Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Which Would You Want in the Military, the Openly Racist, the Former Criminal, or the Openly Gay?

I read this piece by Matt Kennard at Salon.com with real interest. By the time I was done, I felt even more angry about the policy of "Don't Ask; Don't Tell." The U.S. Military is continually, according to Kennard, relaxing or not enforcing the standards that govern who should be allowed in the military with regard to racist or criminal activity. Yet, it seems comfortable with the notion of drumming out gay or lesbian service members. WTF!!!!???????

It offends me to my core that there are straight up racists, intent on actual violence (eventually) within the U.S, allowed to serve this country. Our military is training these folks, shrugging its shoulders when evidence shows that they are infecting like a cancer our troops. Is it widespread? I hope not. But, it would no doubt send some on the right into full apoplexy if we focused on finding out. We all remember the reaction that hit DHS for a Bush era requested report on right-wing extremism (a reaction that pretended that there was not an earlier report issued about left-wing extremists), in spite of its prescience.

Let me break it down this way. My father was in the Marine Corps (Vietnam vet). My step-father was in the Army (Vietnam vet). One of my brothers was in the Air Force (first Iraq War vet). Both of my grandfathers were WWII veterans. I grew up in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. I care about the military. I recognize its value, and honor what it stands for. But it amazes me that I would not be welcome, just as I am. It bothers me even more that someone like me is seen as a threat to unit cohesion, while someone who is a gang member, criminal or supremacist (as long at he/she is straight) gets a pass.

That makes no damn sense.

UPDATE: The NPR show "Fresh Air" focused on DADT today. Here is a link on historian Nathaniel Frank's perspective on the issue, as well as information on his book Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America. And here is a link to Terry Gross' interview with Alex Nicholson, a recent veteran.


Ken S. said...

While we may disagree on other GLBT issues I stand firmly on your side regarding this issue. I debated this with some ROTC students in a seminar class we were in. Of course the argument was unit cohesion and quite frankly my recommendation was clear. Either let Americans of all creeds serve openly are don't let them serve. It is clear what the answer needs to be...

TC said...

I've seen many people serving in the military who everyone knew fell outside of the legal and regulatory norms of who would be allowed to enter and stay in the Army.

They were all gay.

You could write the exact same article hundreds of times over about Soldiers who were barely "in the closet" -- and everyone in their unit knew it too -- but everyone allowed them to stay in because they did a good job.

The vast majority of Soldiers who are kicked out of the Army today for being homosexual do so because they come forward and want to get out.

hscfree said...

@TC: So what do you do with the minority of the group you specified? I've met people who are ready to re-enlist the moment the all clear on gays and lesbians is given. Listen to the guy from the NPR interview, it's intriguing. I know that you have a different and more close-in perspective than I do. Cool. But I also know that my Pops, the Marine remains convinced that I would be an asset to the Corps, if I'd chosen to go that path.

Fiona said...

I guess I'm not entirely clear on the concept of unit cohesion.

Argument "A" is that permitting openly gay soldiers would undermine unit cohesion because straight men and women would be uncomfortable and would not bond with those soldiers.

Argument "B" seems to accept that it's ok to admit openly racist soldiers into units that are racially diverse (and often contain many, many black and latino soldiers) because that's not a unit cohesion problem. ??? Knowing that the man next to you hates you and would like to see violent means used to prevent you and your family from succeeding doesn't harm unit cohesion?

Scott said...

Free, I wish I could link this directly, but I hope some of your readers will go to the trouble to copy-paste this url and watch this clip.


I understand that President Obama has a lot on his plate at the moment. But the fact that over 200 gay men and women have been discharged from the military under this Commander in Chief makes me very sad.

Anonymous said...

There are other options. Until 1991Filipinos could enlist directly into the US Navy as part of our base agreement. We could allow foreign nationals from allied nations to join the services.

Anonymous said...

The "unit cohesion" argument is complete crap. The military doesn't exist to make its soldiers comfortable. Brave men and women sign up for the service well aware of the fact that they will do what they're told to do. If the military commanders told the soldiers to accept openly GLBT members in its ranks, the soldiers would do so. To suggest otherwise is an insult to people who can accept being told when to go to sleep and get up, where to be at all times, to put their lives in danger, and so forth. It's ridiculous to think that those soldiers would suddenly be unable to follow an order to accept GLBT soldiers.
-Brandon W.

Anonymous said...

The only time the left cares about the military is when it wants to use it to advance one of its social goals. It's insulting to listen to the left pretend as if they actually care about the military and its mission.

hscfree said...

@Anon 3: Crow about "the left" as you wish. I am a proud military brat, and I echo the thoughts of my Marine pops.