"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and The Obama Administration
I would like to think that I rarely, if ever, use my privileges here to get on a “soapbox” or as a means to be politically partisan and issue an attack on any person or group. Similarly I hope the subject that I am undertaking reflects my commitment. I would like to admit in regard to the subject that I am terribly biased and I don’t think I am wrong about the matter. I am no source of infallibility, obviously; everyone is free to contradict me. I will passionately disagree, but will respect everyone’s right to intellectual freedom presupposing the same respect.
My self-identification as a Democrat is no secret. After President Obama was elected last November, I was hopeful, that despite his horrific position on life issues, a Democratic Administration and Congress would be able to go, in what I deem, a positive direction on many issues. One of these issues, I hoped, would be repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
President Obama on the campaign trail reiterated how he supported “equality” for gay and lesbian Americans. While his definition of “equality” is incompatible with my Catholic faith, I find the matter of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” one in which good Catholics may disagree on and it is one I thought the President and I agreed. Let me clarify: I do not march in GLBT parades or belong to any of their advocacy groups.
Just yesterday I learned that allegedly, 619 individuals were discharged last year from the military under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. I won’t address those 619 discharges because I do not know any of the details to cast any sensible judgments.
However, it so happens that just yesterday a White House official indicated that there were no plans in the foreseeable future to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” (cf. Barack Obama campaign promises).
So, why does this bother me so much?
It began with the story of a gay man in the military: Lieutenant Colonel Victor J. Fehrenbach, a fighter weapons systems officer, has been flying the F-15E Strike Eagle since 1998. He has flown numerous missions against Taliban and al-Qaida targets, including the longest combat mission in his squadron’s history. On that infamous September 11, 2001, Lt. Col. Fehrenbach was handpicked to fly sorties above the nation’s capital. Later he flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has received at nearly 30 awards and decorations including nine air medals, one of them for heroism, as well as campaign medals for Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Most recently, he was a flight instructor in Idaho, where he has taught more than 300 future Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force weapons systems officers.
Since 1987, when Fehrenbach entered Notre Dame on a full Air Force ROTC scholarship, the government has invested twenty-five million dollars in training and equipping him to serve his country, which he has done with what anyone would agree was great distinction. He comes from a military family. His father was a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, his mother an Air Force nurse and captain. Lt. Col. Fehrenbach has honored that tradition.
After all this investment by the American military in this one man and after all the service this man – an 18 year veteran, picked to be part of the initial alert crew following 9/11, deployed to Kuwait where he flew combat missions attacking Taliban and al Qaeda targets, deployed to Iraq, honored for heroism, having flown 88 combat missions logging over 400 combat hours, and having indicated that he is ready and willing to be deployed again for his country – has given to his country, what is the end result?
The military is firing him just two years shy of being able to retire with full military pension. Why? He was discovered to be gay. No, he didn’t make advances anyone. No, he wasn’t discovered having sex with another man. He simply has an internal desire for other men – and this desire is allegedly grounds enough to expel him from the military.
This man is one of the 619 discharges made last year. He is not just a number to me anymore; he is a person with a real story and I think this is outrageous and unjust. Just recently, a military linguist, fluent in Arabic, was fired on the basis of being gay. First, I believe it is an injustice. Second, is this a time to fire military professionals fluent in Arabic?
I don’t buy the arguments in favor of the policy. I’m not saying there should be no policy. However, the current policy is, in my view, effectively ridiculous and requires – for the sake of comfort and “morale” – that homosexuals live in a world that I described in a previous post about homosexuality. That is, live in a world of self-deception, live in “two worlds,” exist so that those around you know you and at the same time, don’t know you, smile and laugh during crude jokes about the opposite sex and don’t let anyone get the slightest idea that you don’t understand or aren’t attracted to that sex, and live so deeply in this false reality that it becomes second nature. I think requiring someone to live this way is deplorable.
If the policy were no sexual acts or something different, it would be a different story. DADT has established as federal law that anyone found to be gay or lesbian – having the orientation – to be fired. Yet, as far as I know, there is nothing in the law requiring the military to make such a finding. Why does the military dedicate itself to fervently investigating its service members’ sexuality, unless it were something vitally critical to national security?
I pray for the DADT is rolled back and I will count this amongst my list of grievances when I cast my vote against President Obama in 2012.