Stories by RD

RD is the pseudonym of a 10-year armed services veteran recently returned from Afghanistan.

The GOP Drops the Fight Against Gay Rights

August 24th, 2010 at 12:28 pm 155 Comments

When Bill Clinton moved to open the military to gays in 1993, ampoule the GOP and conservative Democrats led the effort to oppose gay rights. In 1996, find Hawaii flirted with gay marriage and the GOP again led the charge against gay equality, pilule culminating in the federal response known as the “Defense of Marriage Act”.

Flash forward fourteen years to the present. Gay marriage is ruled a federal right for the first time and the response from the GOP is… tepid. Not one nationally prominent elected official thought the issue was important enough to get worked up over. The only cries of outrage were from politically active religious groups.

Recently when both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the U.S. House voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, hardly a critical peep was heard regarding the votes of leading GOP figures (with the exception of John McCain who was facing a conservative primary challenger).

Complicating matters for social conservatives, polls show even a majority of Republican voters support abolishing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

These swift changes in the GOP from gay bashing a la Patrick Buchanan’s 1992 convention speech towards tolerance and even support of gay equality is both astonishing and alarming to elements of the far right. Several prominent social conservatives have decried these changes. WorldNetDaily Editor David Kupelian recently wrote “Much of conservatism has now morphed into libertarianism…even high profile conservative warriors seem to be abandoning the gay issue” and went on to list recent examples of gay rights making progress within the GOP such as Glenn Beck’s announcement that gay marriage presents no threat to America, Ann Coulter addressing the gay conservative group GOProud, and CPAC’s refusal to ban GOProud. Social conservative Robert Knight bemoaned the fact that Republicans are increasingly supportive of gay equality in his column “Smarter than God”; and the American Family Association’s radio host Bryan Fischer also blasted Republicans for failing to sufficiently support the anti-gay cause.

This past week the Washington Blade even published an article titled “Conservatives take the lead in marriage fight” arguing that libertarian-leaning conservatives are advancing gay rights, perhaps more so than Democrats. Who would have thought in 1992 we would one day see Republicans lauded by the gay press?

The list of conservatives supporting gay equality is growing – from the many Republican appointed judges who have ruled in favor of various gay rights cases, to GOP Solicitor General Ted Olson, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and even the ultraconservative former Vice President Dick Cheney. Nowadays Margaret Hoover of Fox News sits on the board of GOProud alongside conservative Grover Norquist; and even Elisabeth Hasselbeck has come out in support of gay marriage rights.

A growing list of conservative writers and activist have endorsed various gay causes as well. Philip Klein at the American Spectator and talking head Mike Gallagher oppose “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and pundit George Will has remarked that with changing attitudes and demographics, “homosexuality will soon be a non-issue in the military”.

A telling incident occurred this past week when an Iowa Republican candidate made anti-gay remarks and the state GOP chairman publicly rebuked him, claiming  his statements were “inappropriate and in no way represent the beliefs of the Republican Party of Iowa”.

What is happening to the GOP? First our elected officials tire of bashing gays and now our pundits? Perhaps Republicans are beginning to see the writing on the wall. Public opinion is changing rapidly in favor of gay marriage rights. In just 10 years gay marriage has become legal in 10 countries, 5 U.S. States and the District of Columbia. A just released CNN poll found half of all U.S. citizens now support gay marriage and Columbia researcher Suzanne Goldberg reported on CNN that “research indicates younger people are beginning to see sexual orientation as a benign variation”.  Even the Tea Party has generally sat on the sideline on social issues, preferring to focus on matters of economics and less government.

The religious right may be having a conniption, but younger Republicans increasingly appear to believe that opposing gay equality is inconsistent with a belief in increased liberty and smaller government. Although the religious right will continue to be a strong presence in the GOP for years to come, changing demographics are not on the side of anti-gay forces and the GOP appears to be awakening to this reality.

Fighting for a Country That Thinks I’m Second Class

April 13th, 2010 at 10:05 pm 75 Comments

RD is the pseudonym of a 10-year armed services veteran recently returned from Afghanistan.  A psychologist and long-serving veteran, tadalafil this officer had to deal with both the traumas of the troops in front of him, sovaldi sale and the psychic wound of his own situation: the risk that if he spoke frankly about his life to any colleague, discount he could find himself ejected from the war and the army.  This is the fourth in a series of excerpts from his journal.

I had a very bad session with my workout partner tonight. He is the person I am closest to in Afghanistan yet even he knows very little about my life. He asked if I was married and I lied, telling him I was divorced. Damn. I hate lying; I can count on one hand how often I have told a lie in the past 20 years. Yet if I told him I was a never-married, 42-year-old male it would have been too risky. If I told the truth I could be fired and go home to face unemployment. Why in the world would any soldier be fired for being honest? Because I am a gay soldier and it is illegal to say so. It is illegal for me to tell not just anyone in the military but anyone in the world – my parents, my siblings – even my best friend. Despite repeated studies by the Pentagon over the past 50 years that clearly suggest gays pose no threat to unit cohesion or morale; social conservatives insist that it is so and have passed laws demanding that gay Americans be fired if we are honest – even with our closest friends or family members. Being honest should never be illegal. This law results in gay military members being socially isolated from our peers, our friends and our families so that others will not get to know us lest they discover that we are gay. We could be turned in by anyone. It also means we cannot date anyone – even on our own time and out of uniform. So we can only keep our jobs if we lie, pretend, and remain isolated — celibate and alone. How is a law with such cruel consequences considered Christian? Lying is never good but it is the law so what else can I do? As a result of being so angry I was quiet during the workout and my gym partner expressed concern but I could not tell him why. It would have been illegal.

Moral laws do not force people to lie or pretend to be something they are not (a kind of lie itself). Even worse this law creates barriers between people and mandates a certain level of isolation and loneliness. It will drive me from the military. It is the main reason I am leaving the service when I return from Afghanistan. Despite a severe shortage of psychologists and two wars the military will lose me. I believed at one time I could live with the unfairness and the cruel message implied by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) – that Americans like me are second class citizens, unwelcomed, unequal and unaccepted – not just in the military but by society. Make no mistake about it, DADT is intended by its supporters to convey just such a cruel message.

If I had accepted that I was gay I would never have joined the military – I naively thought I would “change” if only I met the “right” girl or was a good enough Christian. But when the people of California voted to strip the over 1,000 legal rights afforded married couples from gay Californians I decided I could no longer serve in the military. Why should I put my life at risk to defend the freedom of Americans who think so little of me and my relationships that they would take rights away from me? I was floored by the unfairness and the way rights were stripped away – by a simple vote – what the founding fathers called “the tyranny of the majority”. I am appalled that many Republicans support such attacks on freedom, liberty and limited government. One can be opposed to gay marriage by not entering such a marriage – but it is cruel to deny 1,000 legal rights to a couple just because you personally don’t believe in it. Barry Goldwater would be so ashamed of what has happened to the GOP. We are supposed to be the party of individual liberty. Ironic isn’t it? The party of big government favors government getting out of our lives while the party of less government favors more government involvement in our lives.

A Gay Officer at War

April 10th, 2010 at 12:45 am 51 Comments

RD is the pseudonym of a 10-year armed services veteran recently returned from Afghanistan.  A psychologist and long-serving veteran, viagra this officer had to deal with both the traumas of the troops in front of him, decease and the psychic wound of his own situation: the risk that if he spoke frankly about his life to any colleague, healing he could find himself ejected from the war and the army.  This is the first in a series of excerpts from his journal.

This journal began as an attempt to capture what it is like to deploy in Afghanistan.

The first surprise is how extensive the waste, fraud and soldier frustration is because of the rigid Pentagon bureaucracy. What I found was how the military wastes millions of tax-payer dollars every year while degrading military readiness. I was stunned by how much was wasted because it was “the wrong color money”; because “if we don’t spend it we won’t get it next year” and because “the rules say so” – not so much because something actually improved our war-fighting ability.

I was shocked at how many hours and days were wasted on “mandatory training” that duplicated training I already received but was not accepted because the training was Air Force (and I was with the Army) or Army (and I was with the Air Force). In fact, as I write this introduction I am still in Afghanistan without an M16. The reason? Because I qualified on an Army range and the Air Force does not recognize Army training. I also lack access to the military’s secure secret internet protocol network and, you guessed it – because my computer security training was through the Air Force – which the Army does not recognize. As a result I am at a small remote post in a combat zone without an M16 and without secure means of communicating with my Commander. I am continually amazed at how dysfunctional the bureaucracy can be.

A second surprise is how inefficient and corrupt everything appears to be in Afghanistan. The natives routinely overcharge Americans by outrageous amounts even for work projects that benefit solely the Afghan people, with often shoddy results. Yet Americans continue to do business with Afghanis in an effort to “win their hearts and minds” but as soon as the money dries up – so does the loyalty. During my time in Afghanistan it has become increasingly clear that our victory hinges largely on buying the loyalty of locals through large infusions of U.S. tax dollars into the hands of corrupt local officials.

And last, the third surprise is how the religious fundamentalists in Afghanistan are strikingly similar to religious fundamentalists in America – who are also trying to force their literal interpretation of Holy Scripture onto everyone else through laws. While I served in Afghanistan the American “cultural war” exploded with California’s Proposition 8 and the pending discharge of an 18-year decorated combat pilot under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

A psychologist is also allowed to roam almost anywhere on a military post in Afghanistan – part of my job is to walk around and get to know people. As a result I have access to Artillery, Infantry, Medics, Logistics and every other area on post. My job is to get to know soldiers, assess the stresses they are under and make recommendations to Command on how to reduce combat and operational stress. Of course I also meet individually with soldiers for traditional counseling sessions, and in these sessions soldiers here in a combat zone would open up and share their innermost thoughts and concerns. I was honored to be here with them. As a result I heard their own thoughts on the war, on locals, and on their own battles with bureaucracy and waste.  I was also there with them to see everything for myself – a chief reason why I traveled to the various remote combat outposts. Soldiers would often invite me to travel with them on foot patrols in the mountains and villages of Afghanistan and I always tried to accommodate them.

I enjoyed my time with them. The men and women of the United States Army are some of the finest people on Earth. They consistently exhibit a “can do” attitude even in the most difficult of circumstances and accomplish feats which far exceed reasonable expectations; and they do so without complaining. What is truly amazing is that these outstanding soldiers are so often in their late teens and early twenties. They are absolutely incredible, but then isn’t that why we call them “Heroes”?

More to come…