Ask if you want; Now it’s OK to tell
Last week marked a turning point for this country — one that brought its human rights record nearer to where it should be considering the United States is heralded as the land of the free and the home of the brave. The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) — the policy that was signed into law in 1993 under President Bill Clinton — reversed the ruling that prevented gay men and women from openly serving in the Armed Forces. DADT had allowed this nation’s military to show prejudice against a group of people for no reason other than their sexual orientation. Bigotry was permitted, intolerance was justified, unfair treatment and prejudicial bias were the norm. That, clearly, is not the American way we have all been brought up to believe in, and thanks to the revocation of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, it will also no longer be the case for those in the U.S. armed forces.The new reality is instead a reflection of where our country has come in the nearly 20 years since it felt homosexuals had to hide their identities if they wanted to serve in the military (and that’s only under DADT, not taking into account the hundreds of years of military history beginning with the start of this nation). Considering our society is as forward-thinking as it is, immersed in high-tech gadgetry and intellectual and philosophical pursuits, it only makes sense to leave laws like DADT behind. Really, how could we, as a sophisticated and educated populace, have supported a practice as barbaric as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the first place?What possible harm could permitting openly gay and lesbian soldiers in the Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force cause that servicemen and women instead were forced to lie about their identities? How could this country — inarguably the greatest and most democratic country in the world — set a standard where being gay disqualified one from doing his or her job, rather than merit? How could the United States allow an atmosphere where one could chastise, mistreat or abuse those who are gay just for acknowledging that simple fact? Clearly this nation’s leaders have finally realized the error of their ways, and that practices like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell are not just primitive and unfair, but also demeaning and potentially dangerous. Their communal epiphany promises to be monumental in the ongoing fight for basic civil liberties.In today’s world — in the year 2011 — we all know, in our minds and in our hearts, hopefully, how crucial it is to treat one another with humanity, compassion and respect. No one should be forced to hide his or her sexual identity. Being gay is not wrong, nor should it be hidden from the public’s view. It’s a way of life for many who simply want to live just like the rest of the world — free and peacefully. Luckily, legions of gay men and women bravely volunteer every day to fight for this nation, side by side with their friends, their neighbors, their brothers and their sisters. If someone is willing to put their life on the line for this nation — which is made up of people just like you — they should be praised, not persecuted. This repeal was a long time coming and it should indeed be celebrated. Perhaps it’s an indication of more such triumphs ahead, and that society will finally be able to get over its hang-ups and start treating the gay, lesbian and transgender community equally in all other avenues of life as well. Let’s really make this the land of the free — free for people to be who they are openly and without the threat of reprisal.