Gays in America's Military - Why Do We Even Care?
It's the end of the Thanksgiving holiday. Visiting family and friends have gone home with as much leftovers as you could foist upon them.
Every meal for the next week will feature uses of turkey heretofore unimagined - turkey jelly, turkey cider, turkey gelato. Maybe this Christmas we'll skip the gym membership and instead just ask for new pants the next size up.
But before you slip off into the tryptophan coma you've managed to keep at bay since Thursday, take a moment to consider a blessing too often overlooked. Consider the blessing of all the things in the world that are none of your business.
That might sound facetious, but bear with me. In a world of too much information, the 24-hour news cycle, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and instant messaging, in an age where devices which might give us more time instead just seem to give us more to keep up with, at a time when most of our lives are too full, be thankful for the things that you don't have to be concerned with - like the sexuality of other consenting adults.
I've thought about when it is appropriate to be concerned about another adult's sexual orientation, and I can think of only three circumstances: when that person might be the subject of your amorous ambitions; when you are the object of another's amorous intent; or when a close friend or relation might become intimately involved with that other person.
What's unclear is what such private matters have to do with an individual's ability to perform the duties of a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.
A lot of people are missing the connection. Among them are Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who recently affirmed his support for repealing "don't ask, don't tell" in the lame-duck session of Congress. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has also called for the swift repeal of DADT.
In fact, depending upon which polls you believe, 57 to 75 percent of Americans favor discontinuing the policy.
Congressional supporters of DADT, led by Sen. John McCain, promise to filibuster any attempt to repeal it. The senator is concerned about how letting gays serve openly in the military might affect morale and readiness. But as reported recently in Joint Force Quarterly, "After a careful examination, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly."
If the senator needs confirmation, he need look no further than our own allies. Studies confirm that the militaries of Israel, Australia and Canada have not suffered from allowing gays to serve openly - and that of the 28 members of NATO, only the U.S. and Turkey prohibit gays from serving openly.
Since the implementation of DADT in 1993, more than 13,000 men and women have been discharged from the military solely because of their sexual orientation. From 2002, when the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, through 2009, there have been 4,496.
How do we as champions of freedom, as a country engaged in two wars and facing threats from around the world, turn away competent individuals who are eager to serve their country on the basis of an issue that has nothing to do with that service? Is it reasonable to believe that the specter of other people's love lives might have a greater effect on morale of our troops than multiple deployments in two war zones?
As we close the books on another Thanksgiving, let's be mindful of what really matters and what does not.
Let us never fail to be thankful for young men and women who willingly and proudly place themselves in harm's way for love of country. And with all in our ever-busier lives that we should rightly occupy our minds, take a moment to be thankful for the things we needn't be concerned with.
Kevin Smith lives in Aberdeen. Contact him at email@example.com.
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