|by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
To be blunt, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) is making a fool of himself around the issue of gays in the military. His comments before the Senate Armed Services Committee the last few days have been an embarrassment, to himself and to the nation. In brief, his argument goes like this: 'We don't want 'em, we don't want 'em, we don't want 'em, see?'
McCain, of course, is on the wrong side of what is rapidly becoming a total and complete non-issue. As McCain should know (though he was a notoriously lazy student) the tides of history are determinant. And history is rapidly wrapping up the details on this issue.
Gays will serve in the military (as they always have from the time of the first army on this planet).
Gays will deliver good service. Many will be wounded. Many will die. Some will be dismissed... but dismissed for poor service, not bedroom gymnastics.
Gays will marry their same-sex partners in weddings which will feature snazzy uniforms and an arch of sabres. One day one such veteran will be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff... and she and her partner will get an engraved silver salver from the president on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary. They may even be designated the "People of the Year" by Time Magazine. Stranger things have happened.
Any sensible person can read these tea leaves. They are clear, certain, irrefutable.
So, why is Senator McCain so adamant? There is surely something going on here, something more than meets the eye. Could it be this....
When Senator McCain gets in his car to go home at night, is he brainstorming ways to defend his outmoded views? Is he coming up with good reasons for obstructing from active service patriotic Americans merely because they choose to love in their own way?
Is he finding the defense he needs to justify why the military spends millions of dollars on television ads, telling fine, young Americans the services want them... then tossing them out because of their genetic orientation?
In short, is the senator thinking of how to defend opinions most of his fellow countrymen regard as antiquated and embarrassing?
Or is he visualizing, tormented, the lithe young bodies from every service locked together closer than Rodin's classic statue, "The Kiss"? Titillated, revolted, is John McCain wrestling with his own demons?
What did happen in the Hanoi Hilton all those many years ago when the handsome young McCain, not yet a hero or presidential candidate, was thrown together with other young prisoners all with normal appetites and no "suitable" way to satisfy them? No one has ever asked the Senator... no one ever will; he'll go to his grave without comment, with a vow of unbreakable silence.
Perhaps this speculation is unfair... but one must ask why he is so vehement about an issue whose inevitabilities are clear and in which there is absolutely no benefit for McCain or America in his remarks. In short, is this the politics of the personal, a man wrestling with suddenly insistent, unsettling memories? I cannot say, but the question for a public servant whose views impact both on those worldwide who are serving and who wish to serve, is most pertinent.
McCain vs the military establishment
The president is in an uncomfortable corner and has worked the senior military establishment to get out of it. Obama probably got 94% of the gay vote and in these meager days he and the Democratic Party wish to keep these absolutely essential voters who have repeal as their price.
So the president has made it clear to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of defense, the general who commands the army in Europe and the Pentagon's general counsel that "don't ask" must go... and swiftly so.
Thus McCain found himself, though one of the senators with the very closest military ties, arguing the matter publicly, tersely, tensely, with all his particular buddies, these military poobahs. They might be opposed to the coming policy, but they are military men and they will follow orders and complain quietly, while saying "yessir."
And McCain? "I remain concerned as I have been in the past, and as demonstrated in this study, that the closer we get to service members in combat, the more we encounter concerns about whether 'don't ask, don't tell' should be repealed."
The senator referenced a new Pentagon survey of 115,000 active-duty and reserve service members. This survey found that 70 percent believed the impact of "don't ask" on their units would be positive, mixed, or of no consequence. In other words, the movement has gone from "don't ask, don't tell" to "who cares"? As is right and proper. McCain, however, cites the 30 percent opposed and stakes his case, wrongly, on them. He is now the champion of a discriminatory policy whose time has come, and gone. There is nothing missing in this Arizona version of Don Quixote, the man who dreams his impossible dream.
A hint why McCain's archaic position is moribund
In today's Boston Globe (12/3/10) there is a brave little letter from 19 year old Joshua Rogers, of Taunton, Massachusetts, a gritty town of better days. Joshua and his words are why McCain will lose on this issue, so pivotal for Joshua... so embarrassing and, yes, silly for McCain.
Joshua, determined to stand by his man, writes: 'I am gay. I have survived through torture, hate, bias, and oppression. .. My boyfriend is in the ROTC, and plans to pursue a military career. I have accepted this, but not the pain that I would be forced to go through if I won't be able to visit him, talk to him, hug him, be with him.'
'If we have to hide everything, just so he can pursue something he believes in for everyone he wishes to protect, it would be truly disappointing.'
Joshua, it would be far worse than a disappointment for you... it would be a palpable diminution of our national freedoms and traditions. However, Joshua, consider this: you are the future... you and all the good people of this great nation who to defend their liberties must defend yours. Senator McCain, once a hero of these liberties, now works hard to diminish them. That's why you, Joshua, and not Senator McCain are the hero today.