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Get Debbie Downer.

Your Humble Blogger is finding it difficult to express my feelings about the United States Senate and what happened there today [now yesterday]. For one thing, yes, I am pleased that the preposterous policy that allowed certain people to serve in the military only under the condition that they lied about their sexuality—I am glad that policy is no longer the law. Or, rather, I am glad that there is no longer a law compelling that to be our policy; the policy itself is still in place, and will be until the Executive Branch fixes it. But yes, there was a terrible, nonsensical law, and now it’s gone. Whew.

On the other hand, of course, a minority of the Senate blocked the passage of the DREAM act, which in some sense typifies the Senate these days: it’s a reasonable, bipartisan manner of correcting some screwinesses in our immigration system. It’s not a terribly urgent matter, but it also isn’t a terribly controversial matter, one would think, and as policy it seems to have widespread support—including in the Senate itself, of course. And yet, the political incentives are such that there was very little chance of it passing, either today or in the near future. Depressing.

It’s also the case that I am at least a trifle ambivalent about the triumphant repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As civil rights achievements go, it’s… minor. It may lead to more legal equality later on, and there is every reason to hope it will, but in itself, the ability to serve in the military is not that high up on my equality-and-liberty list. Frankly, the policy is so crazy and self-defeating that I have to see its repeal more as a victory for common sense than for gay rights. Marriage, yes, that is a Big Deal, and it’s amazing and wonderful to me that my home state of Connecticut has legal same-sex marriage. It would be an even bigger deal to see those marriages acknowledged federally. Protection against discrimination in hiring, promotion and retention would be a big deal. And in education as well. Most people—most gay people—go to school, have jobs, marry. Most people don’t serve in our volunteer military. Thank goodness.

I mean, yes. Of course I’m happy that the repeal passed. I’m happy for some thousands of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the military. I’m happy for their friends and lovers. I’m happy for the straight people in the military who will have one fewer bullshit rule to deal with. I really am.

But as a great civil rights advance? Meh. Maybe my reaction is because I don’t have any friends in the military now. I’m spending my time in a University, and conditions for gay people in that University don’t seem to be much better than they were twenty years ago. Oh, they probably are, really, but they don’t seem to be, and they surely aren’t enough better for me to get giddy over our country allowing—potentially allowing!—gay men, lesbians and bisexuals to go to Afghanistan.

Mostly, I’m afraid, I am too depressed about how slow-moving the march to equality is, and how difficult it is to move even one inch—seriously, our policy is to deport people who have served with distinction in the military because their parents brought them over illegally as infants?—for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to bring a smile to my face. And, I suppose, there’s this: it was clear that after we were betrayed by moderation yet again (mostly by the Senate), it was necessary for my Party to have some new achievement to bring home, and this one was it. And my asshole Senator got it done, and deserves the credit for it. But also the blame for the other, and I don’t think the trade between a new tax cut for the wealthiest people in our country is a good one. If it were federally recognized marriage, yes. National protection against discrimination in employment, yes. But the Marines? Well, and you take your victories where you can get them.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


For many people, the military is their only option for escaping their environment, their only option for a long-term career, or their only option for affording college. For many people, the military is their only option for the work they want to do, their only option for serving their nation, or their only option for honoring their family. For many people, the military is by far the best option for career training, for providing for their family, or for getting decent work after they leave the military. Other than public school itself, I don't know where offering access without discrimination is as important.

DADT is a big holdover, for me, from When I Was 14 and We Elected a Democrat President for Literally the First Time I Could Remember and The Future Was Full of Hope and Then It Was All Horribly Horribly Disappointing. I'm still pissed off at Clinton about it. He will probably survive my disapproval somehow.

I worked for the government for awhile, in an office with some military people, and it was deeply weird to come into work and think, "We're in the same office doing the same job, and yet it's okay for me and not for them..." (And sometime around then i found out about SLDN and started donating to them, and reading some of their stuff online which underscored just how difficult it would be to be closeted in the military, at a time when i hadn't been closeted for years.)

Yeah, it's stupid that we weren't at this point before, but it's still impressive progress that we are now. If i were in your state, i would be doing some serious soul-searching about the possibility of supporting said asshole senator in 2012, for his apparent work in pulling this out of the fire. Sure, that's just what he wants you to think, but, enh. (And, no worries, i am not giving any consideration at all to supporting Scott "I meant to vote 'no' but my hand slipped. Leave me alone" Brown.)

Ultimately, sure: until we have federally recognized marriage, i will not really feel that we as a country are doing right by our 14-year-olds. But this is progress, and it is a big deal.

I don't know what to say about the DREAM act. It's appalling and stupid. The United States Senate is appalling and stupid, and, as a result, our federal government fails at most of the policy changes it tries to accomplish. Let's celebrate the victories (even if they seem small) while we can, for tomorrow we may have 10% unemployment due to idiotic monetary policy.

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