Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Don't ask don't tell" is a problem only because Americans chose to turn it into one

Americans don't do subtle. The expression wearing your heart on your sleeve for Americans applies to everything, everything has to be worn on the outside, including your religion, your private life and people think your are weird if you don't. When Tony Blair was asked why he would not talk more about his faith he replied "I don't want people to think I am a nutter." This very British approach would be lost on Americans. If you are religious you have to tell everyone, if you breastfeed you have to do it in the middle of a crowded restaurant so that everyone knows, if you don't drink or smoke you have to lecture everyone about it. This brings us to gays in the army.

I always thought "Don't ask don't tell" was an intelligent and pragmatic solution to a thorny issue. You don't judge my private life, I don't rub it in your face. Let us be realistic, soldiers are not among the most enlightened people around, there is a very strong chance that quite a few of them are homophobic. Is our goal really to reeducate a whole class of people which are already doing a difficult job, on the benefits of progress and a liberal mind?

One might argue this is unacceptable, society has to move forward, one should not condone intolerance and bigotry. The argument would continue saying that otherwise one would say that desegregation should not have happened since the feelings of Southern whites might have been hurt. It is different, segregation applied to a person's entire life, we are not advocating "Don't ask don't tell" as a blanket policy everywhere, only in very specific circumstances of a very specific and unique job, a job that affects a tiny percentage of the population.

I see a similarity in saying, I have the right to walk in the most dangerous part of town in the middle of the night, dressed in bright yellow with 100 dollar bills pinned on my jacket and come out safely. Considering this statement ridiculous does it mean that we condone crime? Certainly not, we just say that one has to be realistic. The state does its bit by trying to protect normal citizens going around their business, the citizen does his bit by not being stupid with the above request. "Don't ask don't tell" was a way of being pragmatic and a reminder of how Clinton could be a great politician.

Leaving all reasoning aside, I have another feeling. Advocates of the ban talk about "The right of men and women to serve their country .... ". My feeling is that gay men and women who really want to serve their country they do it keeping their private life private, advocates of the ban are just troublemakers who want to make a statement. I am always doubtful of decisions made with an argument that at the end boils down to "Why not?".

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