Monday, November 02, 2009

Marine Corps Commandant publicly opposes lifting military gay ban

Well, after the merriment and spectacle of a public defrocking (or “tribunal”) on All Hallows Eve, when the “holiday” falls on a Saturday, guess the Monday morning (Nov. 2) greetings of The Washington Times, in a “supra-headline,” catching your (or my, anyway) vision as you walk into a suburban DC 7-11 store and scope the news racks.

It’s “Marine leads ‘don’t ask, don’t tell” fight,” in an exclusive story to the Washington Times by Rowan Scarborough, link here. The Marine in question is Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway, who has spoken out against lifting the ban, while other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, out of respect to the President’s wishes for the moment, have remained silent.

There’s an issue of perspective and terminology here. Back in 1993, “don’t ask don’t tell”, as Bill Clinton had argued it at Fort McNair in July, was an “honorable compromise”, an “advance”, sort of lifting the ban in private. Now, “don’t ask don’t tell” has become synonymous, in the public’s thinking, with The Ban itself. Legally, that’s not quite true. But the legal bridge is built with nebulous concepts like “propensity” and “rebuttable presumption” that set dangerous precedents for civilians in other areas and with respect to other issues. Does Conway want to go back to “asking”? The article doesn’t say, but Newt Gingrich had blurted something like that out back around 1995.

It’s becoming more apparent in this Internet age that the whole problem is more than conduct as we usually view it: it seems to delve deeply into the area of self-concept, the internal contradiction in the phrase of “An Army of One.” People whose social bearings depend on the group (as is usually the case in the military – but in today’s high tech world, by no means always) feel they are being “scoped” by those who seem themselves as standing alone. Yup, that does bear on the unit cohesion argument. The verb “scope” seems apt here – it comes from some clever writing of a WB Smallville episode a few years back, where the analogy between having secret extraterrestrial origin with observational “powers”, and homosexuality seems clever and clear.

Nevertheless, we have an individualistic society where notions of equality (as in the gay marriage debate, playing out now in Washington DC over a Council law -- TV station WJLA reported today that long lines were forming for the debate where 150 people will speak -- check this story "Council Takes Up Same-sex Marriage Bill in 2nd Public Hearing") cut on both sides: equal rights, and equal responsibilities. If you don’t share risk or uncertainty equitably, someone else has to. The whole question of national service and the possibility of restoring the draft forms the other side of this debate.

Note, also, a gay marriage vote in Maine tomorrow, as well as hearings on benefits in Montgoemery County MD today. More news will come.

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