I have become used to hearing gay people and our lives either ignored or stigmatized or demonized in Republican debates. It is a function of a political party becoming a religion. And so my skin is pretty thick at this point, and my outrage button eroded by two decades of learning to ignore this stuff and focus on the positive arguments we have to make. It’s not that I didn’t react at the time…But as I went to bed last night, the scattered boos for an American soldier in the field at any debate began to sink in. And Santorum’s despicable lie in response - that repealing DADT somehow means license of gay sexual misconduct in the armed services - was intended to reduce that soldier, his life and work, to Santorum’s obsession: the intrinsic evil of gay sex. Again, this is usual. Gays are used to being reduced to sexual acts rather than being seen as full human beings, like straight people, with sexuality sure, but a whole lot of other things as well.
But somehow the fact that these indignities were heaped on a man risking his life to serve this country, a man ballsy enough to make that video, a man in the uniform of the United States … well, it tells me a couple of things. It tells me that these Republicans don’t actually deep down care for the troops, if that means gay troops. Their constant posturing military patriotism has its limits.
The shocking silence on the stage - the fact that no one challenged this outrage - also tells me that this kind of slur is not regarded as a big deal. When it came to it, even Santorum couldn’t sanction firing all those servicemembers who are now proudly out. But that’s because he was forced to focus not on his own Thomist abstractions, but on an actual person. Throughout Republican debates, gays are discussed as if we are never in the audience, never actually part of the society, never fully part of families, never worthy of even a scintilla of respect. When you boo a servicemember solely because he’s gay, you are saying he is beneath contempt, that nothing he does or has done can counterweigh the vileness of his sexual orientation.
And then I think of all those gay servicemembers who have died for this country, or been wounded in battle, or been on tours year after year…
and the fury builds.
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