Image © Austin Cline
Click for full-sized Image
So let me see if I have this right… The threat posed by terrorists was so great that we needed to set aside basic principles like the rule of law and justice in order to capture, torture, and even murder suspected terrorists in order to obtain information about possible terrorist activities which may or may not be planned for some unknown place at some unknown time. And all this because we couldn’t take any chances. Moreover, the people who organized, approved, and carried out all that criminal activity shouldn't even be investigated, never mind prosecuted, because it's not a "real" crime when you're following the advice of a lawyer.
Yet we can't afford to have gay people in the military helping to defend the nation from those threats. Because, you know, they're gay and all, and that's worse than a mushroom cloud over New York City. I guess that's what they get for letting in all the queers instead of kicking them out like the Army does, right? I have trouble conceiving of how afraid a person must be of homosexuality to regard the presence of gays so threatening that a more absolute, impenetrable line against them must be drawn than the lines they are willing to draw against torture and murder.
One point that requires attention here is the complete and utter lack of leadership displayed by President Barack Obama — and not just on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" but on gay civil rights generally. A president is supposed to be a leader who is willing and able to get out in front of an issue, using their bully pulpit to convince the people of the rightness of some cause or course of action in the service of the greater interests of the nation. Presidents can't pass laws or make up their own laws, but they can convince the people to get behind proposed laws.
This is pretty much the opposite of what Barack Obama has chosen to do. On "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the administration continues to admit that this policy "doesn’t serve our national interest," but Obama flatly refuses to actually take action against it. He could, at the very least, impose a moratorium on dismissing people from the military under this policy while it is being reviewed...and then take a long time to review it. That would give him the cover he seems to crave, but he won't even do this much; instead he just blathers about how he can't do anything himself while skilled, valued service members are kicked to the curb.
The cowardly lion was braver.
As if that weren't bad enough, Obama has almost admitted that he's abandoning any effort at leadership when it comes to gay marriage. In his book The Audacity of Hope, Obama wrote: “It is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided." How nice — he's open to the possibility that he's on the wrong side of history, to the possibility that he's complicit in perpetuating grave injustice, bigotry, and discrimination.
Having an open mind is good, but I'm confident that Barack Obama is smart enough to be able to read the writing on the wall as well as anyone else: gay marriage is coming, sooner or later, and nothing short of an anti-Enlightenment revolution will put the brakes on this. As a politician, Obama has the choice of getting out in front to take a leadership role in promoting this development as a matter of basic justice and equality, or he can hide in a closet of weak rhetoric until so many other people support it that he can "come out" too without having to take any risks in doing so.
What's the risk in taking a leadership position now on gay marriage or gays in the military? The risk is in challenging the faith-based bigotry of powerful Christian institutions and leaders in America — many of which are in the black community. He has to tell them that they are wrong, that their position is immoral, and that civil law can't discriminate against people on the basis of bigotry which is derived from how they interpret religious scripture or from their religious traditions. Not coincidentally, this is what white Christians once had to be told when they were challenged over their racism.
Barack Obama's refusal to provide any leadership on these matters doesn't merely create a vacuum at the top; on the contrary, it actually retards the movement towards justice and equality for gays. Obama himself may not be overtly bigoted towards gays, but there are lots of Christians in America who are, and they are using his refusal to support equality as a means of bolstering their own arguments. After all, if the president opposes letting gays stay in the military (I know he's said the opposite, but his actions speak far louder) and opposes gay marriage, then clearly it's not immoral or wrong to oppose them...right?
Obama's silence and tacit acceptance of the bigoted status quo rather than positive leadership on behalf of equality and justice is a pattern repeated by "liberals" throughout society. This silence makes it easier for homophobic bullies to terrorize people who are different. This silence helps create the conditions in which young people feel so isolated that they would rather commit suicide than be identified as gay. Silence from the people who should be aggressively promoting justice leaves the field open to the opponents of justice, thus ensuring that injustice remains in force.