We should have known something was in the air when Ken B. Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and outspoken opponent of gay rights, announced that he is himself gay. By itself, the coming out of a single Republican big shot is hardly news, as GOP congressmen and televangelists seem to be the fastest growing segments of the homosexual population. In fact, this story would have lasted as long as the new show “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Term Congressman?” had a federal judge not followed it by striking down “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” For those of you who’ve been living under a rock without internet connectivity, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is the Clinton-era policy that permits gays to serve in the U.S. military so long as they pretend to be a deaf mute (or chairman of the Republican National Committee).
At last. Our courts have bravely stopped harassing wise Latina women and started opposing unjust policies. And this comes only 17 years after “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was adopted, and mere months after the Pentagon had already begun taking steps to scrap it because the policy is about as sensible as Arizona Senator John S. McCain’s new take on immigration (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Dwell”).
The real news here is that the same U.S. military that we alfalfa-eating, latte-sipping, quinoa-marrying liberals love to hate has proven to be one of the voices of reason in this country (the other is the guy who gives the time and temperature on the evening news). It’s not just that they were among the first to realize that Tivo-ing Project Runway is no more a threat to our national security than is an invasion of the plastic soldiers from Toy Story (although I really don’t trust those green aliens). It was our soldiers who pointed out that we can’t really convince folks in the Middle East that we mean them no harm, even though we keep shooting at them, if we declare war on their religion. General David H. Petraeus was the first to say that Terry Jones, a two-bit preacher in Gainesville, Florida with a flock of 30 souls who apparently couldn’t find an open liquor store or a park bench to pass out on, was on the wrong track in proposing to burn Korans on September 11th. Then Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense and founder of Microsoft (“Don’t Ask, We’re Swell”), personally called Jones to offer to use Jones’s bingo parlor as a testing ground for the next generation of Air Force missiles. Problem solved.
Terry Jones won’t be the last moron to distort beyond recognition our religious and political traditions. Ever since George Washington got other people to pay him for whitewashing his cherry tree, morons have played a vital role in the civic life of America. They attempted to achieve independence with an underwater tea party and walked around wearing wigs for no apparent reason. They appointed a Supreme Court justice named Salmon (“Don’t Ask. Just Don’t Ask”). They bought Alaska. In more recent times, they spent billions to put a huge “Mission Accomplished” banner on an aircraft carrier and rammed it into New Orleans. To this day, morons constitute a majority in both houses of Congress.
Even worse, technology now makes it possible even for stupid people who aren’t the leader of the free world to do extraordinary damage. The Central Intelligence Agency is uncertain about Iran’s nuclear capabilities, but it’s beyond a reasonable doubt that the real weapons of mass destruction are Fox News, Al Jazeera and the Drudge Report. Without their incessant, mindless coverage, Terry Jones would be anonymously pumping gas in Gainesville and Fox News host Glenn Beck would be teaching the third grade, hysterically bemoaning the modern day use of dry erase boards. But we’re no more likely to see television go back to what it does best —covering LeBron James’s favorite bowel movements—than we are to see Congress holding its sessions on Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s family farm (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Smell”).
The demise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” won’t usher in a new era of common sense and tolerance across the board. Gays still won’t be able to marry in most states. Automatic rifles will still be handed out like candy at gun shows, banks, and middle school graduations. And we’ll always have Levi Johnston. So while we owe a great debt to General Petraeus and Secretary Gates for stopping these particular bouts of stupidity, they alone can’t stop the media’s never-ending efforts to blow out of proportion every nutcase and nincompoop who comes along. With “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” headed to the legislative trash heap, what we really need is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Televise.” But that’s about as likely as a repeat of Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s Macarena incident of ’02.
Don’t Ask. He Fell.
Brett A. Rosenberg ’12 is a history concentrator in Cabot House.
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