Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Repeal DADT - Repeal the "Wars on Terror"

Today the motion to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) is supposed to come before the Senate, if the Republicans do not filibuster it. DADT was passed by Congress during the Clinton Administration; originally intended as a vehicle to end discrimination against gay people in the American armed forces, it quickly became the vehicle for witch-hunting gays out of the Army. It's a campaign promise by Obama he has found to be a veritable minefield of opposition. Despite numerous polls suggesting a vast majority of Americans support the repeal of DADT and support gays and lesbians being able to serve in the military, this point of view is not apparently shared by a majority of politicians.

While I need to say that I am of course opposed to DADT, as I am opposed to all discriminatory laws, I need to also say that my heart is not in this fight. It is tragic to see, in this day and age, so many right-wingers question the humanity of gay people. The right-wingers are much more worried about the sensitivities of bigots who might be forced to accept gay people in their midst -- and surprise, we're already there -- than they are about discrimination against an entire group of people. But as gay activist/blogger Michael Petrelis frequently reminds us, the fight against DADT is not taking place in a vacuum. It's taking place in a time when the United States is involved in wars of aggression; wars of aggression that gay Americans should know better than to want to join up and fight in.

I've been reading a novel about the Russian Revolution written shortly after it happened by someone who witnessed it (and later broke from supporting it but that's another story). It's clear that what the Russian revolutionaries led by Lenin had in their favor was their support of peace and their opposition to continuing to fight the tragic and senseless First World War. Rejecting calls for hollow patriotism that benefitted only the top layers of society, the Bolsheviks called for people to recognize the humanity of those on both sides of an arbitrarily drawn battleline. Their commitment to this fundamentally decent point of view gave them the popular support they needed at a crucial time to overthrow the rule of aristocrats, bankers, corporations, and militarists. While what happened thereafter is emminently debatable, it seems that this is a lesson modern Americans -- especially a minority treated as unfairly as gay people -- ought to remember.

While we are a long way in this country from having anything as revolutionarily effective as Lenin's Bolsheviks, we're not a long way from taking a moral stand against the wars that have taken so many innocent lives and trashed the world economy. It is disappointing that the gay community which has mobilized to defend gay veterans kicked out of the army and mobilized to fight DADT has not also mobilized to take a stand for peace.

To all those gay Arabic linguists who were expelled from their service (and there were many including DADT posterboy Dan Choi) I say, use your skills for sowing peace not war. To the pro-gay cultural figures like Lady Gaga who have become spokespeople against DADT I say, use your powers for an even greater good: advocate not only for civil rights for Americans but for the civil rights of people suffering from America's self-centered aggressive military policies. If gay people want to take a step to fight anti-gay bigotry in the Muslim world, take a loud and open stand against the violence that turns so many Muslims against Americans.

Back in the days of the draft there was a profoundly moral choice: conscientious objection. There is no draft today but we still have consciences that should be objecting to what is being done in our names. Gay people have no business fighting wars like this endless so-called War on Terror. Know that even if DADT is repealed, as I hope it is, its effect on injustice is blunted by the gay activist community's failure to connect its issues to the cause of peace.

UPDATE: The bill was filibustered this afternoon by the Republicans plus two Democrats (and a third, Harry Reid, who voted nay for strategic reasons so he could reopen the issue later). Meanwhile, someone in the offices of a Republican Georgia senator has gone on the gay blog Joe.My.God. to post the charming message "All Fags Must Die." Welcome to Amerikkka.


  1. you know books like that will never be republished. Like Quigley's Tragedy and Hope - they want us to watch reality tv and accept - not think

  2. i think gay rights and america's miltarism are two seperate things. i actually got to speak to dan choi when he came to talk at my school when i was an undergrad. he was very interesting. i asked him if he was against the iraq war, as many non-miltary left-wing social activists are. he told me that he did not approve of how it was conducted, but that he thought saddam hussein was an important part of the terror equation, and he needed to be removed.

    i think that the iraq war TALK was good: remove a brutal dictator, bring democracy to a disenfranchised people. the war WALK was all wrong: blow all kinds of shit up and forget what we're fighting for.

    another difference, in my opinion, is that discrimination against gays is just simply baffling to most intelligent people. it makes absolutely no cohesive sense, while america's military activities are far less black-and-white.

    but just as the black panthers said during vietnam, why fight for a country that hates you? and in that sense, you make a brilliant point, ish.

  3. sad but true, raw.

    freebones, I think it's why there's no such thing as an abstract argument when it comes to these things. Saddam Hussein was indeed a brutal dictator (although many many people had a better, easier, and longer life under his rule than they do now) but the American invasion was always going to be the wrong way to solve that problem. Americans would do best to clean our own house before believing we have something special to offer those "uncivilized barbarians" overseas.

  4. i fear that for once we disagree, ish! it is my opinion that the existence of problems at home should not preclude our involvement in overseas issues. of course, iraq is a bad example, though. i liken it to saying we can't just concentrate on one set of problems. we have to be aware of everything. it would be like cooking all of the thanksgiving dinner before the turkey. the rest of it would get cold and ruined by the time the turkey was done. you have to juggle it all!