Thursday, May 27, 2010

Don’t Ask -Don’t Tell -Don’t Worry

Congress is debating the “Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell” policy again. I think most of you are already aware about how I feel regarding this hypocritical policy. How tired I am of all those who tell their gay friends they don’t care about their being gay –“there isn’t anything wrong with that”, and then find one after another ‘justification’ for why gay men and women should not be allowed to simply say who they are while serving their country. The question, after all, is not about orientation. We have long ago decided that orientation by itself is not a reason to be barred from service. Isn’t that exactly what “Don’t ask – Don’t tell” says? No, the question is action. The problem is people being exposed to the possibility of unwanted and/or explicit sexual activity. Well, I have news for you. Those kinds of behaviors are already banned and it does not matter who is doing it. Repealing "Don't Ask/Don't tell" is not going to change that nor say that behavior is acceptable. So, what’s the big deal? Letting gay people who serve in the military just be themselves does not let them have any more right to have sex openly than anyone else and any breech of the rules can be disciplined.The argument that gays would be disruptive to good unit cohesion is nothing more than a ludicrous rationalization, an argument dragged up by bigoted minded people who have run out of logical objections. Gay people have been serving openly in the British, German, French (including the Foreign Legion) and the Israeli Army for years without any problems. What makes you think our troops are any less tolerant or respectful of individual rights?

Besides, the plain and simple fact is that there are, and have always been thousands of gay men and women serving in our armed forced right along anyway. I have known quite a few personally. The Gay Alumni Associations of West Point (the Out Knights) and Annapolis (USNA Out) number in the hundreds, and those are men and women who have served and continue to serve our country honorably and with distinction. They are graduates of the best military universities in the world, bar none. I can even point to some very good historical examples going all the way back to the very founding of our military.

Let me introduce you to Fredrick Wilhelm Augustin Ludof Gerhard von Steuben, more commonly known as Baron von Steuben. Benjamin Franklin introduced the good Baron as a former General in the service of the Prussian Crown via letter to George Washington while the army was camped at Valley Forge. The Baron was made a Lieutenant General in the Continental Army and placed in overall charge of training (He was later promoted to Major General and became the US Army’s first Inspector General). He is credited with transforming the rag-tag American Army into a well drilled professional organization capable of standing up to the British Regulars. He wrote the first drill manual for the US Army, which was the standard until the War of 1812. During the last year of the war, he served as General Washington’s Chief of Staff and as a Divisional Commander at the siege of Yorktown. Upon his departure from the Army, George Washington wrote the following letter to this valued friend:

Annapolis, December 23, 1783
My Dear Baron: Although I have taken frequent opportunities, both in public and private, of acknowledging your zeal, attention and abilities in performing the duties of your office, yet I wish to make use of this last moment of my public life to signify in the strongest terms my entire approbation of your conduct, and to express my sense of the obligations the public is under to you for your faithful and meritorious service.
I beg you will be convinced, my dear Sir, that I should rejoice if it could ever be in my power to serve you more essentially than by expressions of regard and affection. But in the meantime I am persuaded you will not be displeased with this farewell token of my sincere friendship and esteem for you.
This is the last letter I shall ever write while I continue in the service of my country. The hour of my resignation is fixed at twelve this day, after which I shall become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, where I shall be glad to embrace you, and testify the great esteem and consideration, with which I am, my dear Baron, your most obedient and affectionate servant.
George Washington

The interesting part of this story, which is not generally advertised, is that Baron von Steuben was not a Baron, had only been a Captain in the Prussian Army and had been unemployed because he had been forced to resign for taking liberties with young men. All of which was brought to General Washington’s attention during the course of the Revolutionary War and which he very purposefully ignored, saying in effect that the quality of the Baron’s service on behalf of the American cause was what mattered.

Well, if that attitude was good enough for ‘ole George, it ought to be good enough for us… don’t you think?

Now, let’s put this debate to bed and move on to important things, like nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran, or a trillion dollar deficit, or compulsory health care, or immigration reform --- pleeeez?

Today's Fun Picture


Ted Leddy said...

Here here

This debate has always bored me. I think most social conservatives know they have lost this one but don't want to lose face. By the way, British General Bernard Montgomery is another historical figure who was likely gay.

Gary said...

I agree. The western world is growing up and discovering the very real hypocrisy of saying "every one is equal except...."

I had not heard that about "Monty" but it certainly does not surprise me. I can name at least a dozen other examples of people who fall into this category. Because of their valued contributions, conservatives have gone to great lengths to conceal this aspect of their lives. It is really quite outrageous when you think about it.