A necessary process
For the most part, I feel Stripes’ coverage of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the issues surrounding it have been fairly comprehensive and balanced. However, I was highly disappointed by Thursday’s (Dec. 2) package of reporting on this issue. The cover article’s pull quotations struck me as both inflammatory and unnecessary. As an old colonel I know says, “It takes a far better vocabulary to express oneself in regular words than to resort to swearing and debasement.”
Those three “anonymous quotations” pummeled the discussion right down into the gutter. Many older children and teenagers read Stars and Stripes. What might one expect the average young person would deduce about the professionalism of our United States military members after reading Thursday’s Stars and Stripes?
If we are truly striving to be the most powerful and professional fighting force in the world, then let’s act like it. No. 1, enlisted men and women and officers must follow the orders of the leaders appointed over them. If not, there would be chaos. If Congress directs the military to end DADT, military leaders will issue their directives and, for the most part, servicemembers will just “drive on.”
Sure there were incidents of violence and hatred after the racial integration of the military. Yet a necessary process was started that led to a more vigorous and able fighting force.
When gay and lesbian warriors are permitted to serve openly, there may be isolated cases of violence and discrimination which the chain of command will have to deal with. However, my hunch is, with greater tolerance provided by the end of DADT, violence committed by heterosexual members against gay or “perceived gay” warriors will decline sharply. Again, servicemembers follow the orders of those appointed over them.
Finally, based on my nearly four decades of being a military family member and having worked with each of the four services as a civilian, it is my belief that ending DADT is a necessary process which will create a more vigorous and able fighting force.
I know of at least a dozen privately homosexual officers and enlisted personnel who were (and are) distinguished leaders in their fields: soldiers of the quarter, academy honor graduates, officers promoted below-the-zone, decorated combat veterans. Imagine what they will accomplish once this burden is lifted from their shoulders.
A reasonable progression
DADT has served as a steppingstone to bring us where we are now. Many conservatives of President Bill Clinton’s time strongly opposed it. The main argument, then and now, stems from religious convictions which are no longer shared by most. The same perspective could also be used to ban drinking, smoking, tattoos, premarital sex, rock music, modern bathing suits and women’s jeans. Favorites of most of us, and all arguably contrary to the Bible (ask any fundamental Baptist).
On the other side of the spectrum, liberals demanding instant gratification with the changes they suggest are unrealistic, expecting immediate acceptance of something misunderstood. This is a social issue, and changes in those laws and policies should reflect the changes in our society. That takes time. Every minority group that has faced this issue has had to fight and wait for that societal change. The DADT policy has allowed just that, over time.
As with most issues, the fight everyone sees is between two small groups, while most of us fall within varying shades of uncertainty or indifference in the middle. A compromise was made to appease both sides. Since then, most of those in the middle have seen that sexual orientation does not have anything to do with professional service in the military, growing comfortable or more apathetic that the servicemembers around them could be gay. And that’s the direction society has shifted, though slowly. If the majority of the population honestly still believed homosexuality was to be feared, then we wouldn’t be considering repealing DADT.
If having gays in the military all these years had turned out to be as harmful as many people claimed it would, we’d be revisiting the banning of gays altogether. But we’re not, because it’s not. DADT has been part of a slow realization of what is right for the majority. That’s democracy. That’s a reasonable progression of things.
Sgt. Keith C. Becker
Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan