Last week the United States Senate failed to pass a repeal of the military’s anti-homosexual policy known as “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT). How does a policy so obviously based on lies and misconceptions continue to be the law of the land? It is because it deals with the one, great sacred cow of American political life: The United States Armed Forces.
As a veteran, I feel I am an in a unique position to comment on the military’s views on the subject. For four years, I argued with my fellow Marines about DADT, and whether or not it would ever be repealed. I thought (and continue to believe) that it is only a matter of time, as no injustice so obvious and indefensible can endure forever in a nation that has already overcome so many previous instances of oppression. My comrades had a much different take. A fellow recruit at Parris Island told me all gays should be put in to camps and murdered. A squad leader told funny stories from back home, where he and his friends would wait outside of gay bars to rob and viciously beat those patrons they could catch. A Staff Sergeant said that if the policy were to change, his 12-year carreer in the military would end at the earliest opportunity. The few officers who would comment on the issue held similar opinions on the subject. They are all part of culture that resists change in any form, especially change demanded by the civilian world.
This culture dominates even at the highest level of the four major branches. These dissenters have powerful allies in Congress and the defense community. Their argument is centered on the notion that allowing openly homosexual men and women to serve would upset unit stability and negatively impact the military’s ability to accomplish its mission. These men are a disgrace to their uniforms and those who died wearing them. Recent polls show 57 percent of Americans in favor of repealing DADT and allowing any American who has the courage to defend their country to be allowed to do so. Polls of active duty service members show similar majorities in favor of reform. There will be consequences when change finally does come. Crimes will be committed, good soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines will leave the ranks, but the remaining service members would have to follow the orders of their leaders. All it would take is one order from President Barack Obama to end this debate forever. No future President would dare reinstate such an indefensible policy, and the military, despite all its official opposition, and conservative culture, would find a way to make it work.
These are the moments those of us who voted for him envisioned. The power of the executive would finally be in the hands of someone who would use it to advance the cause of justice and equality. Frightened by the inevitable blowback from such an order, the administration continues to wait on Congress to decide the issue. DADT is an anachronism that has long outlived its time. If the Democrats lack the courage to fight for rights acknowledged by the majority as inherent, than they deserve the fate awaiting them in November.
Nick White is a sophomore history major
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