This morning I watched the live broadcast of the presidential signing of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the U.S. military policy that has insisted that military personnel remain closeted about their sexual orientation (if they’re gay, of course). The ceremony this morning gave me chills and brought a tear to my eye. Integrating the military was a major precursor to mainstreaming civil rights discourse and laying the foundation for civil rights legislation with regard to race in this country more than 60 years ago. It was hard to argue that our citizens should fight and die in the trenches of war, side by side regardless of race, but then return home to legalized discrimination and inequality. Perhaps, hopefully, the same mechanisms will operate with the dismantling of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
As is my way, I feel like pushing the rock uphill just a little on this historic moment. I bought it, of course: the argument that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a seminal and necessary achievement in the unfolding of full citizenship for gays. But I’m not exactly thrilled with what we’re left with now that “the battle” is basically over. Because what we’re left with isn’t a metaphorical battle for votes in Washington, but a literal battle, or more precisely, a raging war in one country and an ongoing occupation in another.
I find myself on the radical fringe of gay debates frequently. I’m entirely unconvinced that obtaining “equal marriage rights,” for example, is a step forward for gays or for society. Personally, I advocate for the government to get out of the marriage business entirely. Consistently, I think that we, “the gays,” too easily buy into the arguments that things will be better when we get what the straights now have. If what the straights now have is broken and carcinogenic, why should we be so desperate to worm our way into a share of that legacy?
In this day and age, it’s even more politically incorrect to bash the military than I’m willing to be (and that’s saying a lot!). I honestly do have deep respect for the military and the function is serves in stabilizing civilian law and order and international peace. But I find it cold comfort that gays and lesbians will soon transition from dying in Iraq and Afghanistan while closeted, to dying in Afghanistan (and still, potentially, Iraq) while openly gay. I’m glad that so many servicemen and women feel that serving openly in the military permits them dignity and wholeness. From my perspective, though, I think we would show much more dignity toward all our military if we used them only as a last resort, and if we didn’t rely on them to achieve with bullets and bombs what only the elimination of abject poverty and disenfranchisement could ever legitimately achieve.
I’m eager for the day when we critique our arrogant, bullying approach to the use of military force all together. I think the queerest thing we could do would be to demand that any war worth invading another country (or two) over should be a war that demands a draft of the populace and a full mobilization of our wartime economy. Anything less, anything more palatable and politically expedient, just cheapens the lives of the soldiers and airmen and seamen who face down the guns and bombs that we act so astonished to discover when we’ve invaded another nation. If it’s not worth mobilizing our whole nation over, then it shouldn’t be worth the lives of our standing military force, gay or straight, either.
I’m eager for the day when the gay and straight soldiers in our standing military have nothing to do but sit at home and guard the borders, clean their weapons, and remain at the ready for a day that will never come because we’ve gone truly revolutionary and waged peace with the ferocity and determination with which we wage war today.
I’m eager for the day when the only combat our boys in uniform see is wrestling with their buddies. If fatigues should be forcibly stripped in the process, so be it. If underwear should be ripped to shreds as they continue to battle naked, the pseudo-pacifist that I am, I could still live with that amount of violence in the world. If losers should be required to suck cock, I could probably cope, and frankly, truth be told, the world would be a better place for absolutely everyone if that’s the amount of mischief required of our military might.