May 26, 2008
How do I love thee?
You all know I'm a veteran. I'm proud of my service. I consider myself a patriot (this in apparent direct contradiction to my belief that nationalism is a crime most heinous). But, I abhor war. I believe, sincerely, that there must be another way. I don't know what that way is. I'm not enough of a student of history to know if there were alternatives to war in WWII. With my limited (and state supplied) education on the subject, it appears to me that there was no alternative and I'm glad we fought and I'm glad we won (having said that I strongly disagree with the tactics of bombing Japanese cities with nuclear weapons).
So, when Memorial Day rolls around each year, I'm torn. I want to express my patriotism, but I also don't want to feed the death-for-glory culture we have created. I believe that dissent and protest are patriotic. Still, I recognize that my version of patriotism isn't the only version, and certainly not the only right version. The minister at the church I attend reminded us that Monday was Memorial Day, a day to remember those who died so we could be free. But, then, he went on to say that people are still dying today so that we can be free. I disagree with that. I have been opposed to this war since before its inception. Our young men and women are not dying today so that we can be free. They are dying to satisfy whatever appetites held by those in power today in this country. But, they are dying.
One such young man was Major Alan Rogers. I found his story at the SLDN blog. He was a patriot, who died doing the job they sent him to Iraq to do. He did more than merely follow orders. He shielded two other soldiers from the blast of an exploding IED, saving their lives. He was respected and honored. But, as one officer who served with him said -- "There was so much about Alan I never knew." Indeed. Alan was a gay officer and his country required him to lie in order to serve.
The story was written by a friend of mine who works at SLDN. She writes:
Why does it matter? Why should anyone need to know that Alan Rogers, an American patriot who died doing what he loved most – serving our country – also happened to be gay?
It matters because in our country the law says that gay people who want to serve in our nation’s Armed Forces have to conceal their identity for the privilege of doing so. And as a result, thousands of very good, fair, and decent straight service members have no idea how many of the phenomenal people they work with every day also happen to be gay. This invisibility creates an environment of complacency about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and what it requires of gay Americans in uniform. And change does not happen in an environment of complacency.
To honor him on this day, I give you this link and ask you to read his story. This is how I choose to honor Memorial Day. I hope you do, too.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference How do I love thee?:
I didn't know you went to church, (I'm glad you go, even if it's probably not my type of church)(Unitarian or something like that, I'm guessing?)
I'm not arguing for or against nuclear weapons, but to this very young observer (and avid fan of The History Channel), it seems that those two bombs took the fight out of the japanese, that is to say that the war in the pacific didn't go on very long afterwards, and in my opinion, that was the point. Was it revenge for Pearl Harbor?...maybe. I wasn't there, so I don't know. I couldn't say how long the war in the pacific would have gone on if those bombs weren't dropped.
I agree with you that that war was necessary. I thank every american man and woman who fought that war, to give me the privilege of living in this land. (I didn't call it the Land of the Free... because I don't believe it is.. but that's going to be another thread sometime.)
Now we come to the "meat and potatoes" of my comment. It's sad that that soldier died. But this serviceman's point of view is that the whole "don't ask, don't tell" thing is for the protection of the gay/lesbian servicemen/women. what I mean by that is that we, as a society are still very intolerant of homosexuality. ((amanda says hi)). as a result, if one member of a unit is gay/lesbian and the other people know it, not everyone is going to be comfortable with that. in fact, other members may occasionally become violent at even the thought of a homosexual idea. (Like that soldier that got killed by one of his divisionmates for expressing feelings for that tranny stripper.. Calpernia something or other was her name. There's no practical way for the military to just make everyone else be okay with it. There is anti-bigotry type of sensitivity training, but you can't just make everyone be ok with it, it doesn't matter what sex, race, religion, or sexual preference you are, in the military, there is always someone who hates you just to hate someone.
From personal experience, there was this Nav ET on the submarine...I thought he was a nice guy, but he got a little too comfortable with my friend Casey and I one evening during a study session, pulled out some pictures, and started telling some stories. Naturally, in any military unit, there are always some people who are full of shit, so casey and I let it go. But in such close quarters even though I'm extremely tolerant of pretty much any lifestyle, but casey was "hot racking" with the guy, who after this sharing session decided to put some of the pics up in the rack. Casey didn't rat the kid out, but he wasn't comfortable with it either. Moral of the story, there are some things about some of my shipmates that I could live the rest of my life without knowing. I'm not opposed to the guy being in the navy,the military or even on the same submarine as me. But there is no reason whatsoever that he should have thrown the fact that he was gay in our faces. "Don't ask, don't tell" in my opinion, protects this kid from the shipmates that didn't want to know something he was just flaunting to the whole ship.
don't know if all that made sense or not, but that's just my opinion.
Posted by: adam wagoner | May 30, 2008 10:42:52 PM
for everyone's benefit, when I say "this serviceman" I mean me.
Posted by: adam wagoner | May 31, 2008 1:14:40 PM
Adam, you know that I love you. But, I have to say that this argument -- that the law is there to protect the gay servicemembers is the worst argument in favor of legalized invidious discrimination that I've ever heard. That very same argument was used when the military was initially integrated. People said that blacks would not be safe serving alongside whites. The same thing was said about women.
In the end, people who make this argument grossly underestimate the strength of discipline and order in our armed services. Yes, there will be law-breakers. And, they will be punished. We can't legislate acceptance, but we CAN legislate behavior. I simply refuse to believe that our armed forces are lesser than Canada's, or England's, or Israel's in this regard. Somehow they've managed to integrate openly gay servicemembers into their armed forces and have suffered little to no substantive problem. I am confident in our ability to do so.
Bigotry is a problem. It is still is, sadly, with blacks and with women. But, the ignorance and hatred of the people who practice it should never dictate our actions. We should strive to be better than they are. End this discrimination and allow people to serve with honor!
As for church, I do not believe in god in the way that most people think of such a deity (I agree with Einstien -- it's a childish belief). I go to church because my 83 year old mother in law wants to go and I go to support her.
As for bombing Japan with nuclear weapons -- there is no justification sufficent to convince me. Yes, it ended the war sooner, no question. But, at what cost? We bombed civilian cities with devastating deadly power in retaliation for their bombing our military installation in Pearl Harbor?!? Yikes! With that kind of thinking, mankind is doomed to war eternal.
And, please, don't call Calpernia a "tranny stripper". She's a good and decent human being and a friend of mine. Your use of the word tranny in this context offends me.
Posted by: Denise | Jun 2, 2008 6:49:07 PM
As a follow-up, w/r/t your experience aboard ship:
I don't approve of your shipmate sharing pictures -- of what? nude men? -- any more than I approve of other shipmates sharing pictures of nude women with shipmates. The fact is that submariners "flaunt" their sexuality ALL THE TIME. Most often, it's hetero flaunting. Can you imagine how uncomfortable that makes someone who is NOT hetero? I know MANY gay submariners (and more than a half dozen transgender submariners). I can tell you that people flaunt their sexuality to "the whole ship" regularly.
Once people get accustomed to having gays in the military (and indeed everywhere) there won't be any "in our faces" mentality. You have the same opinion as many did back when I was your age. "I'm fine with you being queer; just don't come on to me and keep it to yourself". Well, that's just a bullshit attitude. Just because YOU (or anyone) is "uncomfortable" with a characteristic of another person is no reason to discriminate against them, or worse. Learn to deal with your own discomfort and try to imagine what it's like to live in that guy's shoes.
Posted by: Denise | Jun 2, 2008 8:21:36 PM
I'll reiterate Denise's comments in.re. shipboard experience. As a transgender (former) submariner, I served with a number of gay shipmates and no one on board ever had a problem with the fact that they had to serve with gay crew members. (Or if anyone did have a problem, it was never even hinted at.) While they did not flaunt their sexuality or "swish" around the boat, it was common knowledge that these guys were gay. Not a big deal - they did their job, they were nice guys, they didn't try to seduce their shipmates, they were just another member of the crew.
I'm sorry, but I think that the "for the protection of gays and lesbians" argument in favor of DADT is like arguing that racial segregation and miscegenation laws were "for the protection of colored folks".
Posted by: Jami | Jun 3, 2008 1:14:03 PM
I applogize (to anyone reading this that I offended) for using that term in reference to Calpernia Adams. I had learned about that soldier who was killed for loving her on the military channel or something like that.
I do not have a problem with the gay sailors who do not flaunt their sexuality. Yes, some of the pictures were nude, borderline pornographic, and that I do have a problem with, just as I would have a problem with shipmates who post pictures of their "flavor of the week." Gay or straight, there are just some things that I don't need to know.
as all of us know, I was just expressing my opinion on the matter. I honestly feel that the bulk of society is not very accepting of the lifestyle. (I generally consider this a true statement, given that violence and bigotry towards gays are still problems) You remember back when I was like... however old I was when you and I met? I'm not going to say I was just immature then (right....like I'm totally mature now.) But I was pretty much a bigot. (I admit, on some issues I still am) My point is that I grew up that way. if I hadn't gotten to know you, D, I'd probably still feel that way. Kind of like I was mostly racist in my thoughts until I served with my friend and fellow submariner, Tony Ryder. He was the first black person that I ever got to know on a personal level.
Just like women on submarines (there are plans for female accomodations on SSGNs.. it will happen) one day gays will be accepted for who they are without discrimination. in the military or otherwise. of this I have no doubt. eventually, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will be obsolete. kids won't grow up to be bigot teenagers, then there will be no bigot teens to join the military, therefore no one to discriminate against the open gays in the military, no one to get uncomfortable about the gay issue. It may not happen during my time in the military, but I'm pretty sure it will happen. Right now, there are too many people in that have problems serving with openly gay people. Whether the law is politically correct, or constitutional, it's not my place to decide. However, I do know that until the majority of society is accepting of gay people, it will still be a problem. and no law in the world has ever, or will ever change the way someone thinks. Laws only change the way people act.
probably more later.
Posted by: adam wagoner | Jun 3, 2008 3:03:13 PM
so what I was saying is that as long as people are thinking bigot thoughts, they will act on them legally or otherwise.
It took black and female servicemembers a long time to get accepted, but society is slowly changing on that issue, some day (not soon, but eventually) it will be non existent. I believe the gay issue is going to be the same way.
yes, submariners do flaunt their sexuality constantly, yes, I can see how it would make a gay crewmember uncomfortable, just as it makes the semi religious (I found God a thousand feet down coming in the ship at about 600 GPH on my watchstation and getting into the pumps, but that's another story involving circumstances that I can't talk about here) ((needless to say, I am the type of christian that believes that it's pretty much not my place to judge anyone for anything. in my opinion, a very rare breed)) so yes, submariners flaunt their sexuality constantly, but I feel the same way about guys sharing about their straight sexcapades. It is disruptive, and there are official regs against it, but in my experience there's a different set of "regs" once the ship leaves the pier. but that goes back to how people think. so how do you get society in general to want to get off of that line of thinking?
I know this is off topic...but that last line reminded me of something Alec Baldwin once said ((how do you get the crew off of a nuclear submarine? We don't have to do that. He would have already done it. all we have to do is figure out what he's going to do. How do you get the crew to want to get off of a nuclear submarine?))
Posted by: adam wagoner | Jun 3, 2008 3:56:55 PM
and as for the "I'm fine with you being queer, just don't come on to me and keep it to yourself" is that saying that I need to tolerate someone coming on to me uninvited? I've shut girls down for that too. gay or straight, there's no reason I need to tolerate that particular behavior from anyone towards me personally.
Yeah, sea stories can and will be told, but the "Flavor of the week/night" stories still make me uncomfortable, and I voice that. (not liked when I do, but I do anyway). Most of my sea stories involve stumbling around foreign ports inebriated and interacting with the local population. , or one in particular involves the HMNB Clyde Fire Brigade.
Posted by: adam wagoner | Jun 3, 2008 4:14:35 PM
"I do not have a problem with the gay sailors who do not flaunt their sexuality." My primary point is simply that you should not distinguish between gay or straight servicemembers if you feel the way you say you do -- that it is inappropriate for anyone to "flaunt" their sexuality. Showing pictures of a person's life partner -- whether male or female -- is one form of flaunting your sexuality. Showing nude photos of people is another, and IMHO, a more egregious form.
"I honestly feel that the bulk of society is not very accepting of the lifestyle." Son, it is NOT a lifestyle -- that word connotes choice. The car you drive, the house you live in -- those are "lifestyle" choices. Who you are emotionally, physically, psychically, physically attracted to is not. Most people, including most scientists and physicians (and certainly most heterosexuals!) believe that you cannot choose to be gay, straight, or bi. That said, you're right -- there is probably still a slight majority (depending upon where you live; in some urban areas the bigots are in the minority) of people who disapprove of a person's being gay or lesbian. That is changing and it is changing primarily with youth. As the older generation dies out it will get better for all of society. "so how do you get society in general to want to get off of that line of thinking?" The answer: you don't tolerate it when it's expressed in your presence. You don't allow the bigots a foothold or the assumption that by your silence you agree with them. We still have racism -- and, sadly, I think it's rampant -- but we no longer tolerate the use of the "N" word and we don't tolerate blatant discrimination. We need to move in that direction for those of us who are LGB or T.
"and as for the "I'm fine with you being queer, just don't come on to me and keep it to yourself" is that saying that I need to tolerate someone coming on to me uninvited?" Absolutely not. I think you should treat a gay man coming on to you in the same way that you would treat a straight woman coming on to you: "Thanks, I'm flattered, but I'm married and not interested."
"I was pretty much a bigot. (I admit, on some issues I still am) My point is that I grew up that way. if I hadn't gotten to know you, D, I'd probably still feel that way." This is one of the main reasons that I love you as much as I do. I watched you change as a young person and I've watched (from afar) you grow into a thoughtful young man. You don't take anything at face value. You think, you process, you evaluate and you make your own judgments. You and I disagree on many fronts (religion and gun control to name 2). I know that you love and respect me and my opinions -- but I've not changed your mind on those areas and I'm good with that. I love you and respect your opinions. The fact that we can still dialogue on issues is what is important.
Thanks so much for playing! :) (((Adam)))
Posted by: Denise | Jun 4, 2008 9:02:45 AM