I opened my eyes and abandoned my nihilist reveries to learn that Christmas came early for many members of the LGBT community. Last weekend, the Senate repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” a policy that banned gays and lesbians from openly serving in the Armed Forces. Established in 1993, DADT was a compromise by President Clinton, who had pledged to end the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military during his first presidential campaign. By signing the bill, President Obama will make good on his own, similar promise. In other words, he won’t stop making war, but you best believe that gays and lesbians no longer have to be closeted while fighting it.
As a pacifist who is committed to equal rights for everyone, it is difficult for me to congratulate the folks who worked so hard for this repeal without a tone of equivocation in my words. DADT, to put it mildly, was an incredibly flawed policy. And at this momentous occasion, pats on the back are in order, I suppose. Yet my inner cynic/hater/pacifist won’t allow me to ingest this information without pause (no-nohomo). The cynic/hater in me wonders about how the fact that over 13,000 troops had been dismissed from the military since 1993 and countless others who perhaps refused to join because of DADT affected the importance of repealing the policy at this juncture. We are, after all, at war. And there are American troops seemingly everywhere. What Hurricane Katrina showed, among other things, was how thinly servicemen and -women had been spread; fighting two wars left an anemic number of troops to handle such domestic issues. My question becomes, then, how does the repeal of DADT not only satiate certain segments of Obama’s supporters, but also address the bodies needed to continue an American neoimperialist agenda? How important is freedom–even the liberty to “defend” that freedom as an openly gay person–if it is contingent upon the marginalization of others?
Above all else, I think about how such victories reify structures of domination we should be working to disrupt. I know, I know. Never want to become a member of a club that would have people like you as a member. Yet, we’re celebrating a feat that will allow folks to serve openly in an inherently violent institution instead of attempting to explode it, if you will. To be sure, I am an advocate of equality for everyone, and generally support positions that argue that everyone should have the same access to and be allowed to participate in every institution which constructs our society. Yet I also support the effort of interrogating the structures of which we seemingly wish to become a part. I fear that the desire to belong to cultural bastions that construct our society thwarts efforts that might otherwise amplify how fraught such institutions are. Perhaps instead of fighting for the right to marry we should work to abolish it and/or seriously consider the logic of state sanctioned and recognized compulsory monogamy. And maybe we should think similarly about what it means to serve in the military–openly or not.
So yes, one may now ask and indeed tell about one’s sexual orientation without the risk of dismissal from the military. In the end, though, the same bombs and the same wars are waged in the name of a corrupt freedom that bothers neither to ask nor tell its victims’ names.
P.S. On a much lighter note, I’ve decided to nickname Michael Vick, “Fantasy Jesus.”
P.P.S. Happy Chrismuhanukwanzakah to you.