Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Don't Ask but I'll tell you about Civil Rights

In the never-ending fight to guarantee Civil Rights for all mankind, the United States has scored another knockout blow with the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy ending years of legalized and systemic discrimination against gay men and women serving openly in the US military. There will come a day when we look back on this huge step forward and wonder "What was the big deal anyway ?" much as we (at least MOST of us) now look at the Right to Vote and other inalienable rights for African Americans and women. With this monumental achievement by President Obama and the US Congress, the nation is saying that when it comes to doing your country the great honor of military service it matters not what race you are, what sex you are, or what sex you prefer to have sex with.

As the US stays actively engaged in 2 official wars and military operations in several other countries while facing an inherent resource shortage, it is unconscionable to think service men and women would be dismissed from military service simply for "who they think is cute". Besides the obvious homophobia buried in their souls, those in favor of maintaining this discriminatory policy tend to believe that allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces would disrupt cohesion of military units. I say that if you are a US soldier and who your fellow soldiers choose to sleep with disrupts your focus and your ability to serve, then you don't need to be a US soldier.

During the Vietnam War in the 60s at the height of the Civil Rights movement, I am CERTAIN that there were several US soldiers who probably weren't exactly thrilled about being in a foxhole with black soldiers. However, with that military sense of purpose and duty, whether or not you'd have a guy over for dinner has very little to do with fulfilling the mission that you have been commanded to achieve. Military service men and women are probably more resilient and disciplined than your average citizen. The mission will carry on just the same as it did before the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

It was the great Dr. Martin Luther King who stated that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". Injustice to gays serving in the military is a threat not only to them but is a threat to society at large. You may not be in the military and you may not be gay but wherever injustice and discrimination exist, we ALL have an obligation to speak up. After all, you never know when injustice and discrimination will end up at your front door. In that hour of need, you'll certainly want others speaking up for you. The following famous statement in reference to the silence of the German people as Nazis rose to power, speaks to the importance of fighting for equality and justice regardless of whether or not you believe it DIRECTLY affects you.

First they came for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me; by that time no one was left to speak up.
Reflect on these thoughts as you consider what the repeal of "Don't Ask; Don't Tell" truly means.

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