Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Don't Ask. Don't Tell

What amazes me about the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, is the way it gets adults in positions of responsibility intentionally playing Let's Pretend. You pretend you're heterosexual, I'll pretend you're heterosexual, and whatever you do, don't tell me otherwise. I like pretend games as well as the next guy, or I did when I was a kid. I tend to dislike them now because when played by adults, they tend to imply a little too much dishonesty for my taste. Given the choice, I'd prefer relationships I can rely upon to be genuine and truthful.

What is so pernicious about Don't Ask, Don't Tell is the way it requires people to lie in order to save their own skin. As long as the truth is hidden, you can serve your country. The moment it becomes known, you're out in more ways than one. I realize the policy was initiated, at least as I understand it, to provide a loophole allowing for the presence of gay persons in the military. You can't serve if you're gay, but if you keep it quiet, we're okay with that. It's like saying, if you're a Person of Color you can't serve but if we can't tell you're a Person of Color, no problemo. Talk about game-playing. How on earth can someone be expected to keep that to themselves?

Well, since racial differences were impossible to hide, and because it was perceived their presence would disrupt unit discipline, for many years African-Americans had limited opportunities to serve. Initially, integrating them into the life of the corps led to some disruption -- can a major change bring about anything else? -- but the corps survived and became better for it. The reason it became better is it became more egalitarian.

There should absolutely be only one qualification a person is required to demonstrate for military service, namely, a willingness to enlist or accept being drafted, as the case my be. That's it. No upper age restrictions (uh, Mr. Pentagon, sir, after you figure out that gay persons are just as qualified as African-Americans and other Persons of Color, as well as women, and decide to treat them as such, we're coming after you on the age issue, so get ready), none based on race, gender, gender preference, gender identification, disability, religion, political affiliation, or anything else. All you ought to have to do is sign your name on the dotted line, take the oath of loyalty to protect and defend the Constitution (implying U.S. citizenship), and then hang onto your socks because here comes boot camp.

I can hear the dissenters saying, "But, but, but, we'd have to redesign boot camp to accommodate for older recruits, those with disabilities, and that means raising taxes and spending more money and we'd rather have a fancy-wancy new trillion dollar whiz-bang for our buck." Folks, you want a volunteer army? Make it truly accessible to anyone, adapt to the fact that this is the land of the free and not merely the land of those who conform to so-called social norms. Free means you can be anything you want and it's time we honored that without apology.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- it's a policy, the time for which is long past. Dump it and let's move on. The rest of the 21st century is waiting and the world is watching.

(Creative Commons image by cayayofm via Flickr)
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