Chances are that by the time you read this, President Obama will have already signed into law the bill repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The policy, in place since 1993 (ancient history by any measure), was almost child-like in its simplicity. Even in a military that trades on jargon and acronyms purposefully obscure to civilians, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was easy to understand: “We don’t care if you’re gay, but if you are and you talk about it, you’re goneski.”
Now that it’s been repealed by the senate and is more or less doomed, I almost feel bad for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the same way one might feel bad for an alcoholic uncle who loses his lease. It’s not the policy’s fault it was completely ludicrous. At the time, it was the compromise position. Prior to that, there was an outright ban on gays in the military, and there’s something so innocently stupid about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” It’s as though those behind it were saying, “This’ll fix it, right? If we just don’t talk about it? That’s gotta work!”
And wow, that’s dumb, and it shows zero insight to the way humanity—let alone sexuality—works, but at the same time, it was an acknowledgment of the issue. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a step, and now, nearly 20 years later with its repeal, the next step has finally been taken. It’s a rare moment when we can stand back and say there has been genuine progress made, but with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” we can do that. We could have done it in 1993 as well. I’m pretty sure some people did.
Don’t take that as me saying I was rooting for the policy to stay in place, because that’s just not true. I’m as pro gays in the military as I am anyone else in the military, by which I mean that even when these two wars we’re still fighting were just starting up and I was prime age for recruitment, I wanted no part of it and now that I’m too old, I feel the same. I’m glad that, provided effective implementation, gays can now serve their country and not be forced to withhold a critical part of who they are as people. I just wish “serving their country” meant participating in technological developments or bringing Gatorade to Haiti.
But yeah, I guess bombing and shooting people are good too. You know, whatever you’re into.
The upside of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is that it’s a move toward a more inclusive, egalitarian, truly democratic society, and it confirms what proponents of the gay agenda—no, not the secret one that turns Republican senators into foot-tapping weirdos, the one that doesn’t want to get beat up for no reason—have been saying all along: That it’s only a matter of time.
It’s true, progress has moved in the direction of civil rights, but you know what? That doesn’t do shit for the people today who can’t co-adopt children or have access to medical benefits that would be well within their rights if only it weren’t for that whole pesky same-gender thing. Yeah, this load of bullshit is suddenly being shoveled away, and getting rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is part of that, but what about all the people still covered in dung? What happens to the guy who wanted to be a career officer who was discharged in 1995?
As someone who attains most of his wisdom from standup comedians, I’ll quote George Carlin here, who said, “Evolution is slow, smallpox is fast.” It’s true, we’re getting there when it comes to realizing that “the gays” don’t want to destroy marriage or unman our armed forces or convert all the straight people to gaydom. We’re getting there, but people have to recognize we’re still a long way off, and that in the meantime, shit happens like kids jumping off bridges for being outed. I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, because I think the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is an important event, but imagine how you might feel if at 80 years old, you saw society on the cusp of allowing you to legally marry the love of your life and had to wonder if you’d actually live to see it.
Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is no more of a fix-all today than passing it was in the Clinton-era. The difference—and I think this is the true point of progress—is that there are fewer people expecting it to be.