September 20, 2011

September 20, 2011, will be a historic day for our country, and a special day for me.

It will be historic because the United States’s discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy will finally be put to rest.

And it will be special to me because I hope to release my novel THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR on that day in honor of the historic event.

But, like the cup half empty kind of guy that I am, I won’t believe either will happen until I actually see them happening…

But I’m hopeful it will all come true.

I can hardly believe that DADT is finally coming to end because it has been a powerful presence in my life since my decision in 1994 to work outside my career field of telecommunications, and outside of my comfort zone, to become a navy Equal Opportunity Advisor. My duties as an EOA required me to become thoroughly familiar with the DADT policy and to facilitate seminars and focus groups regarding it at navy commands throughout the Western Pacific. A key element of my training was not to just remind sailors that they could not ask about someone’s sexual orientation, but also to make it very clear since it had become an issue in the military that, just because their values or stereotypes or perceptions or prejudgments motivates them to do so, doesn’t mean they can harass or abuse or murder someone who they perceive has a sexual orientation that is contrary to their beliefs. I use the word “perceive” because rarely do homosexuals violate DADT policy by telling others, especially others hostile to their lifestyle, about their sexual orientation. Consequently then, the most likely way a homophobic person can be motivated to act upon his or her (mostly his) homophobic tendency to want to harass or abuse or murder is by perceiving a service member to be a homosexual based upon the perceived homosexual’s behavior or personal characteristics. Facilitating the discussion of such a sensitive, and often combative, nature for three years was very challenging, yet very rewarding for me.

If I can hardly believe that DADT is finally coming to an end, I can only wonder how one feels who loves his or her country so much that he or she was willing to join the military knowing that the DADT policy required him or her to suppress his or her identity and sexual orientation in order to serve. (Normally, because I am a man and because I choose a male identity for myself (It’s a gender thing, you wouldn’t understand…probably.), I would not bother with all the “he or she” and “his or her” distraction; I would simply just write “he” or “his,” just as I would expect a female writer to just write “she” or “shis,” I mean, “sher,” I mean, “her,” but I feel in this situation, it is important for me to highlight and reiterate the fact, in an effort to remind everyone, that both men and women have chosen to make this enormous sacrifice for their country. Talk about Patriots. All you heterosexuals out there go ahead and try imagining what it would be like to not only not be allowed to tell others who you love, but also to not be allowed to completely express your love to the person whom you do love. Hard to imagine, isn’t it, since it’s our privilege to not have imagine such an absurd way of life?

And I can hardly believe that my novel is finally going to be released because it, too, has been a powerful presence in my life for nearly as long as DADT has been. Consequently, I find it hard to believe that in a few short days I will finally be able to call the project complete.

And I also can hardly believe that my novel is going to be released on September 20, 2011, since it is only a few short days away and, because of a few issues I am contending with, I still have yet to complete the publication review process with the publishing service I am using. So, at this point, September 20, 2011, is more like a target release date than a set release date. But we’ll see.

Regardless of whether my novel is actually published on September 20, 2011, or not, the date will always be special to me since it was DADT, or more specifically, since it was all the harassment and abuse and even murder that was inflicted on so many service members because of DADT, that provided the unfortunate impetus for why I wrote the novel to begin with.

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Preparing for the End

As you may or may not be aware, the end of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy will be officially and finally declared on September 20, 2011.

I honestly am very happy, and more than a little apprehensive, that its end is coming.

Additionally, in the spirit of my shtick, I am also not as honestly very happy, and a little more than apprehensive, that I have until September 20, 2011, to complete and release my novel THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR.

Why do I have only until September 20, 2011, to complete and release my novel, I hear you ask.

Well, how else can I best exploit for my own bloated self-interests the pain, suffering, and humiliation of thousands of those who served their country during the course of the life of the humiliating DADT policy than by releasing on or about the date of DADT’s death so that I can best leverage the public’s increased interest in the issue a book with themes that attempt to illustrate the same pain, suffering, and humiliation that those who served their country during the course of the life of the humiliating DADT policy experienced, I answer.

Key word in all that bumbling nonsense in the last paragraph: “attempt.”

But fear and puke not, for those of you whose stomach I just curdled:

For I am known for setting and committing myself to firm and fixed deadlines and then easily and breezily rationalizing them away as their date flies by and the work remains woefully incomplete.

And I certainly do have much woeful work on the novel yet for me not to complete between now and September 20, 2011.

Until then, you can check out the first five chapters of THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR at the “free reads” page, if you feel so inclined and/or charitable to my cause.

The Extreme Costs of Extremities

Yes, as a nation, we love our freedom.

I love my freedom.

Freedom is so completely fundamental to the essence of who we are, of who I am, that I cannot even begin to imagine living in a country where I couldn’t speak my mind, or where I couldn’t dress the way I wanted to dress, or where I couldn’t love whomever I wanted to love regardless of his or her race, religion, sex, gender, height, blood type, shoe size, whatever, or where I couldn’t worship the God(s) I wanted to worship.

I simply cannot imagine living a life without the freedom to live exactly as who I want to be, not as just who I am born to be.

In my view, to maintain our freedom means we have to be able to tolerate a lot of ignorant bullshit, even if it’s as ignorant and disgusting as that of the Westboro Baptist Church.

The Supreme Court agrees with me.

If tolerating the non-violent, First Amendment-sanctioned views and expressions of the Westboro Baptist Church, or the KKK, or the Nation of Islam, or any other hate group is the price we have to pay for our uncompromised freedom, then it must be paid.

It’s worth every penny.

There are higher prices to pay.

People around the world are paying them on a daily basis.

Shahbaz Bhatti just paid the highest price anyone could pay.

Shahbaz Bhatti was the only Christian minister of parliament in Pakistan.

He recently was assasinated by muslim extremists because of his faith.

Muslim extremists hate freedom even more than Westboro Baptist Church extremists do.

As far as I know, no Westboro Baptist Church extremist has murdered over his or her extremist views.

They have stayed with the boundaries that our Rule of Law has set.

As messy and distasteful as the Rule of Law sometimes is, Americans should be ever so thankful to live in a country that abides by it.

Many countries don’t.

Pakistan is trying to but it’s a difficult and dangerous struggle for them.

MP Bhatti lost his life over this struggle.

He was a very courageous man.

He knew that his life was in constant danger because of his beliefs.

He testifies as such in this video.

It is a very powerful testimony of faith and courage.

 

Shahbaz Bhatti did not shy away from the struggle for freedom.

He embraced it.

He embraced it because he understood how rare and valuable freedom is.

He was even willing to pay the ultimate price for it.

And sadly, he ultimately did.

~~~~

RELATED: The 30 Best Anti-Westboro Baptist Church Protest Signs

Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

I joined the navy in 1983, which means that I served for about ten years when it was illegal for homosexuals to enter the military.

Even though it was illegal, I think it is safe to assume that there still were homosexuals serving during that time; but back then since I was young and singularly focused on doing all those things that sailors have always been renowned for doing…you know what I’m talking about: a yo ho ho and a bottle of rum and all that other fun stuff (wink)…I did not pay the issue of homosexuals in the military much mind.  And as far as I can remember, neither did any of the sailors I hung out with back then.

Thinking back, I remember working with several individuals during the first ten years of my enlistment who were assumed to be gay, but it was no big deal.  It was no big deal to me, to my friends, or to the command where we all worked.  The assumed homosexuals came to work and did their job the best they could, just like everyone else and that was pretty much it.

The only time when  my group of friends and I did talk about homosexuals in regard to their homosexuality was probably when we were making juvenile fun of what we saw as their eccentricities.

I am sorry about that.  I guess I could try to excuse  my behavior back then on the fact that I was young and a victim of a cultural socialization process that bent toward homophobia.  However, while my opinions and attitudes have evolved since then, unfortunately, I am still not completely guilt-free when it comes to occasionally behaving in a juvenile manner, even though I know that this type of “harmless” behavior may be enabling someone elses more aggressive, dangerous behavior.

Evolution is a slow process.

Still, as far as I can tell, for the first half of my navy career, most sailors really didn’t pay the issue of homosexuals in the military hardly any mind.

That all changed under President Clinton’s watch, however.  Once he made allowing homosexuals to serve in the military an issue, it became an issue for all service members — a big one.

Prior to Clinton’s presidency, I have no recollection whatsoever of there being any open hostility or harassment towards homosexuals in the military.  I am in no way saying that there wasn’t any open hostility or harassment towards homosexuals for the first ten years of my career, I’m only saying that if there was, it did not leave an impression on my internal google, for I cannot pull up any recollections; nor has it left an impression on the external google, for I cannot pull up any major stories or websites profiling open hostility or harassment towards homosexuals in the military prior to President Clinton making it an issue.  (My definition for major is at least a story or a website that makes it on the first page of google’s search results. If I have to dig deeper than that then to me it must not have been a major event. I know, that’s a weak rationale for a lazy research method but it’s what I’m going with.)

But it seems that once homosexuals in the military became a national issue, folks of all over the country began to take notice, especially the closet homophobes.

Soon afterward, open hostility, harassment, and even assaults towards homosexuals began making the news.

Presidential candidate Bill Clinton made allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the military an issue throughout his 1990-1991 presidential campaign.

This sailor was stomped to death in October 1992.

President Clinton issued Defense Directive 1304.26 which became known as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in December 1993.

This college student was pistol whipped and tortured to death in October 1998.

This soldier was beat to death with a baseball bat in July 1999.

And now, with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and with the nation’s attention focused more than ever on the issue of homosexuals in the military, we may wonder if there will be additional hostility, harassment, and assaults toward homosexuals.

I am afraid we may already have our answer.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama made allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the military an issue throughout his 2007-2008 presidential campaign.

Democrats began ramping up their efforts to repeal the ban in Congress in March 2009.

This sailor was gunned down and burned in July 2009.

This civilian was beaten by two marines in July 2010.

Maybe it’s a stretch to try to link these deaths and beatings to the fact that the nation is focusing on the issue of homosexuals serving in the military, maybe it’s not.  Regardless, we all should hope for the best when the repeal is finally lifted sometime this year and homosexuals are allowed to openly serve.  But while we are hoping for the best, we should also remain vigilante to the possibility that the risks toward our newly liberated brothers and sisters in arms may significantly increase as the nation continues to focus on this issue for the foreseeable future.

Homosexuality and Our National Interest

Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”
Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”

Because of my personal interest in this important civil rights issue, I have been closely following the national debate regarding the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell for some time now. My view on whether homosexuals should be allowed to openly serve in the military has significantly evolved since I first joined the navy in 1983. I believe, and have for some time, that homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly. I came to this conclusion for many reasons but here are the primary ones:

1.      It is in the best interest of our national security. Our country is engaged in two active military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan while still keeping all of the other national security concerns–terrorism, Iran, North Korea, and many others–in check. Our nation simply cannot afford to waste valuable resources in any form, particularly its military resources. Our most valuable national and military resource is our patriotic citizens who volunteer to serve and protect our nation. Denying our military the service of patriotic volunteers because of their sexual orientation is not only shortsighted and stupid, it is potentially damaging to military readiness and our national security.

2.      It is in the best interest of our national psyche. We all know very well that we are a country founded on the truth that all men are created equal under the laws of nature and of God. This is deeply instilled into our national psyche. Yet, we have had a painfully psychological, and at times very physical, struggle trying to turn this national belief into a national reality. We have learned from our long history of attempting to reconcile our fundamental beliefs with our country’s original sin of slavery, that when we as a nation say that we all are to receive equal rights under our laws while at the same time denying these rights to a segment of our society based on the color of their skin, our national psyche suffered deeply from it. We became dysfunctional, self-hating, and even came close to committing national suicide over it. The cognitive dissonance that occurs when saying one thing–that all men are created equal and are guaranteed equal rights under our laws–and then doing another–denying these equal rights based on race, sex, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation–is not only detrimental to our national psyche, it is damning to our national soul.

Much more work still needs to be done to ensure homosexuals receive equal rights under our laws, but as a nation, we can go a long way to securing our national security and improving the health of our national psyche simply by allowing them to serve openly in the military.

So it was with much anticipation and high expectations that I watched today while Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen briefed the findings of the “Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and then answered reporters’s questions. After Gates and Mullen finished their brief, the Co-chairmen of the study, Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Army General Carter Ham, provided a more comprehensive overview of the report and answered reporters’s questions.

I am still plowing through the 267-page report, but based on what I learned from today’s briefings on it and my read of its executive summary, I am very impressed with its thoroughness and its results.

Secretary Gates was asked how he would respond to Senator McCain’s claim that the report is the wrong report. McCain, although an initial supporter of the survey, quickly began rejecting the results once they had started leaking out earlier in the month, saying that the survey wrongly focused on how to implement the repeal of DADT instead of focusing on how the repeal would impact military readiness. Gates responded to the question simply by saying that while he respects Senator McCain, the senator is wrong about his assessment of the survey. And from what I learned from what was briefed by the military and from my read of the report’s executive summary, I agree with Secretary Gates.

By shifting away from his original position on the survey, Senator McCain has made it clear that is doing nothing more than engaging in the Republican strategy of blocking any political success for the president and Democrats, regardless of the political costs to himself and his party. Consequently, I have little hope that DADT will be repealed during this lame duck congressional session. Both our national security and our national psyche will suffer for it.

http://www.pentagonchannel.mil/swf/flvPlayer.swf

DADT Confusion

[picappgallerysingle id=”8281946″]I’m really confused by all of the activity surrounding the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell debate recently. A week ago, the Senate blocked a bill that would repeal the law. On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that it was unconstitutional for the military to have discharged an Air Force officer because she was a lesbian. Immediately following the judge’s ruling, the the Justice Department filed an objection to the ruling. And still, during all this, the military continues to survey its servicemembers about how they would feel about serving in a military that allowed open homosexuality.

So what’s the deal? Does the federal ruling mean that homosexuals can now openly serve in the military? If so, how does this impact the 14,000 servicemembers who have already been kicked out because of their sexuality? Does congress still need to repeal the old DADT law or has this ruling effectively done that? Why is President Obama allowing his administration to object to the judge’s ruling and defend a law that he thinks is wrong to begin with? And what about the survey?

So many crazy questions surrounding this important civil rights debate.

DADT Survey

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Back in May of this year, the Department of Defense put up an online inbox where servicemembers and their family can anonymously post what they feel the impact of repealing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy would have on the military. The survey closed on August 30. I wonder how it went.

Seeing that the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of staff have publicly endorsed President Obama’s plan to repeal the DADT policy, I also wonder how it will play out for them come December 1 if the results of the survey strongly suggest that most servicemembers and their families feel that repealing the policy will have a negative impact on the military.

With the Department of Defense DADT survey and policy review going on, in addition to all of the battles going on in court over, not just homosexuals in the military, but how homosexuals will be legally treated by our society in general, 2010 is proving to be an important year for such an important civil rights debate.