Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday 5 July 2009

The 'Gays in the Military' debate rumbles on in the US

I don't write much any more about the bizarre debate which continues to rumble on (fester, really) in the United States over whether homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly in the military, whether the current policy of "don't ask, don't tell" should continue, or even in a few case that a complete ban should be reinstated. And in any case the excellent FiveThirtyEight blog did projections some months back on the slowly evolving attitudes across the 50 States on the matter of homosexuality, indicating that in the next decade or so the bulk of the country would be completely comfortable with it (that was the 'gist' of the analysis, so far as I recall) and that various changes in the current legislation in force across the States might be likely to happen.

In any case, what provokes me to write this article now was a link to an article I wrote five and a half years ago in my visitor stats last night, from a new article written by Jason, the same blogger referred to in my article all those years ago. At that time Jason was serving as an officer with the US military in Iraq; it's not clear where he is now or even if he is still a serving military officer or is now a 'vet'. His recent post is quite interesting and as usual finely-honed, with the final paragraph seeming to me to display a pragmatic attitude to dealing with the practicalities of the law (or 'military code') which officers must operate under, given the existing legislation. It obviously still bugs Jason that my initial assessment of his 2004 article was that it was a 'homophobic rant' even though I later in amendments modified that view somewhat. I don't pretend to understand fully the motivations underlying attitudes toward homosexuality, gays in the military, 'gay marriage', 'gay adoption', etc. in the United States, except that the stock phrase that the UK and US are "two countries divided by a common language" seems apposite.

The US is a much more 'religious' country than the UK - no politician here who has any sense makes his/her own religious affiliation, whatever it is and if he/she has one, an issue, rather it is kept deliberately low-key and semi-private; basically no-one cares much. Those that transgress this rule are quickly made to realise that their lives in politics will be limited as we are uncomfortable with overt religiosity in our politicians; there have been a few recent examples. In the US, on the other hand, prospective elected politicians are almost obliged to profess a strong religious faith, whatever it might be - an admission that religion plays little or no part in someone's life is probable political suicide. I don't want to take this analogy too far, but I think it does have some merit. However, if you believe the analysis in FiveThirtyEight, younger generations in the US are generally more comfortable with homosexuality than were preceding generations. Maybe it will all 'come right' in the end.

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