Thursday, September 23, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Care

I was told by someone, formerly of the military, that my opinion about gays in the military does not count. It seems that being an American citizen, who elects the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, whose tax dollars go to support the military's budget, and whose life is dependent on those brave men and women who would willingly sacrifice theirs for it, does not count. Apparently, the members of the armed forces should dictate what they do and how they do it, and the rest of us should butt out.

What a lovely idea -- no civilian control over the military. Let's just let them go about the business, unfettered by civilian oversight or complaint. Let them discriminate, let them segregate, let them pretend that they are more important than the country they defend. These people are supposed to be "citizen soldiers," recruited from the ranks of Americans everywhere, to provide for the common defense of the nation. They are us; we are them.

While the military is not a good breeding ground for social change, it is one of the most public arenas for it. It is supposed to be a cross-section of America, representative of who we are and what we stand for. It gains strength through diversity. The inclusion of blacks, then women, saw upheaval and rough moments, but eventually those groups became an established part of military life. But for some reason, the idea that homosexuals are in, or want to be part of, the military, sparks an entirely hyperbolic reaction, akin to the idea that Western civilization will collapse.

There will always be those who, either through homophobia or prejudice or ignorance, will regard gays as somehow being "abnormal" or "disruptive." That abnormality or disruption, though, is caused by those people themselves, not by the gays in their midst. It is their overreactions that cause stress and strife, as if gay people exude some mysterious radiation that will influence all those around them to break from their social norms and immediately crave the flesh of the same sex, a kind of perverted zombification. This is, of course, far from the truth. Homosexuals are the way they are because something inside them influences them in that direction. It is no doubt genetic, and for whatever reason, it is fairly prevalent in our species. They did not choose homosexuality; it chose them. They had no way of knowing of the propensity, until they were able to sense it and until it influenced them in ways they were not ready for.

In the end, however, say what you will, but gays are human beings, and in this case, Americans. They are afforded the same rights by the Constitution as anyone else, though there are those eager to change that, as if to prevent a plague from descending upon the land. To treat them as anything but human, to scorn or ridicule them for a choice they did not ultimately make, is to sow the fields of ignorance with a new crop, a bitter harvest of intolerance that will feed no one, and lead to divisions akin to those of The Civil War era. To think that we are unable to learn the lessons of history, cast aside the demons of our humanity, and for once embrace all human beings in fellowship, is a sad commentary on our growth as a nation.

I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for those who serve in the military, and wished I might have joined those ranks. Members of my family did participate in WWII, and I hold them in the highest esteem. Anyone who would willingly give up their life for others is a hero, even if they do not fire a shot in anger, for just reconciling the idea that combat may inevitably lead to their death, and that they may be required to take another life in the course of their duty, leads me to believe that they are of the highest moral caliber. If they are not saints, not perfect, all the better, for they are just like you and me, and nothing more. That makes their heroism that much more amazing.

In that vein, I would think the military would be proud to count among its ranks anyone who wishes to serve to defend the United States of America, and is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to preserve freedom and defend democracy. That they should shun someone merely because they are different, is another poor postscript to an otherwise glorious history of defense of our nation. Those in the armed forces must know that the bond of combat, the test of shared strife, and the coming together as one to perform the toughest missions ever asked of any group, transcends all differences, and forges men and women from everywhere together into an organization that has persevered in the face of every adversity for well over two hundred years. The military forces of the United States is only as strong as the nation it serves, and the nation it serves says that it is time to drop the last barrier to being true defenders of freedom and liberty.

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