Military discriminates against homosexuality for a reason

My Navy boot camp days in the early 1980s were filled with heated emotions of racial prejudice. When our company commanders discovered that our barracks had been divided into the "burbs" at one end of the open bay and "little Harlem" at the other they took it upon themselves to integrate the military's nondiscriminatory policy into our racially segregated sleeping arrangement.

"There is no such thing as prejudice in the Navy!" they shouted at us while pacing the floor between 80 sweat-soaked bodies aching to stay just one inch off the deck.

Company commanders from other units joined the push-up party our commanders had thrown. A dozen white, Hispanic, black, and Asian "red-ropers" shouted at us without letup. "We are all one color! No one is black, or white, or red! We are all Navy blue!" The shouting dissipated when the last man lay exhausted in an inch deep puddle of sweat several hours later.

I have seen other catch phrases such as those expressed above set military policy , such as, "Drug and alcohol abuse will not be tolerated!" Or, when the Tailhook incident embarrassed the military brasses, "Sexual harassment will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of military law!"

The military prides itself on the uniformity of its members, unlike the individuality Americans have grown accustomed.

The military, however, has done its best to mirror the sentiment of the American public at large when addressing these concerns, except for one issue: homosexuality.

Expressing one's homosexuality is the same as taking a stand for individuality.

And the military cannot possibly let that occur.

For one to become an individual in the military means separating the links that bind a unit together. The military is a uniform and cohesive bunch of men and women who walk, talk, think, work, eat, sleep, and dress the same.

To have one person in a unit of 50 express their individuality is like having one link in the middle of an anchor chain break apart in order to free itself from captivity. This allows the anchor at one end to fall free of the ship at the other end. The ship then cannot remain in one spot and the safety of the unit is at risk.

This in no way, of course, has nothing to do about sex within the ranks, the prejudice or harassment that might abound between fellow military personnel, or that gays might or might not be able to do the same job as heterosexuals.

This has everything to do with individuality. When a homosexual expresses his/her intent to go public, it's the same as a conscientious objector refusing to pick up a rifle, or more historically, a protestor burning their draft card.

I'm not saying homosexuals are not patriotic, or that they don't want to display their duty by serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Gays and lesbians have every right to serve in the military the same as heterosexuals.

The problem, however, rests with the actual expression of one's beliefs, actions, or desires. Once this occurs then the military sees these people as nonconformists.

That's why President Bill Clinton couldn't abolish the military's standards setting apart gays in the military. His "Don't ask; don't tell" doesn't solve the problems that still exist, because the military has only accepted the edict out of respect for Clinton's position as Commander-in-Chief. The military won't ask so long as gays keep quiet about their sexual preferences.

But homosexuals still are not happy with Clinton's edict and the way the military continues to treat these separatists. Homosexuals feel that this is still keeping them in the closet where all of this is concerned and, to them, coming out of the closet is a way of expressing their individuality.

Believe it or not, the military knows this. They understand more than you can possibly imagine just what expressing one's sexual preference is to the gay or lesbian, and what it exactly means in terms of relating to the military as a whole.

As the Russian communists once expressed to their counterparts in Vietnam: "Win the hearts and minds of the people and the country is yours."

The military is the same way. They are only successful if they have won the service members' hearts and minds. They demand 100 percent total dedication to the service. They feel you must totally commit yourself to them above all else, including your family, friends, and lovers.

When the gay or lesbian military person declares their preference, they are committing to themselves the necessary feelings that place them above the military.

And the military cannot possibly let that occur.

Charles Ratliff is a journalism graduate student.

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