Sometimes I spend enough time typing a comment that if feels like it should be a separate post. So it is with my reply to Bud, on the whole “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” controversy. I had hesitated to put the subject on my Virtual Front yesterday (and sorry there’s not one today; I’ve just gotten tied up late in the day) because I just don’t like these interminable Kulturkampf issues, mainly because few of the pat answers that other people find satisfactory work for me. But it was the biggest story of the day, and that’s that.
So we went around and around on the subject, and finally Bud did something that people occasionally get fed up with me and do — asked me to explain whether I was serious or just being argumentative:
Brad, do you want to retain DADT or are you just being a bit contrarian? There are really 3 issues here:
1. Readiness. The evidence from militaires around the world suggest readiness is unaffected by allowing openly gay men and women into the military. Plus, we are losing highly qualified individuals on account of the current policy. Seems like the readiness issue favors repeal. The old soldiers who resist do so because of tradition. Sometimes traditions need changing.
2. Rights as a citizen. Even though Brad won’t acknowledge this I find it critically important that we allow all citizens to participate in the defense of our country. It’s appalling to me that this aspect can be so cavalierly dismissed.
3. Politics. This concerns Obama. Politically I believe he would enhance his standing with the American people by getting rid of the policy via Executive order. Sure it would be best to do so with the consent of congress but given that a majority in congress just voted for repeal I don’t see how it would be bad politically to support majority rule.
So I answered him as follows…
Bud, I’m inclined to keep DADT, but it’s not a hugely important thing to me. And yeah, I’m being contrarian, because the way we speak about a lot of issues, in flat ways that lead to the polarization of our politics, bugs me.
I push back against libertarians who see a new “right” everywhere they turn because I think it’s an excessive, extreme way of framing an argument. In this country, once you say something is a “right,” you are trying to shut down discussion of other considerations. And the other considerations should be discussed.
For instance, y’all know that I’m for single-payer. But not because I consider health care to be a “right.” I think it’s a rational way to order society. I think it would eliminate a problem — a lot of problems, actually — and that it is a positive good to see that people get good health care if you can figure out how to provide it. I also think it would liberate our economy if people could work at their passions instead of clinging to bad-fit jobs (or merely safe, comfortable jobs) for the benefits.
It simply makes sense to eliminate all the for-profit intermediaries that stand between us and our doctors. It’s not about “rights;” it’s about what makes sense if we want our country to be a good place to live.
Ditto with DADT. If, as Kathryn says, “the brass wants to get rid of DADT,” cool. If they really want to, and it’s not just what one or two generals say when when they’re testifying before Congress with the Secretary of Defense sitting next to them — a situation in which, to use a Tom Wolfe phrase from The Right Stuff, a wise career officer keeps a salute stapled to his forehead.
I don’t know. But it’s not a simple, slam-dunk issue. Nothing about sexuality and how society deals with it is.
For instance, some of my friends here like to believe that embracing the latest right invented by an interest group is a sign of unalloyed progress, a reflection of inevitable movement in a single direction by a species that is consistently evolving toward being better and better all the time.
Uh-uh. It’s not that simple.
Frankly after 56 years of being straight (like a Woody Allen character once confided, I don’t think I HAD a latency period), heterosexuality is still a big mystery to me. I’m astounded by the mechanisms that cause us to have such urges.
Back when I was a kid, quite frankly, I didn’t really believe homosexuality existed. It just seemed so unlikely, so unimaginable. Some guys wanna do WHAT? No way. I thought it was a made-up thing that existed only as an insult for young people already confused and insecure about sexuality to fling at each other. Like “your mother wears Army boots” — you’re not literally making an observation about the other person’s mother’s footwear. Or “Go f___ yourself” — you don’t expect it to actually happen.
But as I grew older and had gay friends, and they communicated in various ways that THEY weren’t kidding; this was for real, I thought about it and realized that HETEROsexuality, as a fundamental force in our characters, seems equally unlikely. I mean, why would I be so attracted to women and their bodies even when I was too young to know anything about what that was all about? How could I want to do something I had never heard of, or thought of?
Actually, I know the answer to WHY — it’s essential to reproduction, whether you think in terms of God’s commandment to go forth and multiply or an evolutionary imperative or both. Organisms with this urge had offspring; those without it did not.
What mystifies me is HOW that works, and all the complexities involved.
Show me a naked woman, and you boggle my mind (and not just for physiological reasons). I behold eternity, and the immediacy of the moment, promised pleasures, guilt, excitement, freedom, responsibility, the irresistible continuum of Life, God and man and Satan and Darwin, Eve, Wisdom and ultimate foolishness, something that is very adult and yet all about little babies. And on and on. It is the very ESSENCE of complexity, and simplicity at the same time.
That is more than enough to puzzle me for the rest of my life; I’m certainly not going to presume to tell you what homosexuality is, because I don’t get that at ALL.
And don’t tell me that society’s ways of dealing with sexuality are simple, that they’re all this way or all that way.
I know better.