As you may know, today is the first day that non-heterosexuals can openly serve in the United States military. That’s very groovy in general, but I’m struck by the headline that the official news outlet of the Department of Defense used for the occasion:
That is just about the most positive headline one could reasonably construct. Rather than sullenly announcing “Sexual Orientation Policy No Longer In Effect” or somesuch, they go out of their way to present the new policy as awesome. One might be forgiven for asking “Is this the same DoD that’s been fighting against gay servicemembers tooth and nail for decades?”
Thing is, it reminds me of the old stories I’ve heard about when Truman ordered the military racially integrated. The Department was against it, the generals were against it, it was all the same stuff we’ve heard for the past twenty years. Unit cohesion, combat readiness, existing prejudices, blah blah blah, all those things the military always says. And Truman heard them all out and said “Thanks for your input; I don’t give a damn. Integrate the services right now, that’s an order.” To which the generals responded with the other thing the military’s good at saying: “Yes, sir.”
From what I hear, there was a lot of this kind of thing:
“But sarge, I don’t want to bunk with one of those kind!”
“Well, private, I don’t want to be in charge of a bigoted little shit like you, but nobody gets what they want today! Now move your ass!”
And that’s the thing. The same macho culture of masculinity that had the military resisting gay soldiers for far too long is also tied in with the really good thing about the military: You give them an order to get something done, that shit gets done. Harassment on grounds of sexual orientation actually increased after Clinton implemented don’t-ask-don’t-tell, but I bet it’s going to drop off very sharply as of today. You don’t like showering with him, private? The Army didn’t ask you what you like!
The DoD’s choice of headline is part of a clear message that they’re sending: when they say an anti-gay policy is over, they damn well mean over.