Saturday, December 18, 2010

It Is A Step In The Right Direction

I felt a certain joy rising within me when the CNN breaking news icon popped up on my Facebook page announcing that DADT will soon be a thing of the past.  After reading other related news stories, I came upon this piece AP - Obama to sign law ending gay military ban.

Many, including myself, appreciated the support from the Republicans that went against party lines and voted with the majority to repeal DADT. When the Senate advanced the bill to overturn it, a familiar dissenting voice opposed it. It was said that Senator John McCain blamed elite liberals with no military experience for pushing their social agenda on troops during wartime. McCain said of service members “They will do what is asked of them. But don't think there won't be a great cost."

McCain seemed to suggest that the gay men and women in the military, previously closeted, would somehow render every heterosexual enlisted person incapable of performing their duties when the DADT repeal went into effect, and he insinuated that a backlash from all the enlisted would occur because they would have to serve with someone who was openly gay. The possibility certainly exists that some of the enlisted personnel could engage in isolated instances and act out in an immature, emotional and possibly, criminal fashion to those that are finally able to admit being openly homosexual. However, the likelihood of a backlash will presumably be even more minimal than the percentage who are against the repeal. According to a Gallup Poll done in December, 2010, 67% of the public favors the repeal of DADT. Should such a backlash occur, the responsibility will reside with the leaders of the armed forces to ensure that their enlisted remain calm and level-headed during and after the transition.

One real cost associated with DADT being in effect since 1993 has been that over 13,000 servicemen and women lost the right to serve in the armed forces and be gain-fully employed in the branch of their choice. The approximate $364 million spent in keeping this law in effect has been monetarily exorbitant, as well as wasting many valuable manpower hours in filling those positions the qualified personnel once held. The financial cost and the incredible loss of all that experience (highly decorated, in some cases), intelligence, and bravery is truly much higher than the imagined cost McCain refers to that will occur if this country dares to overturn DADT. In reality, the only real cost is that we have had to deal with a monumental waste of good and talented individuals that were lost in the process of upholding this antiquated law.

In addition, the extent of the real psychological cost experienced by the closeted service personnel will never be fully understood. Maintaining their secret to keep their jobs took precedence over what they allowed themselves to feel comfortable in revealing. The fear of being found out weighing heavily on a consistent basis, contributing costs in ways that can never be measured now.

The repeal of DADT took only 17 years. Historically, America has shown itself to take much longer in regards to righting the injustices' that it had a hand in. Past social turning points such as giving women the right to vote, passing Roe V. Wade giving women the right to choose an abortion and seeing to it that slavery ended; those took many more years to become law in this country.

Current support for the LGBT youth campaign 'It Gets Better Project' is just one more indication of public opinion that eliminating the pervasive hate and bigotry in this country is of utmost importance; the repeal of DADT just adds more conviction to the notion that our stance should be one of acceptance and understanding of a segment of our population that has been silenced and oppressed for too long.

It is at last, officially, a step in the right direction.

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