Sunday, September 19, 2010

Palm Cente has major article on myths about "don't ask don't tell"

Aaron Belkin, from the Palm Center (link) at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has a major article on p B3 of the Sunday Sept. 19 Washington Post, “5 Myths about ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, link here.

He is right in pointing out that the comparison of the DADT issue with president Truman’s racial integration of the military in 1948 (so well documented in the HBO film “Truman” with Gary Sinese) is misleading and unsatisfactory.

And he is also correct that the handling of the “survey” as reported this summer is probably misleading, and young troops, as well as the general public, have come around to the idea that the military ban should be lifted, and that much progress has been made in attitudes since 1993. Actually, remember that 1993 was the year of the enormous March of Washington in April, a massive, watershed event; it was the time that “gay conservative” writer Andrew Sullivan wrote his categories of “the politics of homosexuality.”

Belkin points out that the “unit cohesion” argument is really a false proxy for the supposed “moral” arguments. At the time of Clinton’s 1992 victory, some chaplains and evangelical pastors were trying to paint gays and lesbians as “moral abominations”. (I remember an interaction with a chaplain in Basic Training myself in 1968, as I engaged to play piano and organ at Sunday morning services.) What’s more shocking is that in 2007 the then JCS chief Peter Pace (certainly not “Peter Parker”) suggested that “homosexual conduct is immoral” as a reason for the ban, and then had to relent that he had been venting or ranting a personal opinion. There was another argument, remember, vented by Sam Nunn and Charles Moskos, that openly gay soldiers would affront the “privacy” of straights in close quarters of forced intimacy. But after 9/11 Moskos backed away from that argument as he proposed resuming a draft (Moskos has since passed away), and Nunn has turned his attention to reigning in on the terrorist nuclear threat, a good thing for him to spend his time on.

As for the “moral precepts”, Moskos may have migrated to a pivotal notion after 9/11. Even without a formal draft (or without our “backdoor draft” for stop-loss, which is ending), defending the homeland is ultimately a responsibility that everyone shares, so legislating gays out of the military is morally slanderous. (Remember, though, that during Vietnam, the military stopped “asking” and had to sidestep people trying to get out of the draft by saying they were gay.) The bigger “moral” issue (separating from religious or “scriptural” notions) is that a sustainable democracy may not be able to “let people out of” facing the idea of long term emotional commitments based on complementarity rather than affiliation (a proxy for “family values”). In fact, it always seemed to me that “sodomy laws” had been used as a proxy for outlawing “getting out of things”. But modern thought is discovering that real “complementarity” (a favorite word of the Vatican) is much more a matter of psychological polarity than biological gender. There’s no reason, then, in principle, that a modern sustainable democracy could not bring gays and lesbians into the idea of shared community responsibility. That’s where the gay marriage and gay parenting debates are taking us anyway.

I visited Dr. Belkin at his office at UCSB in February 2002 on a West Coast trip. I remember the campus well.

Formerly the Palm Center had been called “The Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military”.

Wikipedia attribution link for USCB picture.

No comments: