October 14, 2005

Get It Straight, Joe

Joe Malchow posts about the movement at Harvard to abolish the Solomon Amendment, which forces institutions of higher learning to allow military recruiters access to their students. [Edit: I have now been pointed to The Harvard Crimson article that Joe's source mentions. It's here.]

The Agenda Gap has a good post covering the legal aspects of the issue and Joe's post, but they leave Joe's statements about homosexuality and the military alone. I won't.

Joe says:
The 'discrimination' argument is a red herring which obscures a broader motive, one which has a grassroots movement unto itself. That movement is to hoist homosexuality upon everyone, and to jam its circle of errant minority into the square of normal majority. The movement will not be satisfied until people eat up without burping the notion that homosexuality is as normal, acceptable, productive, and generally peachy as heterosexuality.

Although it is not quite accurate to compare the racial discrimination of the segregated armed forces to the orientational discrimination of the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, there is one thing to point out about the integration of the armed forces and the larger effort to desegregate American society:

Racial desegregation was no more an effort to foist (not "hoist," Joe) African-Americanism on white America than the effort to end discrimination based on orientation today is an effort to make straight men want to fuck each other or at least think seriously about it.

Similarly, abolishing quotas on the admission of Jews to colleges was no more an effort to foist Judaism on WASPy little boys than permitting gay men and women the right to be open about their sexuality and not suffer for it--either professionally or socially--is an effort to make the military (more) gay.

The argument I assume Joe would make at this juncture is that being Jewish or being black is not "unnatural," while homosexuality is. That is a separate discussion which I will not get into in this post, but even if that were true, it would not change the argument that ending discrimination is not equivalent to foisting the discriminated sector of society's values on anyone else. It is a matter of intention, not naturalness versus "unnaturalness," and Joe has willfully misread the intention.

And regardless of its naturalness, homosexuality has no more to do with the ability to fulfill a soldier's duties than being black did (or does) in the late 40s. To deny someone a job opportunity because of something unrelated to their ability to perform the job is discrimination, plain and simple.

The only reason I can think of why conservative types seem to be unable to understand the basic difference between abolishing discrimination and homogenizing society to a minority's standard is that conservative efforts at "elevating" a statistical minority--like rich people--always do seem to end up foisting those people and their values on everyone else.

Edit: I took an unnecessary cheap shot at Joe above (the foist comment). Both words work, though foist is a little better. But the cheap shot was inappropriate and immature. I'll work on that. Apologies, Joe.


  1. Bitter Moderate Conservative)12:50 PM

    Interesting post. I think that a lot of your disagreement is semantic rather than substantive.

    As you point out, Joe is in love with his own prose, so he's too concerned about sounding intelligent to worry about whether he understands the actual words he uses. Just like some of the Reviewers... I generally agree with their politics, but sometimes I read their stuff and want to beat them over the head with a phone book and say "you're not helping!"

    1. When Joe says that the "movement" wants to "[f]oist homosexuality on everyone, and to jam its circle of errant minority into the square of normal majority," I don't think he means that the movement wants to make straight people think about being gay. What I think he means is that the rhetoric against the military is part of a broader movement to remove the social stigma currently attached to homosexuality. (this comes out in the last sentence that you quote)

    I think he's right if you read it that way, and I'm not sure that you disagree. Homosexuals want to be treated "the same" (quotes because people dispute the implications of it, not because I scoff at the notion) as everyone else, and to accomplish that objective, it makes sense to attack the justification for treating them "differently." Those protesting the Solomon Amendments see the military's policy as "discrimination," just as they see "discrimination" elsewhere. Joe says that discrimination is a red herring, but nothing else in his post indicates that he really thinks so. I think that both of you agree that objections to the Solomon Amendments are part of a larger objection to way gays are treated by the law and by society. You both just get a little angry about it, and Joe trips over his words.

    But, I think that many (if not most) of those who oppose the Solomon Amendments are interested in this broader goal of social/civil/legal acceptance for homosexuals, rather than just a concern about the military. Most of the people I know who protested when the military came to my law school didn't otherwise care a bit about the military.

    2. I've seen it put better elsewhere, but I think that the impetus behind the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is a feeling that homosexuality does have something to do with one's ability to serve in the military that distinguishes sexual orientation from race or religion. In combat, people are often in close quarters under trying emotional conditions, and adding sexual issues to the mix is viewed as a difficulty that is not worth the benefits of having a more open recruitment policy.

    I don't fully understand the argument, and it of course raises questions about having women in the military, but I think that's the basic reasoning. If this was the hiring policy of General Motors or the Park Service, I think there would be a heavy burden on the employer to fully justify the policy and defend it against all comers. But, in the case of the military, I think that they should be allowed to set their own recruitment policies within the bounds of non-absurdity without interference from the courts or from a group of social activists who aren't terribly interested in serving anyway. If they get a say at all, I think the burden should be on the people who object to the military's policies. And this is because the military's just different. Very few people would argue that military personnel should be allowed to unionize, that they should have recourse to the federal courts or the EEOC if they think they were unfairly fired, et cetera. But somehow its hiring practices are different?

  2. BMC again1:00 PM

    Joe also makes a point about the Spending Clause, which is of course overblown. He says:

    The fundamental issue clearly has the schools in the wrong: it is a grand American tradition (not to mention amply bulwarked law) [aside: does he say "amply bulwarked" when talking to his friends? and if so, does he not get a wedgie on the spot?]that, once you install the Uncle Sam faucet and the green juice starts flowing, he can regulate you to the high heavens. 'Don't ask, don't tell' is the policy, that policy hasn't been ruled un-Constitutional, and so the government can execute it.

    This is probably the issue that is going to get all of the action when the Supreme Court decides Rumsfeld v. FAIR later this term. It's not as clear-cut as he says. Congress can usually pay people to do whatever it wants, on penalty of *not* paying them, but there are at least some limits. Congress couldn't tax everyone's income 80% and then give huge tax breaks to people who signed agreements not to protest the war in Iraq, for example. Of course, the Solomon Amendments aren't close to that, but the extreme example illustrates the basic point, I think.

    Still, the military will probably win. The people who don't like the Solomon Amendments would do better to continue the debate instead of trying to get the Supreme Court to set military policy. If the Supreme Court is reluctant to tell the military that it can't detain enemy combatants indefinitely without trial, it's probably going to be even more reluctant to tell it that it can't use the spending power to help it recruit at universities and colleges.

  3. Anonymous2:34 PM

    What the hell Seal. Pick a blog and go for it. Or start five more. Bring back Bateman. This site used to be kind of fun.

  4. Anonymous4:34 PM

    Bitter Moderate Conservative:

    I wish you'd put a name behind your words.

    Your interpretation in your point number one is closer to correct than Andrew's. What I meant is that the goal is to dissemble homosexuality into something as normal as heterosexuality. That, of course, isn't true; and it goes far beyond erasing the "social stigma" which is a noble and (to my mind) almost accomplished goal.

    To answer your questions: no, I am not in love with my own prose. And I don't call it prose. I dare say if I did, I would be instantly guilty of your charge. And no, I do not talk like that to my friends. I do write like that, however, and that writing is unforced.

    Plenty of people write differently than they speak.


  5. bitter moderate conservative--you're absolutely right. I was being hyperbolic when I said that Joe was accusing the gay rights movement of trying to turn people gay.
    But what I thought was my larger point--that ending discrimination is not the same as recasting society based on a minority's standard of normality, which is what I think Joe is accusing the gay rights movement of. (Correct me if I'm wrong, Joe)

    There is a positive, non-trivial difference in intent between gaining equal rights and respect for differences and seeking to redefine the concept of 'normal.' There is a large difference also between 'normal' in the sense of perfect or approximately perfect conformity to a recognized norm and 'normal' in the sense of 'non-deviant' where 'deviant' is given to mean, by their very existence, societally harmful, corrupt, and ideally eliminated. If Joe means the first 'normal,' I think he's wrong for the reasons I give above.

    Being black or Jewish is not 'normal' in America in that first sense of normal, but great strides have been made toward the societal perception of blacks and Jews (and others) as 'normal' in the second sense--'non-deviant,' not societally harmful, and not desired to be eliminated. I still believe Joe means the first sense of normal, which I think he backs up in his comment above.

  6. bmc--also, I'd like to point out that being black was, like being openly gay, at one point considered an impediment to a soldier being able to do his job--even if the army brass felt black soldiers could do the job just as well as white ones, many believed that a desegregated army would create such huge tensions that soldiers would be unable to perform their duties.
    I think most people agree that that argument didn't hold.