Memorial Day And Diversity
Yesterday I went to Arlington West, a makeshift memorial next to the Santa Monica Pier with crosses for each of the dead in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During Memorial Days my thoughts always turn toward the dead, and the stark differences between the old men who devise and authorize war and the young men who fight and die in it. This weekend the President tried to contextualize the holiday and the responsibility to honor those who serve.
I was struck by this passage:
Our fighting men and women – and the military families who love them – embody what is best in America. And we have a responsibility to serve all of them as well as they serve all of us.
And yet, all too often in recent years and decades, we, as a nation, have failed to live up to that responsibility. We have failed to give them the support they need or pay them the respect they deserve. That is a betrayal of the sacred trust that America has with all who wear – and all who have worn – the proud uniform of our country.
And that is a sacred trust I am committed to keeping as President of the United States. That is why I will send our servicemen and women into harm’s way only when it is necessary, and ensure that they have the training and equipment they need when they enter the theater of war.
...because of how untrue it is. Not the part about soldiers and airmen embodying the finest of America, or our past failures to responsibly honor them. It's the part where the President claims to be committed to "keeping the sacred trust" for everyone who serves. Because for a segment of the military population, that's not true. Since the President has taken office, dozens of able-bodied, eager and willing men and women have been fired because of who they choose to love. The White House clearly wants to avoid the issue. But they cannot claim to honor every American who serves when they segregate and punish some for the thinnest of reasons.
I know Democrats are simply spooked by the past, and the spectre of the gays in the military debate in 1993 is enough to swear them off gay rights at the national level for decades. But at some point, the discontinuity in rhetoric becomes too much to bear. It's time to end the policy of official discrimination in practically the last place where it's publicly allowed, our armed forces. The latest missive from the Pentagon suggests that the pressure is starting to move Obama in the right direction on this. I hope so. 2009 is not 1993. Times have changed and people have changed. Democrats cannot stay trapped in their boxes and expect to keep receiving the votes of the diverse Americans who support them and expect to be supported as well.