The autumn of 1993 stands out to me as a very clear and memorable period. This was when, as a Northwestern University sophomore, I took the famous Charles Moskos’ very popular Introduction to Sociology course.
Throughout our weeks of his captivating lectures, one topic that often came up was a new Clinton-administration policy that Moskos himself had authored, which was about to be implemented into law. This was the first time I heard about what came to be known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Moskos carefully explained to us at the time his “compromise” on trying to settle the contentious issue of gay people serving openly in the military. Of course I believed then, as I believe now, that no gay servicemember should be forced to conceal or lie about his or her sexual orientation. Still, listening to the brilliant Moskos’ articulate and thorough explanations of his position, and considering the need for middleground at a time when “all or nothing” was already yielding the latter, I supported our famed professor. I even recall in a class discussion group stating, much to the appall of some, that agree with it or not, Moskos had created an intelligent and sound policy.
Now, 17 years later, as babies of the day now reach enlistment age, I join in the collective applause at the imminent retirement of DADT. The wheels of change spun furiously this past weekend, as the Senate voted in favor of repealing the controversial law. What had come to life as a seemingly reasonable compromise, grew into a poor excuse for illogical reasoning, wasted efforts and thousands of ruined careers. It’s time now to welcome the long-awaited change that will bring honor to this aspect of our armed forces.
Opinions, at least through the journalistic lens, seem to more or less support this change, despite the expected concerns that will certainly, and hopefully quickly, prove unfounded. I’ve always been confused, and a bit amused, by the so-called “panic” or “hysteria” of openly gay soldiers existing in “intimately” close proximity to their comrades. The most ironic surprise of all will come, I predict, when DADT is gone for good (further steps remain in this overall process). This is to say, the day will come when every current gay member of military can finally come out, hopefully to the surprise of homophobic colleagues who will come to realize their concerns over the entire matter were all for nothing.
Personally, I’ve been acquainted with numerous current and former gay servicemembers over the years, all the way from an 88-year-old World War II veteran to a recently enlisted 20-year-old young man. I’ve heard plenty of stories from the inside. As such, the issue at present of course is not one of allowing gay people into the military, but of allowing them to serve openly. All branches of the armed forces already have significant gay populations, as I trust most sensible people are aware. This has always been the great irony of “Gays in the Military.”
Charles Moskos passed away in 2008. I wish he were around to comment on the demise of his “intelligent and sound” policy, or better I should say, the Senate’s “intelligent and sound” action this weekend. No doubt he would have something captivating to say.