Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Purple State Of Mind News
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On the floor of the Senate, it came down to this.
“I’m not here for partisan reasons,” said Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. “I’m here because men and women wearing the uniform of the United States who are gay and lesbian have died for this country, because gay and lesbian men and women wearing the uniform of this country have their lives on the line right now.”
That simple formulation made it necessary last night for numbers of Republicans to cross the aisle and back the repeal of the policy that came to be known as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”.
The bill passed on a more than respectable bipartisan vote of 65 to 31. Opponents, in Particular Senator John McCain of Arizona, once a supporter of repeal, deplored the vote, but his words revealed the true nature of the debate over the policy in its final days.
It was never about the fear that gay men and women would somehow compromise battle readiness by introducing unwanted sexual tension into units. It was always about the fact that religious conservatives oppose any attempt to normalize homosexual behavior and made clear that their people would have a hard time serving if the ban were lifted.
For years, religious conservatives within and outside the ranks tried to make the case that a majority of soldiers shared their reservations, but recent studies drawn from very large samples of the military population make clear that troops and their families by and large don’t have a problem with their gay comrades in arms.
At the end of the day, that left Republican Senators and their conservative Christian backers with an unseemly point of view on their hands, lecturing men and women who put their lives on the line every day about their sexual preferences while they themselves stood comfortably back from the line of fire. That’s a bad look for a party that routinely drapes itself in love of the military.
For eight Republicans, independent Senator Joe Lieberman and the Democrats, at the very least, it was an untenable position.
The vote fulfills a pledge by Barack Obama and leaves him with an important political victory at the end of the year, but the sports commentary approach here misses the bigger picture. One more social transformation is occurring in this country, a continuation of the long pull away from discrimination based on identity.
Ahead lie ferocious battles over gay marriage and its benefits in the armed services, and they will no doubt reveal deep divisions and clefts. We may see violence against gay service members before it’s all said and done, but it’s worth remembering at the end of a long hard year that Americans often do get things right. The system sometimes works. The story of this country is not a litany of what has gone wrong. It is also a long list of surprising victories for people who just a century ago had no reason on earth to expect them.
If we were Glenn Beck, that’s surely the way we would pitch the latest news from the Defense Department. According to a new Pentagon study, to be released in full to the White House on December 1, the majority of American troops would have no problem serving with openly gay comrades. The majority of military spouses feel the same way.
The sample of troops was 400,000; the sample of spouses 150,000. It’s a serious study, in other words.
Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Post story:
“A majority of active-duty and reserve service members surveyed by the Defense Department would not object to serving and living alongside openly gay troops, according to multiple people familiar with the findings.
The survey’s results are expected to be included in a Pentagon report, due to President Obama on Dec. 1, regarding how the military would end enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that bans openly gay men and lesbians from serving in uniform.”
If Glenn Beck regularly and relentlessly attacked religious conservatives the way he regularly and relentlessly assaults progressives, he could not possibly resist the obvious interpretation. Religious conservatives, who are the only group that has consistent objection to gays serving openly in the military, must hate our troops and hate our country desperately to be willing to impose their fanatical worldview on men and women who risk their lives every day on behalf of our flag.
Can you imagine it? Beck’s pitch? We could almost write it ourselves.
Every Sunday morning, when a pastor inveighs against the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, our first question should be the obvious one. Where, sir, did you serve? If that pastor is a veteran who has seen combat, then we may at least feel relieved that he is talking about his peers, though how his peers feel–the ones who actually face death each day so that the pastor might have the freedom to demean his fellow soldiers in the field as second class citizens–it would be interesting to know.
But if that pastor has never served, then we as patriotic, god-fearing Americans have only one choice. We must rise up in our deeply offended natures and hurl that coward down. How dare he wrap himself in divine law? A man who hasn’t served in the military has the temerity to render harsh judgment on the people whom Fox News, Sarah Palin and Tea Party activists deem to be our very best and greatest Americans? We know exactly how to answer this outrageous slap in the faces of our men and women in the field.
We know the truth. Anyone who believes that gay people can’t serve openly is opposing the democratic will of our greatest patriots. To oppose that will is a form of hatred in its purest form. It is an attempt to undermine the most sacred principles of our democracy. It is nothing more and nothing less than a furious urination on the powdered wigs of our Founding Fathers.
Beck’s would ring loud and true as the Liberty Bell on Christmas Eve! Have we made ourselves clear? Religious conservatives oppose the will of the majority of American troops and therefore hate them. They hate the freedom represented by those troops. They hate the flag. They hate America!
Here at Purple State, of course, we believe that Glenn Beck is a businessman whose take-home pay depends entirely on talking this way and who therefore has no choice but to smear his enemies. The minute the smears stop, his ratings drop. He is the most pitiable figure in America, its one true and obvious slave.
Instead, wiping our eyes a little bit for Beck’s plight, we at Purple State would instead merely point out that these studies seem to fly in the face of claims by religious conservatives that openly serving gay men and women damage morale in the field. Is it perhaps more correct to say that openly serving gay men and women offend the religious beliefs of an extremely vocal minority of men and women in the service?
If the study does indeed show a majority of troops and spouses having no problem, this would seem to be the real truth of the matter, and if that’s the case then it is highly likely that we will hear no more from the morale argument and that instead religious conservatives within the ranks and elsewhere will instead start to talk about an infringement of their civil liberties. It would only make sense. Religious conservatives already use this argument in their political arguments about education, and so there would be a natural continuity.
In a volunteer army, the argument will be difficult to maintain, of course. Gay servicemen and women are only asking for the same recognition that straight men and women receive, whereas religious conservatives, should they decide to advance this argument, will be asking for a special dispensation. Such a dispensation could only be legal, it would seem, on the grounds that religious conservatives form a minority in the U.S. military and, as such, are entitled to the protections of a minority. But can the protection of one minority require the subjugation of another?
We suspect that it cannot, and that the courts of the United States will be quite clear on the matter if and when we ever see litigation. In the meantime, at the very least, this more nuanced way of looking at the intersection between the beliefs of religious conservatives, the United States military and homosexuality feels like a healthy and productive alternative to the Beck diatribal approach.
No matter the outcome, we like to say here in our dirty little Purple State, the dignity of the opposed sides can and should be preserved. After all, both sides include men and women who serve under fire.
Go figure. According to the Centers For Disease Control, states that promote abstinence tend to do much worse in preventing teen pregnancy than states with comprehensive sex education programs. Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and New Mexico, bastions of religious conservatism and strongholds of “family values”, are also teen pregnancy champions. Meanwhile, those states with the sex ed programs have the lowest teen pregnancy rates. You can check out the findings here.
At the most basic level, the study reaffirms what social scientists have known for years, that a correlation tends to exist between fervent conservative Christianity and high rates of those very social ills that conservatives most deplore. Believers in those states tend to think that the entire country suffers from the same societal breakdown that they themselves perceive in their schools and neighborhoods, when, in fact, it appears to be the case that the societal breakdown is most dire where faith has the greatest influence on social policy and education.
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