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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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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