Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Does not Serve our Children Well

by on February 4, 2010 · 21 comments

in Civil Rights, From the Soul, LGBT rights, Military, Veterans, War and Peace

dontaskWhen I first heard the expression, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I remember going: “What the hell? Is Clinton not feeling well?”

Now, of course, Bill must have wished for a little Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell back when he idealized out loud: “Is oral sex really sex?” – to which I felt like writing him a letter saying: “Check this out, Willie. If some liquid flies from your body like a rocket heading to lunar terrain and some of it becomes a news story around the world regarding a dress that it has stained and you are feeling no pain, wearing an expression on your face that’s both serene and insane – you have had sex, my man.”

Having experienced more than my share of discrimination, thanks to old Jim Crow, it’s the “less than” aspects of the deal that gnaws at your soul. It’s the everybody else can do it but you can’t and that quickly grows old and remains old.

Like, to us heteros, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is as foreign as advanced Swahili Trigonometry. We ask and tell regularly, instantly, enthusiastically, repeatedly. We can’t wait to ask, “Hey, how was she?” And we love to answer: “Hey, man, I took care of the B-I-Z!” And women are responding to “How was he?” with, “Well, he pretty much went ahead without me.” Back in my marine corps reserve days our sex lives was pretty much all we discussed in the barracks during summer training. But for gay people in the military it’s “Shhh, we don’t want to damage morale. We won’t ask and you sure as hell better not tell.”

But for me, everything in life is about the children and DADT is a homophobic cancer that has metastasized from the Department of Defense, down to them, courtesy of the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA (which is sometimes heavily sponsored by a school’s PTA) has, for a while now, put Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in play with young boys who might be gay, having gone all the way to the Supreme Court for the right to turn them away along with any atheists with whom they might play. And the Boy Scouts are still nestled in “America’s Finest City’s” most precious of parks, enjoying a city lease that costs them about a buck and a handshake while our city charter makes it clear that it can’t do business with organizations that discriminate.

Now it seems that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is slowly and relatively silently being drowned out by the ringing of the death knell. But when it comes to everybody being treated equally I think a strong statement needs to be made by somebody in a high place in behalf of such an ideal. And who should that somebody be? The President of this Land of the Free.

Barack Obama has to step forward and stand tall and condemn our treatment of gays in a tone that can be heard loudly and clearly throughout the halls of Congress and the Senate and the Pentagon and out on the streets and in our living rooms and dens where our television sets are almost always on.

In my narrow way of thinking when it comes to equal rights, the president, if he or she does nothing else, should pursue issues of equality incessantly and daily with the utmost amount of energy – because liberty is the essence of our priceless democracy if I remember Miss Daniels’s 4th grade civic lessons correctly.

Obama needs to adopt a booty kicking attitude and issue a decree, whether he has “the power” to or not, clarifying that in the USA everybody is supposed to be free whether they’re heterosexual or classified as LGB or T. And Q too.

As far as gays in the armed forces are concerned he needs to break it down and keep it real and remind us of the fact that thousands upon thousands of gays and lesbians have put themselves in the proverbial harm’s way, serving in militaries since whenever the first war got under way.

He needs to stress that we are a constitutional democracy bound to let our people live free and no where in the language does it limit a single soul based on his or her sexuality – and the way we’re operating now is a mockery of such an ideal of human decency.

And when it comes to our children I’ll give him the words to say: “Hey, it’s our children, mine and yours, who must carry on when we have passed on and they cannot, down the line, promote strengthened traditions of tolerance and acceptance if we don’t demonstrate how. No one among them today should have to hide in closets because they are gay. Freedom for all is the American Way.”

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar jon February 4, 2010 at 11:07 am

Hip hip hooray Ernie McCray, that kick-ass post just made my day!

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avatar Rob February 4, 2010 at 11:28 am

Well that was a mouthful, but now I will tell you how it really is. I spent 4 years in a Marine Corps infantry unit. I was deployed a total of three times; a six month deployment aboard ship, and two combat deployments to Iraq. During our training and deployments we endure long periods of time in very cramped quarters with next to no privacy. We sleep next to each other, we would shower in the open(if we could get a shower at all), we undress/dress in the open, we defacate and urinate in the open. (There are no trees in the southern Iraq desert) Believe me I got to know my fellow Marines more than I wanted too. Not one of us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, was gay or would have felt comfortable if there was a gay Marine in our presence during those times. There is a reason why females are not allowed in the infantry, it would cause many problems, as would gays.
I do not have a personal problem with gay people, but many of the Marines I fought beside did. The Marines, ecspecially grunts, pride themselves on being manly men. We call each other “killer”, we give our weapons female names. Now if you can imagine a gay man wanting to be in our presence for a long period of time you are living in a fantasy world. Believe me it would not work. Openly gay people in the military will not work.
We all discriminate. It is not a big deal, unless people make it a big deal. Most people I know do not want to date/marry a fat, ugly person. Isn’t that discrimination. Hell yeah it is. WE ALL DISCRIMINATE IN SOME WAY.

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avatar jon February 4, 2010 at 11:41 am

Groan….So you think someone who is gay is automatically going be turned on by the sight of your weiner in the shower and try to what? Ask for your phone number? Get over yourself.

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avatar Shane Finneran February 4, 2010 at 11:57 am

Also, the idea that men and women can’t serve together in combat is currently being disproven by women serving in Iraq and in/around Afghanistan, who by necessity, have taken on combat roles, and succeeded. From the NY Times 15Aug2009:

Before 2001, America’s military women had rarely seen ground combat. Their jobs kept them mostly away from enemy lines, as military policy dictates.

But the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, often fought in marketplaces and alleyways, have changed that. In both countries, women have repeatedly proved their mettle in combat. The number of high-ranking women and women who command all-male units has climbed considerably along with their status in the military.

“Iraq has advanced the cause of full integration for women in the Army by leaps and bounds,” said Peter R. Mansoor, a retired Army colonel who served as executive officer to Gen. David H. Petraeus while he was the top American commander in Iraq. “They have earned the confidence and respect of male colleagues.”

Their success, widely known in the military, remains largely hidden from public view. In part, this is because their most challenging work is often the result of a quiet circumvention of military policy.

Women are barred from joining combat branches like the infantry, armor, Special Forces and most field artillery units and from doing support jobs while living with those smaller units. Women can lead some male troops into combat as officers, but they cannot serve with them in battle.

Yet, over and over, in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army commanders have resorted to bureaucratic trickery when they needed more soldiers for crucial jobs, like bomb disposal and intelligence. On paper, for instance, women have been “attached” to a combat unit rather than “assigned.”

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avatar annagrace February 4, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Why then has Adm. Mullen come out so strongly on this issue, with Colin Powell agreeing? They do not share your concern about openly gay people in the military.

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avatar Dave Gilbert February 4, 2010 at 4:04 pm

So what Rob is saying is, don’t ask, don’t tell and don’t give your gun a dudes name. That’s a lot of “don’ts” to remember, how about if instead we all just got along? Semper Fi

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avatar Goatskull February 4, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Dude, your are such a lying phony. “We call each other “killer””. ha ha ha yeah right. Pretty much all Marines I know would laugh in your face for saying that. I spent 20 years in the military myself (Navy) and while there is no shortage of homophobia in it, you are so full of yourself saying none of the guys you served with were gay. I don’t believe for a second you were really in the Marines and if you were you were never in a combat situation. You’re just a wannabe. Yes we all discriminate. I’ll give you that. Many of the gay people I knew were actually some of the most right wing people on the planet. Your post brought a chuckle to me so at the very least thank you for that.

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avatar Ernie McCray February 5, 2010 at 6:01 pm

The problem is the debate is about what people think about gay people, whether or not one accepts or doesn’t accept who they are, or how the morale of the troops will hold up. It makes no difference if nobody wants to fight alongside of them. All of that is bullchips. It’s about freakin’ EQUAL RIGHTS.
In the Jim Crow days I didn’t give a squat about if somebody liked me or not; I hated that one could use their dislike of me to refuse to sell me a lousy greasy hamburger or not let me swim in the pool or make me sit in the back of the bus over the wheel or restrict me to certain hours on certain days to skate at the rink. Again, it’s about being treated as “less than.”
And If I were gay I could care less if some grunts prided themselves in being “manly men,” whatever the hell that is. Just let me join in if I don’t have a conscience and don’t mind going off to war to protect Exxon’s interests and chase down and kill a bunch of exotic people whom I know nothing about. If there’s anybody who should be limited to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell it should be bigots. They’re pretty much the only people I have ever been prejudiced against.

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avatar annagrace February 4, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Ernie- this is one fine poetry slam!

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avatar Patty Jones February 4, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Gay people have fought and died along with straight folks since the beginning of time. If so many homophobs are worried about who’s fighting next to them, wouldn’t they be much more comfortable knowing who IS gay instead of wondering about everyone around them?

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avatar Dave Sparling February 4, 2010 at 7:30 pm

The myth that gay men are unable to control their sexual urges is as wrong and silly as the myth that Chucklenuts was actually president from 2000 to 2008.

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avatar Rob February 4, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Lets see Goatskull. I was with 3/1 Kilo Co. I was in the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit(MEU) on the USS Belleuawood, WestPac. I then took the USS Bonnehom Richard(we called it the Bonnie Dick) to Kuwait where I sat in the desert for 6 weeks until The United States kicked off the invasion into Iraq. I the took a trac north for 20 some odd days. My unit supplied the brunt of the security for the convoy while moving through An Nasariah, also known as ambush alley. We then proceded north and were one of the first units into southern Baghdad where we provided local security in Sadaam City for 4 months. For that deploymeny my unit received a combat action ribbon and a presidential unit citation. My second deployment to Iraq was to a town on the outskirts of Fallujah. While there we provided local security by conducting regular foot patrols for 4 months. My unit was then the main assault effort for Operation Phantom Fury(the assault of Fallujah). During this 12 day assault my company of 120 Marines took 41 casualties. Yes I lost several very close friends in this operation. On this last deployment I received another combat action ribbon and a Navy and Marine Corps Achievment Medal for actions while in combat. So if you still don’t believe for a second that I was in the Marines, write back and I will gladly prove to you that I am a Marine.

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avatar crystal.glass February 7, 2010 at 7:35 pm

The other day a man thanked me for my service. Now I’m passing this on to you and thanking you for all you have done.

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avatar Carolyn Morris February 5, 2010 at 4:38 am

Write on, Ernie! Write on!

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avatar lane tobias February 5, 2010 at 9:29 am

I choose to discriminate against those who are afraid of what they might find in themselves after looking into the heart of their own prejudices.

Ernie, you make a good point – and I think thats the same message military leaders are sending. First of all, repealing DADT would make recruiting a whole lot easier (which is not something I like…but its a reality). Second, we are sending our kids so many mixed messages – some states are okay with same-sex marriage, others have laws against it. This would be the first step towards a constitutional amendment allowing marriage to be between any two human beings. It is bigger than the military….but maybe thats where the macro impact can be felt the most.

Great post man.

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avatar Ernie McCray February 5, 2010 at 12:49 pm

I hear you on how recruiting (something I’m very active against when it’s done in our schools) would be a lot easier if DADT were repealed – a reality that would turn more kids into cannon fodder while creating more equality for a segment of our society at the same time.
I hate it when to make one point I give support to something I’m against – like: WAR! Oom! Good God! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!

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avatar Goatskull February 6, 2010 at 9:49 pm

I know this of off topic but I think it kind of goes with your post. My last duty station before I retired from the Navy was at Balboa hospital. There were some interesting stories these kids had. One that really stuck my mind was a Marine I talked to in the rec room that is located in the BEQ building right next to the actual hospital. He had half of his right leg missing and part of his hand was missing (don’t remember which one). I asked him basically what were his plans are now. He said he was planning on finishing college with the G.I bill. He then went on to say he actually felt a bit guilty about it. He in a round about way admitted that he along with his unit DID in fact knowingly kill innocent civilians. In other words, committed murder. He explained that his unit (not sure what unit or command he was with) would go from home to home looking for who ever they were looking for and just clean it out. I really wasn’t sure how to react of what exactly I’m supposed to think about that. He seemed to feel that it’s wrong that he is getting this second chance in life but yet it is taking advantage of it anyway. I still think about him and still not sure exactly WHAT to think. I

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avatar annagrace February 6, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Goatskull- sometimes I don’t know what to say in the face of the incredible complexities described in these posts. There is the complexity of you bearing witness to a soldier’s thoughts, and the complexity of a wounded soldier who will forever live with what he was called upon to do in the name of serving his country.

So I won’t comment beyond saying that I don’t want the young men and women serving our country to have to sacrifice their lives, their futures and their conscience in unjust wars. I read your comments very closely and as difficult as it is reading your words, thank you for expressing your experience , your doubts and the complexities.

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avatar Goatskull February 7, 2010 at 9:12 am

Thanx Anna. I like what you said.

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avatar annagrace February 7, 2010 at 9:51 am

Goatskull- hope you keep posting.

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avatar JMW February 7, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Discrimination. Sure, we all do it. At base, we probably can’t help it. We’re humans; it’s one of the things humans do. But, let’s differentiate between the benign kind of discrimination like “deep greens and blues are the colors I choose,” and the dangerous, deliberate, debilitating kind like “separate but equal.”
When I started elementary school, it was legal to put kids in one school or another based on their race.
When I was a little kid, I went to union meetings with my mother. It was legal to pay her and every other woman who was a member of the International Association of Machinists, and pretty good sized group, less than men who did the same job in the same work place.
Would you agree those things were wrong?
When I was in Vietnam, I came to the conclusion that the people who hate, the people who like violence, the people who believe that might makes right, the bombers and bomb makers were where the danger lay.
I can’t quite see how who someone loves, likes, finds attractive, with whom a person finds security, comfort, excitement, satisfaction is really my business or a problem for our society, assuming the feelings are mutual and consentual and that both (or all three or four or ten) have the ability to make their own choices.
And in the military? My guess would be that there have been gays in the military as long as there have been wars.

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