I wish I still had my dog-eared and tattered copy of “Conduct Unbecoming” so I could send it to Sen. John McCain. Not that he’d bother to read it. The U.S. military’s vicious antigay history with its witch-hunts and outright persecution of gay servicemembers probably isn’t of much interest to McCain. Especially since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” solved everything. Don’t you dare try to tell him anything different.
During a Nov. 28 appearance on “State of the Union” with host Candy Crowley, McCain actually had the audacity to claim that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is an effective policy that doesn’t harm anyone, gay or straight, and the call for repeal is just politics.
“There was no uprising in the military,” he said. “There were no problems in the military with ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”
“If you were gay it was a problem,” Crowley interjected.
“No it wasn’t,” McCain snapped. “It’s called ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ OK? If you don’t ask them, you don’t ask somebody, and they don’t tell.”
Got that? It works. End of story.
Crowley tried to ask McCain something else, but he cut her off.
“I understand your point of view. I understand the point of view by the majority of the media,” he said. “But the fact is, this was a political promise made by an inexperienced president or candidate for presidency of the United States.”
In other words, it’s all Obama’s fault. He’s too young to know what a good idea it is to discriminate against homos in the military. Why, when McCain was Obama’s age, he had to walk 15 miles in the snow uphill both ways in order to make a campaign promise like that.
“The military is at its highest point in recruitment and retention and professionalism and capability,” McCain continued. “So to somehow allege that this policy has been damaging the military is simply false.”
Tell that to the thousands of gays and lesbians who have been booted out of the military since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was enacted. According to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, that number is upwards of 14,000. You may recall that in 2002, amid a severe shortage of Arabic-speaking translators, the Army fired six linguists trained in Arabic simply because they were gay.
Apparently McCain sees this as some kind of success. “The fact is that this system is working,” he told Crowley.
McCain repeatedly stressed that he wanted to know what the effect will be of letting gays serve openly — and that’s the operative word, “openly.” Because gays already serve in the military, they just have the weight of a government-mandated closet on their backs threatening to tumble open and ruin their careers at any moment.
“I believe we need to assess the effect on the morale and battle effectiveness of those young Marines and Army people I met at forward-operating bases that are putting their lives on the line every day,” he said. Never mind that some of these “young Marines and Army people” are probably gay.
McCain said he has had “a number of” military folks come up to him and say, “Look, we fight together, we sleep together, we eat together.” His choice of anecdotes illustrates one of the main concerns of homophobes: That homosexuality is contagious, and the best way to guard against it is to make sure you never know when and if it’s around you and to punish gays and lesbians who dare make such an enormous sacrifice to serve the country.
D’Anne Witkowski is a Detroit-based freelance writer and poet.