It should be easy now. The political cover needed for even the most ardent hardheads and anti-gay voices like Arizona Senator John McCain to end an obvious structure of discrimination has been made public.
There remains no reason for further discrimination of gays in the military. A report released on Tuesday by the Pentagon indicates that most of those serving in the armed forces favor repeal of the famous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. According to the report, 70 percent of those serving say it does not matter if the guy next to them in the foxhole is gay or straight.
Let’s remember that people serving in the military are primarily young and those under, say, the age of 30 don’t normally have the same beliefs as someone, say, Senator John McCain’s age—74.
McCain indicated in 2006 that he’d support a repeal of the policy if military leadership did as well, but he’s so far refused to endorse it, saying there’s a split among military leaders on their support of a repeal. He’s also been publicly skeptical about the validity of the report. I used to admire that guy but he too often comes off now as a cantankerous, bitter old man with a dwindling soul.
Let’s follow McCain and see what the top military leadership says: Defense Secretary Robert Gates (a longtime Republican) said Tuesday, “Part of this is a question of unfamiliarity, part of it is stereotypes, and part of it is just inherent resistance to change when you don’t know what’s on the other side.’’
In urging quick Senate action to repeal the law, Gates said the worst outcome would be to have the courts order an immediate lifting of the gay ban, an outcome that he believes would be imminent. He wants the legislature to make the move, to in part, give it time to implement phased change.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, also agreed with the report’s findings, and noted that whatever the personal feelings of individual service members about repeal of the law, existing military regulations on personal behavior would continue to dominate. “We in uniform have an obligation to follow orders,’’ he said. “We treat people with dignity and respect in the armed forces—or we don’t last long.’’
Dignity and respect. What’s not to like about that? Senator McCain is apparently living in a past that doesn’t exist for most young people anymore. Reality has changed. Concepts are different for those young people in the trenches fighting the wars we are unfortunately engaged in today.
Most people would agree that breaking down stereotypes and shedding the demonization of people different from us is considered good progress. Hello, Senator McCain? Where is your dignity and respect?
Look at a part of the summary of the Pentagon report…
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, our military took on the racial integration of its ranks, before the country at large had done so … By our assessment, the resistance to change at that time was far more intense: surveys of the military revealed opposition to racial integration of the Services at levels as high as 80–90% … Some of our best-known and most-revered military leaders from the World War II-era voiced opposition to the integration of blacks into the military, making strikingly similar predictions of the negative impact on unit cohesion …
The story is similar when it came to the integration of women into the military. In 1948, women were limited to 2% of active duty personnel in each Service, with significant limitations on the roles they could perform. Currently, women make up 14% of the force, and are permitted to serve in 92% of the occupational specialties. Along the way to gender integration, many of our Nation’s military leaders predicted dire consequences for unit cohesion and military effectiveness if women were allowed to serve in large numbers.
The U.S. military has led the way to ease prejudice against blacks and women, not just in the military, but also in society as a whole. If Senator McCain cannot learn obvious lessons from history and consciously chooses to not listen to the people who would be most impacted, it is far past time for him to retire and enjoy the Arizona sunshine. His bullheadedness serves a minority that remains bigotedly stuck in a time that is gone.
It is time for those in Congress to open up the military and I hope those in Washington, D.C. do just that this month.