Friday, June 04, 2010

The late Charles Moskos's son explains his father's position on "don't ask don't tell" and his eventual change of heart

Charles Moskos, one of the authors of “don’t ask don’t tell” as now an idiom in the English language (the other is former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn), died in 2008 (at 74), and his son, Peter Moskos, has an op-ed on p A17 of The Washington Post today (Friday June 4, p A17), “’Don’t ask, don’t tell’: Farewell to my father’s idea”, link here.  Peter is in fact a professor of criminal justice at John Jay College. His site is here and he has a book titled "Cop in the Hood".

Let me add, the (DADT) acronym is difficult to type on a laptop, with its apostrophes. The Washington Post Online titles the story as “Son says author of military’s ‘don’t ask’ would now repeal it.”

Peter Moskos does point out that the heart of his father’s argument was sexual modesty and privacy, perhaps even prudishness. Perhaps his father would have gone along with IBM’s idea in the 1950s that men should wear garters and long stockings as business dress.

Peter accounts for his father’s change of heart this way: “He loved the military and its soldiers. Here’s why he would now favor ending the policy he created and defended.”

After 9/11, Charles Moskos vigorously supported resuming the draft, based partly on what he saw as social justice arguments. Peter characterizes his father as a “conservative Democrat”, like Sam Nunn. In late 2001 I got into an email exchange with him (Moskos) and he wrote to me, to my astonishment, “Gays must come out for conscription. Then the ban would be lifted.” So Charles Moskos already had second thoughts about DADT by the time of 9/11.  (I also have done email exchanges with Nunn's staff sometimes, but about a different if tangential issue: the Nuclear Threat Inititative.)

Charles Moskos also addressed the issue of gays in dorm settings at Northwestern. That has become much less of an issue than it was generations ago, as when I was tossed out of the College of William and Mary in the fall of 1961, a traumatic event I have written about a lot (see the “BillBoushka” blog Nov. 28, 2006). But the “obvious parallel” with the military barracks privacy issue, as it was seen in 1993, was one reason that I entered the debat on gays in the military the way I did.

It’s turned out that today’s generation views privacy much differently than people did even fifteen years ago. That’s why there is such a debate about social media like Facebook, which would obviously become relevant to “don’t ask don’t tell” if it stays on the books much longer.

Update: later Friday

The Washington Times today led off its Commentary section with a piece by Robert Knight on why to keep the ban (from his "Christian" perspective), with a bombastic and boldface, "We're smarter than God: Sexual morality is, like, so yesterday". The link for masochistic readers is here.  My reaction to his argument: Go read the closing chapters of (openly gay novelist) Clive Barker's "Imajica" where Man has his final showdown with God (that is, Hapexamendios) in the "City of the Unbeheld", the First Dominion (that is, Heaven), beyond the "Erasure". In Barker's book, Man defeats God.  The Earth is reconciled to all the other dominions including Heaven.

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