Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chauncey DeVaga on DADT and the Guide to Command of Negro Naval Personnel

Chauncey DeVaga with wise insights (rooted in the African-American experience of struggle against marginalization) into what the DADT debate is really about:

I have long thought that the real stakes at hand in the opposition by Conservatives to our gay brothers and sisters serving openly in the armed forces is prefaced on an understanding that military service is often a pathway to full and equal membership in the polity. While these debates are couched in the language of “military readiness” and unit cohesion,” they are ultimately about belonging and citizenship. Some Americans simply do not believe that gay folks ought to be part of our political community. Most certainly, they ought not to be treated equally. In this imaginary, if “those people” openly die in the trenches and battlefields (as they have for centuries), then God forbid those same folk may actually both demand and deserve their full rights as citizens.

The American religious and political right want to keep barring entrance of out, self-avowed, unabashed gay folks into the military arena, because military service is one of the most important tickets to inclusion and power in American society.  As I noted here months ago, one of the telling historical facts of which the series "Mad Men" reminds us is the extent to which American economic and political life following World War II was dominated by military connections (as Eisenhower predicted it would be).  Top executives of corporations, who call the shots politically, have been largely military-rooted.  "Mad Men" suggests (and the series is historically accurate in suggesting this) that it would have been unthinkable for a man to gain access to the top circles of corporate management in the U.S. following World War II if he hadn't done military service in that war. 

And so DADT is about entree, access, full inclusion, equal rights across the board, and power.  And it's about the continued "right" of "Christians" (including the Catholic church, whose leaders stand firmly with the religious right in this respect) to engage in any and all gestures they're permitted, to remind gays and lesbians and society at large that those who are gay are unequal, unwelcome, less human than heterosexual people are. 

And if anyone imagines the ugly gestures of exclusion of people of color from power and privilege in American culture weren't, for centuries, supported by biblical injunctions that many Americans took for granted as gospel truth, in this nation with the soul of a church, he/she should do a bit of reading.  About our real history.  And about the real (and exceedingly seamy) underside of mainstream Christian theology, which has repeatedly required some imagined enemy-inferior or other to target, as it hammers out its  doctrinal affirmations about christology, sacraments, ecclesiology, etc.

Addendum, later in the day: and for a valuable complement to the preceding take on DADT, check out Timothy Kincaid's posting yesterday at Box Turtle Bulletin, which I'm just now seeing.  As he notes, the talk about military preparedness and unit cohesion is all a smokescreen.  What's really going on underneath that rhetorical smokescreen is the intent to keep gays and lesbians outside, to keep them stigmatized, and to keep on claiming that this activity preaches the good news of Christ to the world.

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