Yesterday at the United States Naval Institute blog, a regular contributor posted an incoherent, hate-filled screed about how teh gays were going to ruin the King James Bible if they were allowed to openly serve in the military. Check it out, and make sure to read the comment thread; note especially how the contributor rolls through “I’m not the bigot, you are; and anyway it’s not hate filled; and anyway you’re not serious; and anyway I don’t even believe this stuff; and anyway I was just trying to spur a reaction, and by the way you people are all fascists.” Participating on the comment thread was a blast; reinvigorated my faith in the blogosphere.
More to the point, there were two things that struck me about the argument and the thread. The first was just how weak the case for keeping DADT actually is. Almost no one, short of Elaine Donnelly, actually argues for the exclusion of gays on the merits of excluding gays. In large part because of the experience of other modern military organizations, the bottom has fallen out of the “teh gays will ruint da unit cohesion” argument. Rather, the case in favor of DADT now seems to rely entirely on the idea that Evangelical Christians will be offended, put out, and discriminated against if they’re forced to work with people they believe are hellbound. To put this a different way, the central argument against repeal of DADT is that American servicemen and women will be unable to perform their professional duty because of their anti-gay religious commitments. This, it is argued, constitutes discrimination against Evangelicals.
Now, I suspect if you constructed an argument about anything but DADT that ran “American military personnel just can’t be trusted” you’d elicit howls of protest from every red blooded defender of American military culture. With DADT, though, the crux of the case is that American military professionals can’t be trusted to work with the hellbound. Of course, there’s already a glaring inconsistency; American Evangelical Protestants already believe that Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Atheists, and Buddhists are hellbound, but in most cases they a) seem to be able to behave professionally in a military setting around individuals from these groups, and b)don’t, by and large, call for the formal exclusion of these groups from the military. There are exceptions, of course; we know about the problems of proselytization by evangelicals in the military, but most people seem to accept that Evangelical Christians need to separate their personal religious beliefs from their public professional persona in order to be good soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. There’s no question that if an evangelical began to openly pursue a policy of not promoting Catholics, he or she would be severely disciplined. With teh gay, though, it’s different. It is argued that, much like eating shrimp or a ham sandwich, evangelical Christians just won’t be able to manage their relations with the hellbound in a professional manner. Whereas an evangelical officer could order a Jew to seize a hill without being overly concerned about the Jew’s hellbound status, the evangelical will a) suffer discrimination, and b) not be able to do his job if he’s required to order a sodomite to seize the same hill.
Now, there’s a way to demagogue this: “How can you say that the American soldier isn’t tough enough and smart enough to deal with this problem? Do you hate American soldiers, and believe that they’re weaker, dumber, and less tolerant than their British, Australian, Canadian, German, and Israeli counterparts? Do you also hate America and apple pie and motherhood?” But the thing is, I actually pretty much believe this; I really do think that the end of the DADT policy will pass with barely a whimper, and that evangelical Christians will, in fact, be able to work professionally with their gay counterparts in spite of their personal belief that the latter are hellbound. I’ve discussed this with plenty of retired and active duty military personnel, and in my experience it is very, very rare to find anyone who feels that threatened by teh gay, even if they don’t have much sympathy for the “gay agenda,” whatever they believe that to be. To put this another way, I think that the number of people who hate gays more than they love their country is very nearly zero.
Opponents of gay integration into the military are loathe to allow the comparison with racial integration, but they really walk right into it when they focus on the problem of evangelical attitudes towards gays. While most people now think it was wrong to segregate blacks and whites in the military, I’m not sure that anybody doubts the sincerity of the racists’ belief that integration would be a disaster. By focusing on the subjective beliefs of evangelicals, defenders of DADT render the comparison between racial and gay integration stark; in both cases, a large group held a strong, principled belief that integration was wrong, and in both cases defenders of the status quo argued that the existence of this belief, in and of itself, would make integration a disaster. The actual course of racial integration demonstrates pretty decisively that the subjective beliefs of the racists didn’t really matter all that much in the final analysis; people did their professional duty, whether or not they believed that the person across the table was genetically inferior.
Finally, I did love this comment:
It is my long- and deeply-held belief not only that baseball is more important than religion, but also that it is an abomination to support the Red Sox. I am not alone, either. In fact I think that is the majority view in the armed forces.
And yet, I still am required to serve with those openly supporting the Red Sox. I have to write their FitReps with a completely blind eye to what I see as a glaring lack of judgment and morals. I am forced to share living quarters and shower facilities with them, even though I find “Red Sox Nation” tattoos to be patently offensive. I don’t want the government to tell my children it’s OK to be a Red Sox fan.
This is a real morale and unit cohesion issue. My beliefs are constantly being steamrolled and ignored to accommodate a slim minority of service members. But I still show the tolerance that I am required to by law.
Don’t try to sweep aside or marginalize my views, or diminish my legitimate faith by saying it doesn’t count or shouldn’t matter. The sea services were founded on the principles of baseball. Just look at PETCO Park on a Sunday, when the DIs take recruits from MCRD San Diego to watch the Padres. The world would be a better place if we all let baseball into our hearts.