Monday, December 19, 2005

Michael: America Losing a soldier, Private Kyle Lawson, for no good reason

Private Kyle Lawson, stationed in Sierra Vista was beaten and threatened at knife-point by his fellow soldiers. What was his crime? Is he a Bin Laden sympathizer? A spy? A traitor?

No. Private Lawson was outted at a party as a gay man.

There is a terrible hypocrisy and waste of human potential underlying the "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy. I suppose it was the most expedient means to address the problem at the time, but the policy's usefulness has worn thin. DADT creates a vast waste of both human and taxpayer resources. It excludes 10% or more of Americans from service, either because they are already out, or because they righly fear that what is happening to Private Lawson could happen to them. It also wastes taxpayers money as the significant resources spent on soldier training can be completely trashed by one careless comment at a party.

Soldiers don't shape the military, the needs of the military shape the soldier. Most of these young people come to the military as lumps of clay, ready to be fashioned into weapons. That involves changing their values and beliefs; even to point where they can kill other humans in the course of their duty.

Does anyone really think that if the military culture demanded tolerance and understanding of differences in sexual orientation that soldiers wouldn't adopt those views? The reason that homophobia is so rampant in the service is because the brass shares that prejudice and allows it to continue, much as they allow sexism against women to persist. We were able to make the armed forces a largely color-blind institution - probably the most progressive organization as regards race in this nation - by confronting the problem forthrightly. I believe that it would also be possible to make the armed forces tolerant of gender and sexual orientation.

Some will say that it would be damaging to troop morale to allow open gays in the armed forces. That's utter bullshit (I can't put it any less vociferously). What is destructive to morale is sex within the unit, which is banned regardless of the participants' genders. What is destructive to morale is assualts upon a soldier by his fellow soldiers, such as have been visited upon Private Lawson. What is destructive to morale is the fear engendered by a policy which allows soldiers to decide to ostracize and effectively destroy the career of a fellow soldier because of who he or she is, and cannot change.

We must abolish DADT and require toleration in the ranks. Otherwise we waste the talents of half of our population on sexist prejudices, and decimate our population's military potential in a politically slack-jawed willingness to pander to the homophobic panic of a few of our soldiers and officers. It is the bigots who should face the threat of court-martial, not the homosexuals and lesbians in uniform.


At 1:52 AM, Blogger globalfriendshipnetwork said...

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At 9:28 AM, Anonymous JaneAZ said...

10,000 gays and lesbians discharged since DADT's inception. Remember that, social conservatives, when your kids are called up for the draft.

At 1:55 PM, Anonymous Ric Hoffman said...

It should make difference if alcohol consumption played a part in the assault. It was an assault and should have been treated as such. I served over 20 years with the US Army, 3 of those in Vietnam. I knew many, many gay and lesbian soldiers, of all ranks up to and including a Major General, all of who served honorably. Some of those new I was gay as well. As I, recall, your sexual orientation, just as your alcohol or drug use, did not matter as long as you did your job and did not cause trouble.

At 2:06 AM, Anonymous eyelash serum said...

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At 6:23 PM, Anonymous W Kilroy said...

Hey Michael: Are you okay if I quote a bit of this for an original theatre production I'm creating with students on Don't Ask, Don't Tell? I can put your name in the program as a credit...or have it anonymous..your choice. thanks.

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Some of those new I was gay as well. As I, recall, your sexual orientation, just as your alcohol or drug use, did not matter as long as you did your job and did not cause trouble.

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