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06/07/2011

The artifice of 'culture war': Generations of pitting negligence against peace

by Jeremy Hooper

During this morning's "Today" show, Ann Curry read a report about Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal implementation, and specifically the fact that around half of the troops have been trained on repeal without incident. A development to which my husband asked, half rhetorically and half sincerely, "Why, exactly, the need for all this 'training'?" To which I, while pouring coffee and thinking about a million things other than the basic defense of humanity that fills my weekdays, impulsively shot back: "Because of all these lies that I deal with every hour of every day."

Now, I immediately pegged my reply as flippant, born out of both frustration and morning distraction. I even followed it up with qualifiers about how implement goes beyond just the anti-LGBT mindset. The reaction seemed too rash to be logical. The coffee too caffeinated to be truth serum.

However, as I thought about it more, I realize that my first response was actually 100% right. Or at least 90+%. Because if not for the constant attack lines from groups like the Family Research Council and their supportive poll-watchers in elected office, extra training on this matter truly would be unnecessary. Minimal, at best.

Inclusive service does not mean loving gay people. It doesn't have to mean acceptance. It doesn't even require tolerance, really. It simply means performing the job at hand -- a job that demands a level of focus and dedication that most of us are incapable of grasping -- without letting personal obstacles or biases to get in the way. The requirement is not for anyone to remove feelings or opinion: It's simply to carry out the the tasks at hand without being derailed by the human condition, yours or anyone else's. In this sense, it is the same requirement that should, ideally, guide any employee of any outfit anywhere.

But with DADT repeal, we have an opposition movement that has uttered whatever outrageous thing they think might rile up fears, with the message always culminating in the ideas that gays are going to 201106071234threaten morale and unit cohesion. And in a job where morale and unit cohesion quite literally mean life and death, the opposition's message has quite literally told soldiers that out gays and lesbians will quite possibly lead to the end of their mortal lives. That is not an overstatement: When FRC positions gays as a threat to security, effectiveness, readiness, or [insert fear word], the only logical assumption is the one pertaining to the casualties of war. Contrived "culture war," in this case (a label created and reared by the far-right, btw).

This is what makes LGBT "culture war" fights so much more enraging than any other political conversation: [1] These groups will say unbelievably outrageous, oftentimes outright repudiated nonsense that would never be accepted if directed towards any other group, but because of the long-standing dynamics of a complacent media, the ability to code-word thoughts and feelings in ways to make them palatable, and the all-too-accepted cover that is "family values," they get away with it when directed at LGBT human beings. [2] Their organizational existence is essentially to muddy the waters of debate, so that should-be no-brainer issues like basic non-discrimination, protection, and equal benefit become overwrought, highly costly topics of debate. [3] They force LGBT people to pause their lives and defend against unbelievable charges that no one should ever have to dignify (and that no one can ever even answer since the opposition's script is pre-written anyway. [4] They force *all* of us to war from our divisive camps rather than unite for common solutions.

Troops need extensive training on DADT repeal because a well-financed special interest has lobbied with every fiber in its collective organizational arsenal to keep heterosexism (best case scenario) or outright homo-hostility (more present goalpost) alive and unwell within our troops, our people, our legislatures -- our nation. Theirs is not a war against the flesh -- it is a war against the psychology of basic acceptance. Against fundamental decency. Against essential American values. Against the easy truth that would've put this non-issue to bed many years, dollars, and brain cells ago.

Repeal training/certification/implementation? This too shall pass. We will win this fight and war. But we will all go to our graves with damages that should've never come to be. For that unchangeable reality of our times, thank any of the countless groups that chose to go to battle against an unarmed neighbor.

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