Sunday, 26 December 2010

Where is the victory in repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

In January, Barack Obama set things in motion to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy towards homosexuals in the military.  Four days ago, he signed the repeal of DADT into law. Some people consider this a "landmark" development for gay rights. I don't.

Firstly, don't get me wrong, I'm not in favour of the policy, put in place by Bill Clinton in 1993. The idea that people should have to conceal their sexual orientation in the name of "morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion." This, and the refusal under the repeal to give gay spouses "any rights that parallel those of a [heterosexual] spouse" are blatantly discriminatory and unjust.

However, I have written before of my disagreements with the direction of the liberal and mainstream wings of the queer rights movement. Namely, with efforts to "normalise" LGBT people within the framework of the current social and political system, thus tacitly accepting that framework.

As I said then;
Reforms are, of course, vital to improving the situation that people face in the present, but we should be under no illusions that the problems of this world can be legislated away. As direct-action group the Radical Homosexual Agenda point out, "the queer liberation groups of the 60s and 70s ... were anti-war, they fought for economic rights and agitated for free speech and a greater vision of democracy." By "downsizing" their dreams, "mainstream LGBTQ groups have forgotten these connections" and have allowed themselves to be contained and neutralised under the auspices of tolerance.
What is true for gay marriage is doubly true for gays in the military. Because here, activists are not merely becoming obsessed with an issue which - whilst unjust - paled in comparison to broader LGBT human rights concerns. But, whatever one thinks of marriage, it is not responsible for slaughter and death on a mass scale, the armed enforcement of capitalism, or illegal wars which continue to ravage the Middle East.

I can see how one could view the repeal as a step forward, framed in the context dictated by the political elites of the Washington beltway. I can imagine much displeasure amongst the military brass – but I cannot reiterate enough how this is not a progressive moment in the social history of the United States.

The US military is not a human rights organisation and nowhere near a healthy place to earn a living or raise a family. My email box is filled with stories of mostly straight soldiers and their families who were deeply harmed by life in the military.

Because of the callous and violent nature of the system, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is on the rise and suicide rates among veterans and the spouses of active duty soldiers are skyrocketing.

Veterans still find it very difficult to access the services, benefits and bonuses that were promised to them by their recruiters. I cannot imagine the repealing of DADT significantly improving the material conditions experienced by gays during military service.

While the children of war profiteers and politicians are protected from any kind of sacrifice, this Empire preys on the rest of our youth - gay/straight; male/female - and spits their mangled or dead bodies onto the dung heap of history, without a qualm or a twinge of conscience.

Joining the US military should never be an option for the socially conscious while our troops are being used as corporate tools for profit, or hired assassins for imperial expansion. Soldiers are called: "Bullet sponges," by their superiors and "dumb animals" by Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state.

While soldiers are dehumanised and treated like dirt, they are taught to dehumanise "the other", and treat them as less than dirt. It is a vicious cycle, and the way to stop a vicious cycle is to denounce and reject it, not openly participate.

I want to bang my head against a wall when another young gay person commits suicide as a result despicable bullying, yet people within the same community have fought hard for the right to openly join the biggest bully ever! Don’t go, don’t kill!
There isn't much I can add to that.

I will, however, reiterate the point that the concerns of different marginalised, oppressed, and disenfranchised groups should operate in tandem, not in competition with one another. The movement for queer rights should not be disconnected from the broader struggle for liberty, equality, and human rights.

By embracing the current system and having better representation within it, it becomes the enemy of all those that system continues to crush underfoot.