Imagine serving a tour of duty, facing active combat and the immense stress that comes with it. Then imagine returning home with your unit and having to watch as your peers enjoy the privilege of greeting their significant others upon de-boarding the plane, knowing that your partner will greet you later, in private, in order to protect your job. This was the kind of compelling scenario shared by a veteran and straight ally this past Friday at a rally held for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT). It seems like such a simple example, but it illustrates so well how we’ve effectively denied even our most honorable Americans the kind of humanity they have earned a million times over.
The question, then, is why? Why do our elected officials continue to justify and defend oppressive policies that cause so much harm to their constituents… and get away with it? Why do our laws imply that sexuality and competency are somehow correlated? Why must we perpetuate and institutionalize a culture of fear?
It’s baffling to me that in December 2010 I am attending events like this, especially given the overwhelming support for repeal from within the military and the American public at-large. Not to mention, the substantial evidence that repeal will do nothing but benefit our troops – allowing every member to serve honestly, authentically, and with integrity. Each of our service members have taken immeasurable risks and made enormous sacrifices on our behalf; the least we can do is affirm their identities and encourage the type of pride in themselves that they exude for our country.
One of Soulforce’s core values, we believe in the fierce urgency of now, was an obvious theme of the rally on Friday. Chants of “don’t go home” were directed at the Capitol building, urging members of Congress not to leave and enjoy their holiday breaks before business is done and the repeal of DADT complete (see Jason’s post below for more on contacting your legislators).
While we heard from many inspiring speakers, it was an especially powerful lesson in hope to hear from activists who have been working on this issue for more than a decade, without succumbing to the temptation to surrender. With the holidays near and the new year quickly approaching, I find myself reflecting on all that I have to be grateful for. Topping my list is the Soulforce Equality Ride, and the perseverance of the justice seekers who’ve come before me and continue to fight. If you’re finding yourself thankful for the same, please consider giving to Soulforce to ensure proper funding for their important work and programs. Donate today!