Ask and Answer

April 17, 2011
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Everyday we come to terms with the myriad complications that are a requisite part of the human experience. From close relationships with our friends, to going through the motions of the daily grind, to reconciling the views and aspirations we have for the future with those of our parents, each day is a new challenge that presents problems along with opportunities. We are surrounded by abstract ideals necessary to tackle such issues, like honor and integrity, concepts that oftentimes feel intangible in a world that moves as quickly as ours does. This renders the harmonizing of our minds difficult. Among us are those who strive to hold up such precepts as the aforementioned honor and integrity, looking to create order in their lives and improve the wellbeing of the nation by serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Within the select group willing to take on the vast undertaking of defending our country are many gays and lesbians who, as it stands, find the institution that they strive to defend punishing them for an integral, but not all-encompassing, part of their nature. The personal conflict introduced by the "don't ask, don't tell" policy currently being enforced by the U.S. Army is unconscionable, and while it may have suited the sensibilities of the people in charge of this country 16 years ago, we cannot allow this draconic practice to remain in place. We must recognize the personal struggles members of the armed forces are forced to endure not only due to their sexuality, but also as human beings replete with other stresses that accompany daily life, especially in the military.

The current position of the U.S. Armed forces on open gay and lesbian sexuality, as exemplified through the "don't ask, don't tell," policy that was established during the Clinton administration, is in desperate need of change in a less conservative direction. The stance of the Armed Forces on sexuality presents an interesting paradox considering the lofty pillars the goals of the Armed Forces stand on. As a member of the army, you are expected to display not only great physical strength, but also mental ability and acumen under extreme pressures and adversity. Yet the same qualities necessary to achieve the aforementioned vigor as a member of the Armed Forces, the same wholeness of character demanded of members of the military, is denied to the men and women who serve our country on a personal level by the obtrusive and inflammatory "don't ask, don't tell" policy. It is immoral to expect someone to serve their country as they are freely discriminated against by the very institution they are striving to protect and serve. Such a contradictory dichotomy is blatantly unacceptable in any arena, in our classroom, in our homes, and certainly in our Armed Forces.

Shifting gears to the other side of this incendiary battle, there are people who claim that the "don't ask, don't tell," policy is in the right, or perhaps not conservative enough. Indeed, at the time it was adopted, "don't ask, don't tell," was a revolutionary measure, and perhaps even a victory in the gay community, given the standards of the time. Gays were being harassed and far more blatantly discriminated against then than they are now in the army, and in society in general. These are incontrovertible facts relating to the nature of society over a decade ago. Don’t ask, don’t tell also took power out of the hands of individual presidents to change laws regarding gays entering the military, allowing the tacit-consent like approach to survive even under conservative leadership. Many still feel uncomfortable about homosexual presence in the military, and the possibility of discrimination still exists.

"Don't ask, don't tell," remains as unacceptable to us as ever. Simply put, we are prepared for change in our lives on numerous levels, just as the world of our parents' 16 years ago was prepared for a lessening of prejudice against gays, at least to a certain degree, with the introduction of "don't ask, don't tell." We are now ready to take another, far more divisive and revolutionary step in ending prejudice toward gays and lesbians in our Armed Forces. Feelings of discomfort that linger regarding homosexuality must be dealt with in a sensitive and empathetic manner, through increased education and acceptance in our schools and homes. In today's world, "don't ask, don't tell," sticks out like a sore thumb as we strive for equality, in addition to the integrity and honesty that members of the army work to uphold. Time is of the essence, and members of the U.S. Armed Forces have just as much right as anyone else to feel comfortable in their own skin, just as we would like to be able to integrate all of our personal struggles and successes into the successful and whole people we know we are capable of being.

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