This morning it was all over the broadcast media. The house and senate have voted to let the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy in the American Armed Forces go. I suppose I should be happy. It is an historic vote, no question about it, and one giant step for Gay-Kind. So why am I not out dancing in the streets with the rest of the Gay community?
I was sweet 15 in the spring of 1969. From then until 1973, I poured my heart, soul (and body sometimes) into the effort of thousands to bring an end to one of the bloodiest conflicts our forces had been involved in since the Civil War. It was beyond my comprehension that conservative people could not see what a terrible waste of lives, on all sides, this undeclared war was. I couldn't understand why my parents were just fine with eating dinner in view of Walter Cronkite's evening broadcasts. The featured views of flag draped coffins off loading from big army planes interspersed with "hey,pass the salt" and "who wants desert?", spoiled my appetite night after night.Those were people's sons,husbands and fathers coming home...dead, and for what? Nearly half the boys I would graduate with came home in the same package, not to mention the ones from my previous high school,with whom I grew up playing ball and learning about fair play and sportsmanship.
Was I raised to love my country? You Betcha!"I once was blind but now.....I see" was one way of stating the feeling I had as the realities of government corruption,secret meetings, secret tapes, backroom deals and War began to dawn on me. It seemed to me that being Gay was not a priority issue. The larger issue concerned every last man,woman and soon to be drafted child in our country. You were either for or against it. There was absolutely no middle ground. Right there at my Father's dinner table, was a demarcation line drawn down the middle. Which side was I on, is what he wanted to know. Considering the fact that every male on my Mother's side of the family had served in war after war, and my Father served as well, it was like playing Russian Roulette to give him and honest answer. He couldn't blame me for speaking my piece. He had taught me not to lie.The consequent arguments would drive my Mother away from the table.
Many years later, in the midwest, I joined the effort to establish Gay Rights in the state of Minnesota. Again, the derision, taunts,hate crimes of the conservatives,the ignorant and the closet fearful were upon us as a group of citizens who were supposed to be endowed from birth with the three famous Inalienable Rights. Most of the newest generation of young gay women and men can't comprehend what we went through as we marched,openly, in the streets of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. They'd not know the danger of going or coming from a Gay bar or club or event. Those times are, for the most part, behind us and I thank God for that.
We 'fought' back, Gandhi style, non-violently and peacefully. We marched and sang songs, wore costumes of every kind. We did our best to smile at hecklers and those who threw garbage,or full opened cans of beer at us. Some were more dramatic; chaining themselves to the podium of the state legislature vowing not to move until a gay rights bill was passed. We didn't fully succeed at a full bill granting access to the social and legal privileges enjoyed by the Hetero Identified population. We did get a weak,toothless bill granting us protection from Work and Housing discrimination. One small step for gays.....
We have always known that one way to get out of the Draft was to grab the Sargent and gob-smack him with a kiss. It was and automatic 4F rating that got you out of harms way. It had nothing to do with cowardice or un-American aspirations. It had everything to do with a desire to live a full life, finish school, grow old and be thankful for those who voluntarily gave up those things to fight.
Last night, on the eve of Christmas Week, the House and the Senate passed this bill giving Gays the right to serve. Even though thousands of Gays have served and served with distinction for years already, they now have the right to be open? Why should one's sexual orientation an issue for the military? After all, If Kim Jong Un,the despot to be,decides to drop The Big One on us it will be the end of Gays and Straights alike,where ever it lands. It is clear the real issue is the Not Setting the Straight Soldiers Head's Right about who will cover their asses in a fox hole. Be nice to your fellow gay troop in the field, he may have to save your life...and he probably will no matter how much you hate him.
To those who feel the call to serve, I thank and salute them,for they may be about to die. For those who danced in the streets last night over this newly granted 'right' I ask why? Why are you happy to participate in the insanity of armed conflict? Why are you,collectively,not gathering your awesome ability to move Heaven and Earth through lobbying,marching and such, and bringing it to bear on the more universal issue which is a matter,literally,of Life and Death for all the people of this world, especially for those just entering life,a life whose orientation is as yet unknown?