Chemical Warfare

Speaking from my privileged First World perspective, our, meaning the United States’, response to the Syrian war has always been a very conflicting and troubling issue for me.

Poor me, right, when there’s somewhere around 500,000 Syrians dead and over 10,000,000 displaced.

Poor me, indeed.

But since all pain is relative, all I can do is acknowledge/empathize with/pray for the atrocities external from me while focusing on finding some way to mitigate or at least reconcile with the conflicts and turmoil internal to me.

So far I’ve been unsuccessful…

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The “Good Old Days”

We all have our stereotypes, prejudices, and other indelible insensitive and less-than-helpful outlooks on life regardless how hard we might try to suppress them or convince ourselves otherwise. Often, these insensitive outlooks on life and our inability to suppress them put very heavy assumptive blinders around our thinking.

And narrowly-focused thinking can, while unintended, often lead us into insensitive and hurtful acts of behavior.

And its in this such context that I muse upon the “good old days…”

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Toward the Happy End of Legislating Morality

You may be happy or sad over the reelection of Barack Obama.

I, for one, am happy.

You may be happy or sad over the reelection of the Congressional Incumbents.

I, for one, am sad.

And, you may be happy or sad over the historic legalization of gay marriage in Maryland and other states and the legalization of the limited recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington.

I, for one, am beyond happy; in fact, I am completely and blissfully ecstatic.

Now, since I am happily married and have been so for over two score, and since my lung disease prevents me from inhaling any kind of smoke and my high liver counts discourage me from introducing THC into my system by any other means, I do not foresee me benefiting physically in the least because of the legalization of gay marriage and the decriminalization of marijuana use.

But I do benefit from it.

All Americans benefit from it because it represents a new mind set in our country.

A new hope.

Millions of Americans voted in this election to begin the end of legislating morality.

Yes, there will be legal challenges and set backs to these recent advancements toward the protection of our basic human right to live a life as we choose to live it.

Yes, we still have many states to go and many votes to cast before all Americans’s have the right to be human as each sees fit.

But we have just made a significant advancement, an advancement which sets the momentum toward even further advancement, and which minimizes the chance for significant setback.

And I, for one, am very happy about that.

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

100325-N-0696M-066
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.

Presidential Prerogative

pro-mosque protesters
Creative Commons License photo credit: derek7272

I see President Obama felt the need to comment on the issue of building a mosque near Ground Zero. I wonder why. Even though NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg praises the president for his strong support for the building of the Cordoba House, the president tells us that he is not actually commenting on the wisdom of building the site, but instead reminding us that all Americans have a fundamental right of freedom of religion. True, but did we really need the president to remind us of that? And did he really need to risk his political capital to say it?