Intolerance can be a wonderful thing. For a petrified military draftee who faces the crippling prospect of war, our army’s intolerance for homosexuals is a veritable blessing.
In 1962, desperate to escape military service and to pursue his career in music, Jimi Hendrix found his salvation. It was gay. According to a biography of the legendary guitarist, Room Full of Mirrors, Hendrix was discharged from the 101st Airborne Division for revealing that he was in love with another soldier. Although his claim may have been true, the fact that Hendrix slept with 96 trillion gazillion women in the remaining eight years of his life has fostered some doubt.
What saved Hendrix during the Vietnam era later became the federal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy,” signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Essentially, it functions to keep homosexuals out of the military and to keep ones that are already enlisted in the closet. The army won’t ask if you’re gay, and you won’t tell them.
The policy states, “Success in combat requires military units that are characterized by high morale, good order and discipline and unit cohesion.” Its supporters argue that admitting homosexuals into the armed forces would sully these requisites and render the army ineffective – even more so than it already is. Of course, this argument is nonsense. It stems from a deeply ignorant, deeply embedded homophobia that suffuses our country. No evidence exists which suggests that homosexuality poses a threat to the operations of the military. Indeed, is it so speculative to believe that homosexuals can bring their units together?
However, the recent strain on the United States Armed Forces is turning the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy into the “Please, We’re Begging You, Don’t Tell Us Anything” policy. Our military needs soldiers. The 2004 Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) annual report claims that “as fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq continues, the Pentagon has discharged the fewest lesbian, gay and bisexual service members since 1995.”
This trend is a harbinger of disaster for everybody who plans to play hooky from the army. In today’s stricken world, the possibility of conscription is more real than it has been in a long time. Robin Tyler’s quote – “If homosexuality is a disease, let’s all call in queer to work” – is losing its potency.
Now, we must ask ourselves: Is the right to serve in the military as important to most queers as the right to be discharged for feigning queerness is for most cowards? For supporters of both cowardice and gay rights, therein lies the dilemma. This, I assume, is what Clinton asked himself in 1993, concluding that, “No, it isn’t.”
Clinton, with a sex record rivaling that of Hendrix, was a very open-minded president. Clearly, he wouldn’t succumb to the same homophobia so many other Americans and politicians bought in to. With keen foresight, he made preparations for future military drafts by bolstering an already prominent loophole in the system for unwilling soldiers. Now that his legacy is faltering, who can save them?
President Bush can’t be counted on to keep gays, or those pretending to be gay, out of the army. He doesn’t like gays, but he dislikes them less than Islamic fundamentalists. They come from a more respectable part of hell – somewhere between Jews and evolutionary biologists. His military advisors know that upholding the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is depriving the ranks of desperately needed soldiers and it is in their best interest to leave it flexible.
Not all hope is lost, though, for those placing all their eggs in the gay basket. If the army takes a more lenient stance on homosexuality, distraught draftees can take a more fundamentalist one. They can invoke homophobia:
“Sir, I must regretfully inform you that God hates queers. This being the case, I am unable to serve alongside them in the military. There is nothing more I would love to do than get killed for you in a distant, foreign land. Unfortunately, the idea of two dudes holding hands makes it impossible for me to fight terror, especially since it was the gays that caused 9/11.”