If you’re looking for an example of how a handful of narrow-minded people can hijack an issue and keep us from moving forward as a nation, you need look no further than Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Over the weekend, General David Petraeus became the latest member of the current and former military leadership to state publicly that gays in the military is not the end of the world, and perhaps DADT is outdated. When asked whether he thought the average soldier cared whether their comrades are gay, Petraeus responded:
We have experienced certainly in the CIA and the FBI — I know, I served, in fact, in combat with individuals who were gay and who were lesbian in combat situations. Frankly, you know, over time you said, hey, how’s this guy shooting or how is her analysis or what have you?
Imagine that. Not caring about someone’s sexual orientation but rather looking at their professional capabilities.
Apparently the conservative leaders on Capitol Hill are obsessed with the sex life of someone who happens to be gay, but the people in the military are too busy fighting wars to care about anything other than the qualifications of their fellow soldiers. Indeed, the American people — families and friends of those in uniform — overwhelmingly favor letting gays serve openly in the military, by 75% according to a poll done just a few weeks ago.
Because the truth is, it’s 2010 in America, and I don’t think there’s anyone in this country who can honestly say they don’t have a family member, a friend, a colleague, or a neighbor who is gay. As far as we still have to go to obtain full civil rights for the lgbt community, we have come very far indeed. My partner is welcomed with open arms by my family — and not just my immediate family, but cousins, aunts and uncles. When I talk with a co-worker about what I did over the weekend, there’s no need for me to be secretive about who I live with or to be careful to say “I worked on the house” rather than “We worked on the house.”
I have a picture of Unnamed Partner in my office. When I started teaching in public school, I heard stories of gay teachers who would keep a phony portrait on their desk — complete with opposite-sex spouse, and a child or two. Better to have a fake family than to risk being “outed.” By the time I left teaching, the idea of that kind of life — lying daily about who you are — seemed ridiculous and sad. My fellow teachers knew I was gay, and many had met Unnamed Partner. Even students have good gaydar by 8th grade, and while I didn’t share too many details of my life (which is generally a good practice for any teacher) I certainly never lied about myself. I’m sure some knew. And they didn’t care. They cared more whether I was a good teacher — clear and fair in my instruction and rules.
So the idea that we are still asking our soldiers to live this kind of double-life is unbelievable to me. Can you imagine putting your life on the line fighting for “freedom” and being denied the most basic freedom — that of honesty?
I’m disappointed that President Obama is not taking a stronger leadership role in repealing DADT. At this point, it’s clear that the military leadership and the American people want this policy thrown out — the only people fighting it are a small segment of society, apparently mostly made up of conservative Republican politicians. And even that faction is more concerned with playing politics than with looking honestly at the issue — how can Sen. John McCain look at himself in the mirror when he has been so transparently dishonest in his personal convictions? He clearly has no interest in anything other than being on the national stage — merits of individual issues be damned.
At this point, only Congress can repeal DADT. At this point, Democrats have a majority in both Houses of Congress. At this point, President Obama is the leader of the Democratic Party. We voted for change, sir. Be the agent of that change.