I was a senior in high school when the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was instituted. We were studying satire in English, and our assignment was to create an example. So I made an application for military service. It showed a picture of an attractive man without a shirt on and read, “I would like to have sex with this person. True or False?” I think another question was something like, “I enjoy the musical theater: true or false?”. . . . You get the idea.
At age 18, I found the policy ridiculous and abhorrent. And my views have not changed since. So despite my general lack of enthusiasm for the military, I was thrilled to read that congress finally voted to reapeal DADT today. Along with many people across the country and around the world, I recognize that this legislative action is a positive step toward equal rights for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) people.
Of course, not everyone is happy about the repeal. The main argument against the repeal of DADT seems to be that allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the military will hurt morale. Touching, really, that so many people are so concerned about the well-being of our troops.
But it seems to me that the repeal of DADT will be a huge morale booster. It will certainly boost the morale of homosexuals already serving in the armed forces. Having to pretend to be someone (or something) you’re not is a definite drag on one’s energy, not to mention terrible for psychic health and self-esteem.
For the heterosexuals in the military, they will not have to wonder about their fellow soldiers. Relationships—i.e. “troop cohesion”–will be better all around when people can be open and honest about themselves.
So I would say that repealing DADT is a good step in the direction of improving troop morale. And here’s another modest suggestion for further improving the quality of life for our troops: stop sending them overseas to kill people.
I mean, let’s be honest. Serving along side homosexuals does not traumatize anyone. Being forced to kill and having to watch your friends die—now that’s traumatic. You are really going to tell me that gay people in the military will be the cause of low morale?
Gay people have never been able to openly serve in the United States military, and still about 18,570 veterans attempt suicide each year, and 6,570 of them succeed. There are, theoretically, no openly gay or lesbian troops, and still over one third of those deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.
If you want to hear about a soldier with low morale, listen to the interview with John on This American Life (July 18, 2008). He served three tours of duty. He’s currently in jail for violently attacking his fiance. He told the interviewer: “You see guys with Michel Jordan gym shoes on and you see little kids about 10, 11, 12—these kids could be your kids. Then you see these kids dead. Guys like me, you destroy a house long distance then you see it close up and it’s smouldering. Then you see a pregnant lady there and she’s dead but the baby is still alive.”
There is nothing in this interview about gay people.
Do Ask. Do Tell. It’s a better motto for the military. For all of us, really.
(It reminds me of something Jesus said: You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.)