Monday, December 20, 2010

From Hero to Coward: The Long, Sad Fall of the Maverick

I'm still a bit moist after this weekend's amazing vote by congress to repeal the Clinton travesty, Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Really though, I'm trying to savor every moment because this is one of the biggest advances for gay rights in my lifetime. When I was a gay teen, it was beyond my wildest dreams that I would have a lifetime partner, much less marry him. Being an "out" gay man in a professional setting would never happen and having the military become a place for lesbians and gay men to serve openly was unthinkable. It's sometimes hard, I think, even for my most loving and supportive straight friends and family to understand that hope just wasn't allowed then. Fear was the emotion I was most familiar with, constantly waiting to be exposed, humiliated, beaten or killed. I couldn't allow myself to wish for things to be better because I was too busy worrying about what could go wrong. Although I hear that some African Americans are insulted by the comparison to their struggles, I know about the pain of waiting for the day that good people wake up and realize that fear has kept them in denial about the ways that status and privilege can directly harm those without it. So, today, I celebrate the long journey that my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have taken, both the living and the dead, to get us to a place of celebration and true hope. And yet, I cannot fully celebrate because there are people who still are afraid and are still fighting for exclusion and discrimination. Yes, I know there will always be idiots on the "far right" like that jerk who runs the Focus on the Family who will fight gay rights forever because it raises money and makes them feel superior. What I feel most puzzled about though is the way that John McCain has fought the repeal of DADT every step of the way. There was a time that I respected McCain because he at times chose to talk back to the Republican establishment, especially when reason called for it. Sure, he was a member of the "Keating Five" in the 80's, investigated for peddling political influence, but he was largely successful in promoting himself as a man of reason, principle and heroism, for his status as a prisoner of war during Vietnam. I've been fooled before however, by the public profiles that we've come to accept as true about celebrities and politicians. In McCain's case however, I honestly believed that what he went through in the war might have made him a true patriot and defender of American values. Once you have faced death, I imagine in my own little fantasy world, you would decide what's important to you and stand by it. Over the years however, I've watched McCain waffle, vascilate and just plain give in to the pressure from the right wing of his party, even as they toyed with him and abused him for their own gains. The right wing spread vicious rumors about McCain during the 2000 Republican primary race in South Carolina, in order to tip the vote in favor of their darling GW. McCain took it and later jumped on board with the Bush train, despite the fact that he was defeated with lies and innuendo. I was shocked that he didn't stand up and say more. Then, while running for President, he selected a stupid, inarticulate and unqualified Sarah Palin to be his running mate, in a cold and calculated attempt to win the votes of women, because of her gender rather than for what she could do for this country. A selfish move then that still sickens me today, every time she opens her ignorant, narcissistic mouth. In Arizona, facing a tough Tea Party opponent, McCain consciously chose to move away from his reasonable positions on immigration in order to win. And now, McCain has sunk to the lowest point of all- outright homophobia and discrimination. First, he says that he wants to wait to repeal DADT until a "readiness" study has been completed so that the troops won't be affected. This despite overwhelming evidence that other countries have successfully integrated openly gay and lesbian troops with absolutely no effect on military preparedness. So, when the internal study is finally complete, and again overwhelmingly supports the repeal without significant effects, McCain still resists repeal, with no legitimate rationale. His wife and daughter understand that DADT is discrimination. The majority of Americans understand that DADT is wrong. The Federal courts have rule that it is discrimation and should be stopped. And now, the majority of both houses of congress and the President have done the right thing. The military itself says it's ready and it's time. And despite all of this, John McCain, who once served this country with valor, now has become the Strom Thurmond of his time. He's a man who has lost his moral compass and has forgotten what he was fighting for- freedom and fairness. His congressional colleagues now see him as angry, explosive and petty little man. Sadly, John McCain has shown that he is truly a coward.

How the mighty have fallen.