupid, but totally unnecessary.
Military personnel know who the homosexuals are in their units, and as long as he/she does his/her job, very very few military personnel care about sexual orientation.
DJohn, Glad to see you agree, however the issue of them not serving in a combat capacity again raises the question of separate status. Gay's should have the same rights to get wounded or killed as the rest of us and as to the point made about blood and infection. Stats will show that just as many heterosexuals are HIV positive as are the homosexual and bisexuals. Unfortunately, unlike the Military's current law, Aids does not discriminate by sexual orientation. Damn, I'm starting to sound like one of those silly activist.
Good essay. It is important to keep this issue in the spotlight until the needed changes occur.

It would be truly amazing how backward this country truly is until one considers the extent to which religion reigns here. This policy is not just stupid, but would seem to be unconstitutional, as well. I would like to see him prevail, but have serious doubts that he will. But even if he doesn’t, his efforts are the necessary steps at this point in time. Success is often preceded by a succession of apparent failures that are not truly failures, as they keep the issue alive, keep the thoughts alive, until such time as the success is attainable.

RATED
First of all, not all gays have AIDS...did I really just have to tell some dunce this?? Second, HIV positive persons are not allowed in almost all military duties, especially the combat zones. Like someone with schizophrenia, or asthma, HIV patients and their blood will not go near any precious straight guy. Sheesh....

Stupid commentators. Great post!
Devin, thanks for saving me the trouble. That was bugging me, too.
great post, Kent. I often assumed the ban on gays in the military was due to some fear of the then- all- male military that somehow there be lots of sexual fraternizaiton and or harrassment going on, and they didn't want that in the military. Fair enough, maybe. But when the started allowing women, and with sexual harrassment, rape, consensual sex, childbirth and marriage all not being unknown among heterosexual soldiers, well, that reason now goes out the window, unless you can prove that out homosexuals are far more likely to engage in those behaviors than heteros and closeted homosexuals. Which you can't. So, any somewhat rational reason for the rule flew out the window when the gender barrier fell. The reasons that remain are irrational and irrelevant to armed service and need to go. Regarding someone's comment that enemy combatants may be more likely to harm or execute US gay soliders vs. US hetero soldiers, well, I think it's up to gay soldiers to decide if they want to take that burden. Besides, just b/c the US side may know about a soldier's orientation doesn't mean enemy combatants are going to, unless someone starts passing out mandatory rainbow armbands or something.

I can't believe we even have to have this conversation. I'd really, truly like to see a panel of generals answer the questions of the gay soldiers who they've all-unwittingly been leading for the past 25 years. I bet there were plenty of closeted WWII heroes.
Wow this is such a powerful post. I've rated it and will share with my Facebook friends, on twitter AND sign the petition. Peace to you this day! This is powerful.
Kent,

I'm way late to post a comment but I could not go without thanking you for such a fine article and articulate deliberation on this subject.

Thank you for all your fine work at OS.

Rated and appreciated
Sorry I'm late to the party. I lost a lot of respect for the military the day I found out that I was 4-F, no matter how high my ASVAB scores or physical test scores. I figured that any organization that thought I was dreck wasn't worth my time (it didn't help my esteem much that every year for almost a decade, I bothered military recruiters from almost every branch to see if the enlistment rules changed).

Right now, I know this. They'll take convicts, old people, and folks with below-average intelligence before they'll take me. And, the military'll get rid of extremely intelligent, extremely valuable people because of their sexual orientation.

What a bunch of crap.
What a waste, Jon. I'd shrug and say “their loss” except they are charged with defending me and my country. Their loss puts me in increased danger, so it's troubling. How ironic that in this conversation you describe, it's they who seem unable to hear.

Thanks for commenting here, though. For what it's worth, I've never observed anything second-class about your insights. I always look forward to hearing your point of view.
I don't think anyone here understands that this isn't the military's call. There's currently a federal law that says that anyone who is found to be homosexual has to be discharged. Now, Congress could change the law. The President could order that the military stop making that determination, but the military can't just stop following the law. This post, and some of the comments, made me want to pull out my hair.
imfb, the President is Commander-in-Chief of the military. He is not active duty military in the sense of having rank, but he is a military leader, and I specifically said in the article that I was speaking to him: “Our military leaders need to help us, as a nation, grow up about this matter. That includes President Obama, in his role as Commander in Chief, if he stands by this policy.” Moreover, the matter is not binary, there are plenty of judgment calls to be made, and the range of actions that are available in order to support the proper outcome is quite broad. Finally, it's just disingenuous to say that the military are helpless victims in this. They have in the past testified in support of policies denying gays the right to serve openly, and if they have not publicly change their recommendation on the matter, they have not done their part to undo this damage. Given they have a President that is sympathetic to the cause, it's not unreasonable to suppose they might openly testify to, at minimum, the factual matters of national security (firing essential translators), budget (losing paid-for education), non-verifiability (gays have always been there and always will be), etc. Your comment makes our military sound so feeble, merely hapless victims of circumstance, but I think much more highly of them. These are savvy people capable of devising and prosecuting a winning strategy when they put their mind to it, and when they are allowed to do so. The President needs to say to do fix it. (His response was lukewarm the other day, and one wonders why he didn't rescind aggressive application of the rule by fiat on the spot in that moment, or perhaps even symbolically pardon Lt. Choi, which I suspect could also have been done.) And the military leaders beneath him, I was speaking mostly at the top, though there may be select situations within where it's appropriate too, need to say “this is hurting us and needs to stop.” If they haven't done that, they are part of the problem because Congress is relying on the precedent of the Military's historical support for the policy in not itself making a change. So the argument “we didn't have a hand in this” just doesn't wash, and the argument “we had a hand in causing it but are powerless to fix it” is similarly questionable.
Feeble? We're hardly feeble, but you're laying this at the feet of the military to change what is a political policy. Aren't there other things to for us do? Last time I checked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs didn't get any votes in the house.

Also, how would LT Choi be pardoned? He has never been charged with a crime.

There are so many things to point out (and don't get me started on the commenters), but I'll close with this: your Nazi reference was ridiculous. You strike me as someone who will say "No offense, but" prior to saying something offensive, and not realize that it still pisses people off.
"Our military leaders need to help us, as a nation, grow up about this matter." I think the younger generation has already "grown up," so to speak. It's only a matter of time before the walls come down. Excellent post. I agree with you totally.