Ricky Watson of Littleton, Colorado wipes tears from his eyes after he thanked President Barack Obama for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at a campaign rally in Golden, Colorado, September 13. Watson was kicked out of the Air Force 25 years ago for being gay.
damn where does he get his shirts at ive always wanted one like that
LTMC: A reminder that the wounds of discrimination always run extraordinarily deep. 25 years, and he is still moved to tears by the pain of a military career destroyed by institutionalized bigotry.
"Today, I took an oath and affirmed to defend the Constitution of the United States of America. I am humbled as I am reinstated to the job I love and by the enormous support I have received on this momentous day. I look forward to returning to the Defense Language Institute, my career in the military."
— Jase Daniels, a 29-year old gay Navy serviceman, after being re-instated in the Navy for the second time, following his second discharge under the military’s recently repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
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…
"Rereading the transcript of last night’s debate, I am struck that Rick Santorum did not thank Stephen Hill, a gay soldier in the U.S. Army currently in Iraq, for his service. Nor did anyone else on that stage. Whatever you think of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ or homosexuality, Hill is risking his life on behalf of his country. It is troubling, and revealing, that Santorum’s answer entirely defined Hill as a gay man first and as a soldier second, if at all,"
Disgusting. This is why I don’t actually watch the GOP debates. The audiences at these debates attract such fringe batshit-crazy diehard backwards people, to the point where these alleged Conservatives have the audacity to cast aspersions on a soldier serving in a war zone from the comfort of their auditorium seat, on no more impressive basis than the fact that he is a homosexual. Ignore too the fact that the guy is a beast. Look at those arms. Don’t tell me he can’t regulate on the battlefield.
In fact, I’d love nothing more than to witness a physical confrontation between that soldier and the parochial stooges in that audience who had the audacity to denigrate him. I imagine the result would be, to borrow a phrase from Dave Chappelle, Splendiferous.
I’m not one to advocate for violence. But this episode is simply that upsetting to me.
In anticipation of the September 20 end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, GQ interviewed gay soldiers from the past 70 years about their experiences. From a Marine on White House duty:
Since I’m a single officer in the Marine barracks and I’ve got the highest security clearance you can get, I also serve at the White House in close quarters with President Bush and President Obama at social events. Very seldom was the president ever alone, but one time the president had said, ‘Go and get the vice president,’ and all the straphangers went, and the president went in the Blue Room and was just standing there waiting for Biden. And there was no Secret Service around or anything, and I went, ‘Fuck it, I’m going to go and talk to the president about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” ’ He was looking out south—there’s an incredible view down past the Washington Monument to the Jefferson. And I just stepped in and said, ‘Sir?’ and he turned around and walks to me and I just started: ‘You know, sir, I want to let you know that there are a number of us that work very close to you who appreciate very much what you’re doing on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”—more than you probably realize.’ And he was shaking my hand, he looks up and it’s like…he got it. I said, ‘I want to thank you for this.’ And he goes, ‘No, I want to thank you. Thank you for your service, and thank you for your courage.’ “