AN IDEA WHO’S TIME HAS COME (again and again and again)
The volatile "Don’t ask/Don’t Tell" rule, shortened to DADT, was tailor-made for a guy who loves to foist his opinions off on an unsuspecting public. DADT was enacted in 1993. By 2003 I had written a dozen articles about it for Navy Times. One sardonic piece suggested the term be inscribed on a rock at the entrance to our military academies.
Make a rule that problems should be solved by ignoring them? What a fine example of leadership for our future admirals and generals!
And as you’d expect I got all sorts of letters, pro and con. One former master chief boatswain’s mate opined that gays were much smarter than “the rest of us.” He even suggested that I might be gay because I was so smart. I answered that he was at least partly right.
My favorite response came from Professor Eric Lane of Hofstra University on Long Island. It was an invitation to join a panel of distinguished guests in a seminar looking back at the ten years of DADT. Twas a heady experience, hobnobbing with the chancellor of MIT, several distinguished professors of law, and military people from four countries.
I was asked to share my experiences in the Navy during my 23 years of service as both an enlisted man and an officer. C-SPAN taped it and aired it six times.
I started by saying “When I joined back in 1947, there were no gays in the Navy. The chief petty officers told us they were they were queers. The officers used the word "homosexuals."
But even after DADT was decreed, things went on as before. Military policy was simply hidden behind a bunch of silly words. Nearly two decades after its implementation DADT is still the law, and ten percent of our young men an women must still hide who they are if they want to serve their country.
But with the exception of the 541 members of Congress many minds have been changed since 1993. According to polls, about half the enlisted members have no objection to serving with gays. Integration is supported by the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Even congress is being swayed. The House voted to do away with it. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved sending an amendment on to the entire Senate. Now it finally looks as if Congress will take my advice and do away with what I once called the dumbest law in our nation’s history.
Still, dumb or not, DADT is opposed when it suits a congress person to oppose it. John McCain, in a fight to keep his Senate seat in Arizona, once approved the idea of allowing gays to serve openly. He now promises a filibuster to keep the Senate from voting on the provision. He said, “I think it’s going to be really very harmful to the morale and effectiveness of our military.”
That ranks right up there with a sardonic joke I first heard in boot camp: There will be no liberty until morale improves.
In any case, it won’t take effect until it passes one more bugaboo -- A compromise holding off implementation until it is studied some more. This after 17 years of scrutiny, a period when some 13,000 Americans, including at least 1000 in critical occupations skills were booted out of our Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Ironically some who were booted were hired back as civilians to do the same job. Some linguists of esoteric languages said piss on it and left it to the straights to figure out what the millions of Farsi, Arabic, Urdu, and other unread esoteric messages collected by NSA meant.
I have a suggestion. Let’s look at the results in best laboratory of all: Experience. While we have been dallying with, and often abusing DADT, other outfits here and around the world have either continued hiring gays or opened the door for them to serve openly. That would include the NSA, FBI, CIA, Congress, virtually all state and city police forces, and all the original 25 NATO members except two: USA and Turkey. Little of the disaster predicted took place.
As always when a politician digs in to face up to the overwhelming evidence, he resorts to jingoism. Refusing to follow the crowd and do what works for them evokes the bloviation "We are the greatest country on the face of the earth."
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to keep it that way by treating all our citizens fairly?
//Keith Taylor is long retired from the Navy after serving 23 years as an enlisted man and an officer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org