Combating Dystopia.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Cloture: DADT, Social Conservatism and Civil Rights

Joe. My. God.: DADT Cloture Passes Senate 63-33!!!

This is pretty remarkable news, and I admit I was somewhat cynical that- given all the posturing and heel dragging of the likes of McCain and the naysay set- that the vote to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would come to pass anytime soon. I was hopeful, as institutional discrimination is a disgusting affront to what we're all supposed to hold dear as American citizens...but admittedly there seems to be the typical reaction of social conservatives to find less than clever rationalizations for maintaining a very biased status quo. Ever fueling the social closure hypothesis. I find myself wondering now, if in our recent histories, segregationists felt similarly in the face of imminent (and ethical) striking down of Jim Crow. Did the Jesse Helms shrug and retire to his library to brood? Did political lobbying groups threaten those in office that endorsed or propagated these social changes the way the Family Research Council has? Vow revenge and shake their fists in a disturbingly undignified fashion, claiming that Senators should and will be “held accountable”. I’ve never heard language from the Left that even approaches this sort of paternalistic condescension.

My question becomes, “Did segregationists vow revenge and go out of their way to punish those responsible for what they considered the ‘end of the world’?” Likely, but I haven’t pierced that proverbial veil enough to say outright. I find the language and tactics of these far right groups increasingly erratic and problematically aggressive, and their ability to project any pretense of civility towards the groups they actively seek to disenfranchise (i.e- the gay minority in this instance) rapidly evaporating. The “love the sinner, hate the sin” meme is greatly disingenuous as a lot of the rhetoric about homosexuality being a “perverse pathology that ought to be criminalized ” etc that doesn’t pass many, if any litmus tests of ethical consistency. The very reason several of these groups go from being covertly bigoted (which is still concerning, but a person’s belief system even when based on consistent falsehood and fabrication is still their own) to groups on the SPLC’s hate list is because they willfully push forward these fabrications and demonizing rhetoric as though it were true for the whole group. Evangelical Bryan Fisher seems convinced (based on flimsy logic, to put it nicely) that all gay men are pedophiles, in fact, he seems obsessed with the notion and publishes information to this effect constantly.(RightWing Watch has an amusing write up involving Fischer,here ) Anything to advance the glaring misconception that gay people, like black people, like Jews and agnostics are somehow less than and deserve nothing short of differential treatment for not adhering to the expected behavior set of the dominant group.

In the case of DADT it means that it is not only rational as far as the religious conservative is concerned, as gay men are mentally ill perverts who are likely to molest their fellows while they sleep, to hunt down otherwise functional and effective personnel for what they might do in their personal lives, rummage through their things and fire them for whom they happen to love or like, it’s a duty of any God fearing Christian to purge the sinners from their midst. This, in a time when the American military is involved in two wars and military retention is low. It reminds me of an excellent book I read about the McCarthy era called the Lavender Scare, which examined one of the most effective expulsions of gay (or perceived to be gay) employees from State and Federal employment in the nation’s capital and more importantly the socio-cultural mindsets behind them. Much of the ideology that advanced the firing of thousands of possibly gay employees exists part and parcel in DADT. A lot of this comes from the outdated concept that a.) ones sexual orientation, provided it is not heterosexual is something that should at all costs remain hidden, and therefore such an intense secret would be a “national security risk” if enemies discovered it. b.) the myth that being gay is a “lifestyle choice” that gay persons seek to spread to others. The American Psychological Association in its infancy bares some responsibility for furthering the social concept that homosexuality = mental illness, but has since been consistent in debunking this. Much like eugenics, and other pseudo-scientific attempts to justify bigotry in the early 1900s, the lion share of these ideas just do not hold up against scientific research. That said, its almost unthinkable for any fair minded American to put forth their own prejudices and expect them to dictate governmental policy (With the exception of anti-immigration law and, Islamaphobia…on second thought…I take that back.). My personal distaste for persons who wear too much perfume is a personal bias, should I win election and ban perfume in public places, it becomes institutional discrimination. We’ve established that much of the animus towards gay soldiers is based on irrational fears generated by the Cold War era and perpetuated over and over by social conservatives and those who have not given the issue any rigorous empirical consideration. No one is suggesting that one has to alter one’s belief system to serve in the military, but to suggest that one must be thrown out of service for belonging to any particular status in their private lives is the antithesis of American ideology. Fairness dictates that we do not institutionally enshrine bigotry in any form into law and it is with incredible, profound pleasure that I see our society coming to a point where this fairness is becoming more universally applicable. This is another step in the moving, noble journey towards human decency on the whole and I for one am quite pleased to be witnessing history unfold before us.

Bare in mind that the Cloture vote passing means that no more debate on the topic need be heard and that the actual vote can go forward. Our political system works in, at times, confounding ways, but the future of DADT should be decided by the end of the day. Hope springs eternal.

EDIT: As of today, the policy Dont Ask Don't Tell, which compells the military to discharge military personnel it discovers is gay is no longer the rule of law. You've just witnessed civil rights history folks. This was the doing of several brave and tireless activists and soldiers themselves (Lt. Dan Choi for example has worked fiercely and outspokenly with this end in mind and deserves credit for his determination), honorable politicians and the changing winds of American cultural reality. Its also important to note that President Obama and the political climate at present has a lot to do with this victory (as few GOP Senators voted in favor of the repeal and fewer still can discuss gay persons without the loaded rhetoric we've discussed above). This is a profound moment in which we break with antiquated notions of difference and condemnation and start acting as though egalitarian ideals actually mean more than the lipservice so often given. Its a good day for liberty.

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