DADT and Nonviolence
This week, in the Bay Area Reporter, a San Francisco Bay Gay Newspaper, and article I co-wrote appeared, offering a different look at some of the issues in DADT. While this is not a position supported by Soulforce, I believe it is something worthwhile in considering. Kara
Copyright © 2006 Bay Area Reporter, a division of Benro Enterprises, Inc.
Don't serve, don't promote
by Kara Speltz and Eugene McMullan
While all of us oppose the discriminatory policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," as people who take seriously the biblical injunction against killing (Ex 20:13; Deut 5:17) we are concerned about the lack of conversation in our community regarding the morality of military service. We recall that during the Vietnam era, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. held that no one should join the armed forces while our nation was involved in an immoral and illegal war. In our view, the United States is presently mired in two unjust wars. Thus, no person of conscience should elect to serve in the U.S. military at this time.
Earlier this month we commemorated a horrific event – the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 65 years ago. Our country, the United States, is the only country in the world to have launched a nuclear attack on another country, resulting in a "butchery of untold magnitude" (Pope Paul VI). Despite President Barack Obama's achievements, in our own day we continue to finance nuclear weapons research, and continue to maintain a ready stockpile of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The "defensive" capabilities of the U.S. military are all out of proportion to those of other nations. The awesome size, technological advancement, and firepower alone should make us question whether a decision to serve in the U.S. military could ever be justified.
Militaries exist for a legitimate purpose of self-defense. But the U.S. military is rarely used for that purpose. It is rather used to project power, secure U.S. interests, eliminate perceived threats to "the American way of life," and kill "terrorists." Dominating the globe, the U.S. military secures an unfair advantage for the U.S. in economics, politics, security, and culture. We are thus feared and resented the world over. Some believe that the U.S. is, of God, an "exceptional" nation. In our view, that is a self-serving myth. No nation is above the law, and no nation is exempt from just war criteria, and other obligations that derive from considerations of the universal common good (Pacem in Terris, 132).
Well in advance of the war in Iraq, the U.S. bishops warned that in the absence of "clear and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature," a war would be unjust, and likely impose "terrible new burdens ... on an already long-suffering civilian population." To date, thousands of civilians have been killed in Afghanistan, and more than a hundred thousand in Iraq. Countless others languish due to collapse of infrastructure, disease, starvation, and displacement. This should not be. Every life matters, and matters the same. The life of an Afghani child is just as valuable as that of an American soldier. Serving in these wars would be immoral, as would serving in the military of the country that has undertaken these wars.
Several years ago Soulforce dealt with these issues in connection with its Right to Serve campaign, which was discontinued. We respect our soldiers, and understand that they often elect military service for altruistic reasons, and/or to gain access to steady employment, health care, and educational benefits. They know not what they do. We have collectively failed them, allowing our government to saturate our culture with positive images of military service, while the awful realities and moral issues of war are swept under the rug. Who hasn't been appalled by the seductive military recruitment pre-show music videos that have played so long in our theaters? Patriotic feelings, which are natural and good, are being manipulated to lure our brightest and best into the service of evil. Make no mistake about it – the taking of innocent life is evil.
The true vocation of every person is peace. That peace comes from God, and passes understanding. It is a grace that changes us from the inside out. It "draws us into God, quieting our anxieties, challenging our old values and deepening wells of new energy. It arouses in us a compassionate love for all humanity." (U.S. bishops, 1993) This love engenders "peaceable virtues, a practical vision of a peaceful world and an ethics to guide peacemakers in times of conflict." These ideals are common to all of the world's religious traditions.
LGBT equality is an important social justice issue. But, at the same time we need to ask ourselves whether we believe that our equality in any way justifies the actions of the U.S. military. Are we equal to the shedding of innocent blood? The suicide rate among active-duty military and returning veterans is at an all-time high. Is that the kind of equality we want for our LGBT community? Or, can we, as a community, keep our eyes on the prize of peace and justice for all? So the next time someone asks you to jump on the bandwagon to repeal DADT, ask yourself these questions. Don't just automatically stamp it as a good cause because of anticipated gains for the LGBT community.
Kara Speltz (Kara4peace@aol.com) and Eugene McMullan (firstname.lastname@example.org) are the co-editors of Communion, the monthly newsletter of Catholics for Marriage Equality in California. Speltz is also on the staff of Soulforce.