One year ago, President Obama abolished “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and thereby allowed gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, transgendered and other non-straight people to serve openly in the military. Despite the dire predictions of those opposed to this action, there have not been mass defections from the armed forces, nor have there been increases in the number of anal rapes in military showers.
If anything, there have been an increase in heart-warming stories like this, which makes one’s heart go pitter-pat with patriotism.
I don’t know how I feel about this.
On the one hand, queer Americans should have the same opportunities as every other American, including the opportunity to serve in the armed forces, if that’s what they want. Military service offers excellent benefits, including medical care and the respect of a grateful nation. Throughout our history, the armed forces have been a tool for social change, including racial desegregation when Truman was commander-in-chief.
On the other hand, there’s the killing.
Killing is not the only thing that the military does. Just as a police officer can go through an entire career without firing a shot, a soldier can go through an entire career without serving in combat. Military personnel guard our embassies, aide our allies, help people around the world during natural disasters, and lots of other good things.
My personal favorite thing that they do is the Marine Corps Marathon. Years ago, I ran it as part of the War Resisters League track club. Unlike every other race I ever ran, this one was superbly organized. As a runner who was never very fast, I had seen races that weren’t that great. With this, there were always people at the water stations. There was always toilet paper int he porto-sans. It was a fantastic experience. This was the proper use of the military.
But also, in times of war, they kill people. And also, they get killed, which is worse.
During the Viet Nam war, when there was a draft, there was a debate about whether or not women should be drafted. After all, feminists were demanding that women have equal rights, and, with equal rights come equal responsibilities. People who were opposed to equal rights for women argued that, if women were drafted into the army, they might be killed, or even raped (which was somehow worse, in these arguments). Do you want your daughters in such situations, they would ask.
I didn’t really understand why a daughter being killed was more tragic than the loss of a son. I thought both were plenty horrible. And, as a feminist, I thought that men and women should be treated equally.
My solution? Don’t draft anybody.
I’d like to take a similar approach to the issue of GLBTQ people in the military. If that is something you wish to do, you should have every right to do so. But before you do, I would hope you would also seek out another way to serve your country, with honor and respect, that lets you do good things without the threat of violence hanging over your head.
You are too beautiful to get shot. And you are too glorious to shoot anyone else.
Martha Thomases, Media Goddess, used to want to go through basic training because she thought it would help her lose weight.