Pentagon shocker: US soldiers are thoughtful, tolerant grown-ups

We’ve known for a long time that the US military exemplifies a lot that is best and brightest about our society.  Our service members aren’t comic-book heroes.

But they are professional, thoughtful, incredibly dedicated, and courageous beyond most of our reckoning.

They’re also — compared with most Americans — sophisticated and even cosmopolitan.

Yes, many recruits come from rural communities, often in the South.  But many of those men and women have spent the last decade deployed in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

They’re not tourists, after all.  They live and work (and fight) within cultural settings that are complicated, requiring constant negotiations and compromise.

Which is why this week’s Pentagon report on repealing “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” seems like such a no-brainer.

For years, opponents of repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the military have suggested that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines would quail at the idea of an openly-gay colleague serving in close quarters.

Again and again we hear about that dreaded moment in the shower or the foxhole.

The horror of such intimacy!  How would our military units survive such a trauma intact?  Surely unit cohesion and readiness would be wrecked!

The fact that many of the most deadly military forces in the world — the Israelis, the British — integrated openly gay men and women into their ranks long ago is discounted.  Those are, after all, foreigners.

We’re talking now about America’s fighting men and women.

But it’s also true that polls now regularly show that most of us see a repeal as common sense.  Don’t ask-don’t tell doesn’t actually ban gays from serving.  It just requires them to lie about their lives.

The most recent Quinnipiac Poll found that even the family-members of soldiers support a repeal by 55-38% margins.

But the moment of truth finally came this week when we heard from the service-members themselves.

The survey found that fewer than a third of the men and women polled thought the change would be a negative one.  28% said they would ask for reassignment if billeted with a gay or lesbian colleague.

Those numbers aren’t insignificant.  They suggest that the repeal needs to be handled carefully.

But these negative views are heavily outweighed by the service-members who say that integrating the military and ending don’t-ask-don’t-tell would be either a positive step, or would have no impact whatsoever.

Interestingly, nearly 70% of those surveyed by the Pentagon said they had already served side-by-side with someone they thought was gay.

When asked what they would do if ordered to bunk with an openly gay soldier, 51% said they would take take no action, or they would “discuss our expectations.”

In other words, they would be professionals and adults.  Then they would go back to the business of doing their jobs, fighting wars and protecting our security.

Change isn’t easy.  When African Americans and women moved into mainstream careers within the military, it was a brutal controversy.

There were instances during World War I of black soldiers being lynched for daring to wear the American uniform.

But my guess is that this integration won’t be nearly as difficult.  The simple truth is that we have a far better educated and more sophisticated military.

It should come as no shock at all that our soldiers are, as always, ready.

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5 Comments on “Pentagon shocker: US soldiers are thoughtful, tolerant grown-ups”

  1. Bill G says:

    I’m curious to see what kind of response this piece will get.

    I served in the military in the late 60′s and knew of a number of gay soldiers. It didn’t phase me or most of my straight comrades then, and I believe that military personnel are more enlightened now than then. I’ve managed gay men and lesbians in the work place and found that there was nothing to distinguish them from their straight counterparts. The “uncloseting” of gays has had the effect of putting many of us, but especially the younger generation, in comfortable contact with gays. This has put a human face on them and made it much more difficult for bigots to demonize them.

    I don’t consider myself a crusaders for this cause but I do think it’s time to turn the page on this issue.

  2. phahn50 says:

    the younger generation has a much easier time with this issue. I dont know why.

  3. phahn50 says:

    When I was driving by the entrance to Fort Drum the other day, I was stopped at the light behind a pickup truck with a couple in a long good-bye full mouth kiss. I was surprised to notice first that they were both men, and then that one of the men was in uniform. Seems like its not a big deal now already.

  4. Brian says:

    I think even as Bill G’s comments allude to, people in uniform have far more important things to worry about.

  5. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Bill G. you’ve got your answer. Judging from the response here DADT should be repealed immediately.

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