The AP reported today that some gay and lesbian former servicemen and women are planning to return to the military that rejected them due to their sexual orientation under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” even after severe persecution and hazing while in the armed forces. This is possibly the greatest human rights victory gays in the military have ever achieved. It comes following President Barak Obama’s relentless campaign (and campaign promise) to give gays and lesbians equal rights and equal (humane) protection under the force of law, at least while serving in the military.
It used to be that African Americans were good enough to die for their country, but not good enough to cohabit with their white “comrades” in service to their nation—they were segregated from the white soldiers in a shroud of inferiority. Once they achieved some degree of status, it was women who were the scapegoats. Women were seen as unfit to serve their country in the military for a long time.
Finally, it was the gays and lesbians who got the brunt of the armed forces’ systemic requirement that some sub-group be a scapegoat. I suspect it will still, for a given future, be a tough row to hoe for gays in the military. The anti-gay, anti-lesbian mentality isn’t just going to go away. And the system that forged “don’t ask, don’t tell” is always going to scapegoat some group, until it digs deeper and examines its dysfunctionality, whether it be in the leadership or the ranks. President Obama has taken the leadership by the horns; now his leaders and ranks must follow suit.
Human rights are a fundamental aspect to living in and serving America in any capacity. There will always be sub-groups that get hammered by other sub-groups. Today’s The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reported that Sudanese and Liberian groups clashed at a bowling alley in Moorhead, landing one man in the hospital, and two others were injured, refusing medical attention. The Fargo police arrested a Bosnian man who was carrying a bat as a weapon a couple of years ago in Fargo. I don’t know who the scapegoat or intended victim was affiliated with; the point being there was a scapegoat individual or group in both situations—it’s inherent in society.
Where there’s diversity, there’re going to be scapegoats. It’s hard to say if gays and lesbians will integrate quickly or slowly into the Armed Forces with the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but I believe if we have a president who condones the repeal and leadership in the military that at least complies with the law, it may go quickly. It could otherwise be a long process.
One thing is for sure: We’re on the road to recovery from a blisteringly prejudiced military.