Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Shouldn't all soldiers be heroes?

In respect to Memorial day I got to thinking about the many U.S. soldiers that have been lost in this war fought for all the wrong reasons. It’s certainly been a heavy toll. The Department of Defense has confirmed 2464 so far {2325 since Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq}.

There is a lot of flag waving going on right now, everyone wants to support the troops and rightly so. Some misguided souls even believe that in order to do this one must support the President and the War itself including the reasons it was supposedly fought. They claim you can’t support the troops without that. Of course that’s absolutely ridiculous, or at least highly debatable. Either way, pretty much everyone is in agreement, except Fred Phelps and his bunch of lunatic scumbags, that these people are heroes for risking their lives and ultimately losing them in what is thought & hoped to be the defense of their country. People can’t say enough nice things about these soldiers and the sacrifices they are making, even if we don’t all agree on why they are there and when they should come home.

All of this praise seems very nice, deserved, but also rather ironic. I’ve been thinking about how grossly unfair it is that homosexuals are kept out of the military. It is such an unbelievable insult not only to homosexuals in general and law abiding citizens overall who certainly shouldn’t be considered second class, but more directly it is a tremendous insult to gay people who truly want to serve their country in the military. Currently the ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy which was instated under Bill Clinton is still in place. While it’s not a total ban, it’s about as close as you can get to it. One can’t be openly gay at all and not be discharged from the military. The same ignorant bigots that once said the whole military would go to shit if you let Blacks in, or women, are now telling us that homosexuals would demoralize & weaken the armed forces. I fear for our defense if our soldiers are so petty and easily distracted that the gay man or woman working beside them interferes with their ability. So what other excuses are left? Perhaps that homosexuals are too “weak” to serve. Women generally have certain physical limitations, like upper body strength compared to a man, yet women are allowed to serve most roles in the military. So if they are going to use this excuse, first of all they need to admit to being a bunch of bigots who are making a broad generalization about a varied group of people, secondly if they’re going to be consistent they should take women out of most of their current military roles, and third they need to back their ridiculous misconceptions up. Let’s see some proof that gay men are inherently unable to do the job of a soldier. I may be quite the radical here but I think it sounds quite fair, reasonable, and efficient to enlist those who are able & qualified to do the job, period.

The fact is there are untold numbers of homosexuals serving in the military today. Some believe the percentage of gay and bisexual people in the US is 8-10%. A conservative estimate which is rarely disputed is around 5%, or based on the last census around 14 million people. According to the Department of Defense there are around 1,378,000 serving in the US military as of the beginning of 2006. 207,000 deployed in Iraq. So if we use that 5%, in fact, considering that gay people are encouraged against military enlistment I’ll even lower that to 4%, then the number of homo and bisexual persons serving in the military would be roughly 55,120. Using that same method there would have been 8,280 deployed in Iraq at the beginning of the year. And using the 2464 dead soldiers from the Iraq war to date, there may be 123 of them that we’ve buried and celebrated as heroes who just happened to be homosexually inclined. 123 who because of their sexual orientation would be considered by many in our society as ‘sexual deviants’. 123 "heroes" that the military brass think best to not allow to continue a career in the military, at least not openly and honestly about themselves. 123 that had they lived and decided they wanted to have a marriage or union with the same-sex partner of their choosing would be denied that by President Bush if he gets his way on a Constitutional Amendment declaring marriage be only between one man and one woman.

I am left wondering if even only one of those dead soldiers were gay did they deserve any less respect? Did they serve their country with any less dignity, courage, loyalty or service? Should they have been discharged had they ever acknowledged their sexual preference? Is it at all fair that they served to protect a country which would hold them in contempt because of who they are attracted to and fall in love with? A country which only a few years ago, depending on where they lived, would criminalize them for engaging in sexual activity with a same-sex partner even in the privacy of their own home. A country in which they were not allowed to marry the person of their choosing in almost every state, and in which the Commander in Chief may soon ensure that they nor any of their peers ever will.

I think as this country considers its war dead and those who serve they should keep this sort of thing in mind. 'Support the troops?' Indeed.