"Don't ask, don't tell" bad for the military, but good enough for civilian life-and "Anderson"September 21, 2011 11:06 PM
Any time government-sanctioned discrimination ends in America is cause for celebration.
That's the real reason for the big hurrah over the official death of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.
But the military is trying to undersell it. "I will be astonished if this is a disruptive change," Gen. Carter Ham told the Wall Street Journal. "I think it will be pretty unremarkable across the military, and I think that is the way it should be."
Don't count on it.
The end of DADT warrants at least a march around the block, if not a full-dress parade with sabers raised.
Now military officials don't have to look the other way. They can watch if they want.
And men and women in the service don't have to consider their uniforms a walk-in closet.
Mostly, they can be who they are--good soldiers.
It would be nice to think "Don't ask, don't tell" was a suitable compromise to the military's outright ban on gays in the military. It seemed good enough 18 years ago, when the words "gays" and "military" instantly triggered thoughts of Liberace brandishing an M-16. (Or was that his candelabra?)
But DADT was a lousy compromise.
Back in 1993 when the policy was forged, I remember congressional staff colleagues working round the clock with the Clinton White House, hoping to move the military into the modern age.
I mean, this is even after the Village People.
But before e-mail. Before iPhone. Before Bravo.
"Don't ask, don't tell" was as far as politicians were willing to go to thwart discrimination of hunks in camo.
Too bad. A gay rights advocacy group, Servicemembers United, scoured the Department of Defense records and found that during the compromise more than 14,300 gay people were discharged from the military in spite of "Don't ask, don't tell."
That's 14,300 men and women, victims, every one.
All "Don't ask, don't tell" did was mask the military's unfair practice of anti-gay bias.
That's as discriminatory as it gets in a democratic America.
If your dander still isn't raised just by thinking of the unfairness of it all, then do what I call the "substitution" test.
Insert "Filipino" or "Chinese," or your favorite Asian American ethnic group, anytime you want to say "Gay."
It's not that the terms are synonymous or interchangeable. But it may help your empathy-challenged state. If the Jimmy Choos were on the other foot, you'd more easily understand how disgustingly unfair the policy was. One's sexual preference is irrelevant when it comes to the purposes of the military. End of story.
In reality, perhaps not much should change with the new policy in force. Since it's not a "sexual" fighting force, what really should change? I doubt we'll see military tea dances at the bases. But humans are human. It will be a different Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. And people will have to deal with their sexuality the way they always have, privately.
They just won't be subject to one of the most blatantly discriminatory policies ever imposed by the government.
And yet, we can't say goodbye to "Don't ask, don't tell" entirely.
It's still the convention that works for some in our civil society, especially among people who'd rather maintain, shall we say, discretion.
It's becoming an issue for Anderson Cooper, CNN anchor by night, fun-loving talk host "Anderson" by day.
Does a public person like Cooper have the right to make his love life off-limits?
Is he AC 360, 180, or 90? 45? Inquiring minds want to know.
The question of preference came up in a recent New York Times television review by Alessandra Stanley, who coyly brought out the fact that Anderson isn't exactly forthcoming about his own life. Then she proceeded to indirectly coax Cooper to declare his sexuality.
Said Stanley: "The one thing he hasn't done yet ... is talk about his love life. It's hard to see how he can continue to leave that out selectively and preserve one particular zone of privacy while building a confessional talk show wrapped around his good looks, high spirits and glamorous adventures."
I knew Stanley in college. But I never wondered about her sexual preference, even when she became a professional journalist writing from, of all places, the Kremlin. My sources tell me she's been divorced. Maybe she wanted a date with Anderson? You see how awkward it is when you consider a journalist's personal life? Besides, it's irrelevant.
But Cooper's a talk host and that's different? No it isn't. He's still an interviewer going for facts, and basically a reporter. Revelations or lack thereof about his personal life? Once again, irrelevant.
Does knowing AC's sexual preference really matter here? It might have to Snooki.
Stanley suggests Anderson's degree of honesty could determine the show's success. I doubt it. Among talk hosts, we know Ellen is lesbian. Nate Berkus is gay. That doesn't make me want to watch. News people have come out before.
Still, Anderson's sex life should be a big "who cares?" It's his choice to be as private as he wants. Maybe he's saving the truth for sweeps?
Until then, "Don't ask, don't tell" is alive and well. Makes the military seem downright progressive to finally end it.
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