Here are some comments I made recently to support setting up a Facebook ad campaign soon for my books. I’ll have more details probably during the week of June 20.
Before going further, a new video:
First, understand that there are three books.
“Do Ask, Do Tell: A Gay Conservative Lashes Back” was first published on July 11, 1997 (registered that day with the Copyright Office) with a print run of about 400 copies under my own imprint called “High Productivity Publishing”. It did sell reasonably well in the first 18 months or (including to some bookstores) and I ran out of the printing by early 2000. I gave two lectures on the book, one at Hamline University (St. Paul, MN) on Feb. 25, 2998, and another one at the University of Minnesota in March 1999.
In the summer of 2000, I entered into a POD arrangement with iUniverse, and I believe the book became available from iUniverse in Aug. 2000.
The book is known largely for presenting a detailed argument regarding the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gays in the military, which had come into being at the end of 1993 under President Bill Clinton, when codified into law in December 1993 by the Defense Authorization Act. The book is organized largely as a “memoir”, and I’ll explain my connection to it below.
The second book is “Do Ask, Do Tell: When Liberty Is Stressed” which iUniverse published POD at the end of 2002. This book is a set of ten essays on personal liberty topics, the longest of which deals with 9/11. Another essay deals with the 1998 Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which should not be confused with COPPA (which became controversial at YouTube at the end of 2019).
The third book is “Do Ask, Do Tell: Speech Is a Fundamental Right; Being Listened to Is a Privilege”, published POD by Xlibris (also Author Solutions) in late February 2014. The book comprises two parts, “Non-Fiction” (seven more essays to keep up with various topics), and “Fiction” (three items: a narrative of my experience in Army Basic training in 1968; then two stories set in 1972 and then the near future intended to run in parallel as “Two Road Trips”, and I have developed a screenplay treatment as to how this could be filmed (was not part of pitchfest). In this book, in Chapter 2 (non-fiction), on pp. 58-59 the (2010-2011) repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is discussed, as is the 2003 SCOTUS opinion Lawrence v. Texas on sodomy laws. The publication precedes the June 2015 opinion on gay marriage, as well as the more recent culture wars now focused more on gender identity than on sexual orientation in the more customary sense of the past.
As a note, the DADT policy should not be confused with Trump’s attempt to ban most transgender people from the military (as announced in 2017) and Biden’s repeal of Trump’s orders.
Let me focus again on the first (largest) book.
My argument is based on the idea of an individual living under the rule of law but who has values or apparent character traits that seem at odds with many social norms. I ask, how far do we want to go with the meritocratic idea of absolute personal responsibility (within libertarianism)? The more current trend is for someone in “my shoes” to claim they belong to a “marginalized group” and deal with this in terms of the political or social power of various (“intersected”) groups My presentation puts all the load on the individual person, as the only center of gravity. I will be responsible for handling all my issues, regardless of any intersectional groups I might belong to. It’s still up to me.
The historical ban on gays in the military and the compromise DADT policy was based on the idea that the presence of (usually) homosexual men in close quarters with other (straight) men (this would apply to women and was less common) would make straight men uncomfortable and make them feel that their privacy (whatever that can mean in the military) was violated – and therefore interfere with “unit cohesion” and damage the military mission. Surely during past wars, we all know that when actual combat occurred, no one really cared much about this, and sometimes this idea could be turned around by men wanting to avoid military service whenever there was a (male-only) draft. Of course, experience since 2010 (DADT repeal) reinforces the idea that there seems to be very little trouble in practice.
We do not have an active draft now, but we still have male-only Selective Service registration (with transgender, it is by given sex at birth). Congress may well take up this issue. For me, the importance of the issue centers around the idea that, as a general moral matter, individual citizens (sometimes based on gender) still may be called upon to take existential risks with their own personal “agency” and lives for the long-term demands of a greater good for all their superordinate communities. The most obvious example (internationally) in recent current events is that all men 18-60 were suddenly required to stay behind in Ukraine (as of late Feb. 2022) to fight the invading Russians (even though many of these men had no experience with weapons or the military).
So, we come back to how we think about morality, and the “philosophical beliefs” people have and how they change with time and especially external challenges. The fact that people’s “philosophical beliefs” get challenged by unpredictable events generates the character arcs and story circles of most good films (like what I hope I proposed in the recent Pitchfest). As individuals, when we go through the tween, teen and early adulthood years, we may have started with the idea that morality is a matter of “don’ts”: particularly, don’t create a baby you will not be able to support (and when not married). But morality seems bidirectional, as it is also a matter of “do’s” (you could say the “Ten Commandments” expresses both sides). Generally, in the past (but less so in the past three decades or so) young people grew up with the idea that participation in providing a new generation is an intrinsic moral expectation of everyone. The past bans on homosexuality had a “don’t side” to be sure (which in the 80s got tied to public health with the AIDS crisis), but also seemed to be related to the idea that homosexuals were walking out on the responsibility to provide for future generations, which could come back to haunt them with eldercare in the future. More current ideas of morality seem to focus on inequities at the group level, particularly having to do with biological “traits”, whether superficial (race), or some aspects of gender (definitely biological) that people may be born with. Group level morality leads us to “critical theory” (both race and now gender).
The issue of gays in the military could logically have been connected to security clearances for all LGBTQ persons, including civilian employees of government and contractors. In fact, during the immediate post WWII period gays were considered security risks because of “mental illness”, which got reinforced by an executive order in 1953 demanding exclusion of gays from all federal civilian employment. It slowly got better in the mid 1960s with the Civil Rights movement, until after Stonewall in 1969. The exclusion seemed trumped up in association with McCarthyism, but one major reason may have been that it seemed like a good racket for the psychiatric profession to run, until 1973 when the APA dropped its designation. (Another reason had been self-sustaining circular thinking surround fear of “blackmail”). Nevertheless, psychiatrists ran around in circles over whether homosexuality was a developmental or character disorder, sometimes associated with dyspraxia in young men. The biological science would not get well developed until perhaps the 90s.
There are practical economic issues that and correlated to the DADT debate. For lower income people (including minorities) the military may present an outsized employment opportunity. More significant is the growing expense, in the middle class, of raising kids. Until much more recently, gay men (if of professional income, like in tech) were much more likely to live alone or in small households, not have responsibility for children, and need less housing and not need to take on as much (if any) debt, a kind of perverse side to the gay marriage debate of the past. People are having fewer children now because they can’t afford them. (Ironically, in a kind of moral twist from the history of HIV, many gay men were much less exposed to the risks of COVID early in the pandemic if they lived in smaller households, as there was relatively little in their communities. It’s even conceivable that some PrEP medications may have had a coincidental deterrent effect on the coronavirus, a possibility worth exploring in developing and approving more medications)
Other incidental issues could incidentally “stigmatize” gay men, such as the ban on blood donations, as when a workplace blood drive comes around.
So, the discussion of DADT leads to discussion of many correlated issues, in what you could say is an exercise in “connecting the dots”, which could become another acronym.
Over history, most people have lived in tribal or extended family structures, which would tend to be concerned about their long-term survivals. This would extend to entire ethnicities or religious groups or to even nations. Generally, moral systems would require individuals to allocate some sacrifice, even of assets related to their own personal agency, for the well-being of the group. This might involve, for example, contributing to the support of other parents’ children in the family if they could not have their own. Homosexuality, especially among men and especially when connected to the military, seemed to challenge these tribal expectations in some unique ways.
The sharing of substantial sacrifices for others in a larger society occurs with novel issues, as we experienced with COVID (the lockdown issue). In a severe enough future pandemic, the militarism of ordinary citizens (as with hygiene) could be quite extreme (as China gives a hint). And the idea of giving things up could arrive in the future with climate change abatement, and it may with some people with respect to gun control.
My own history relates to the issues. Chapter 1 of the first DADT book describes how I was expelled from William and Mary as a freshman over Thanksgiving in 1961, with background details of the incident bizarre and unexplained, to say the least. But part of the explanation might be, simply having a suspected “homosexual” in a (crowded) men’s dormitory is like having a girl in there (or vice versa). Another possibility is that knowing that someone in your (male) dorm (maybe a roommate) harbors opinions about your own sexual attractiveness as a male could undermine your own personal self-confidence soon in life as you start to court women and plan to marry and start a family. This sounds parallel to the arguments that those advanced to oppose lifting the ban in gays in the military, three-plus decades later.
My own narrative continues to parallel the large issue. I would spend some time as an inpatient at NIG in 1962, where a form of mild conversion therapy was attempted – to make me more willing to accept the idea of dating and forming a family within my own limitations. In grad school, I taught math, and was in a position to give grade which could cause male students to wind up being drafted if they flunked (which with math turns out to be likely). My experience in the Army, where in Basic Training I wound up in “Special Training Company” for a few weeks in the spring of 1968 (the time of Martin Luther King’s assassination) was certainly provocative.
Later on, when I started working, I would “come out” a second time, leading into the period a decade later when the community was hit by AIDS; and I, in a pre-Internet time, tried to become a voice of caution and realism in the face of a very polarized political response in Texas, where I was living then.
It would then surprise me that ‘gays in the military’ would come up as an issue so quickly. The Persian Gulf War in 1991 set the stage, and in 1992 some men who were on active duty started coming out in the media. After I read particularly Joe Steffan’s book “Honor Bound” (related to his 1987 expulsion from the Naval Academy just before graduation) I talked to the liberal minister (Dr. Goodwin) at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, who had contacts with President Clinton in the White House, in the spring of 1993. To make things more complicated personally, I had started, in 1990, working for an insurance company that specialized in selling life insurance to military officers, although in a technical (computer programming) nonpublic way. Nevertheless, after I announced the book, I transferred to another part of the company in Minneapolis when it got bought, right after publication in 1997.
So, my own life became a series of episodes (analogous to “story circles”) where each step gets something and costs something.
But my involvement in self-publishing, especially online, drew me into all the controversies associated with “freedom of reach” (to borrow a term coined by CNN’s Brian Stelter). These include various efforts at censorship (I was involved in the litigation against COPA which ended in 2007), and the various laws to shield social media companies and hosting companies from downstream liability for user-generated content (Section 230, and DMCA Safe Harbor for copyright torts). The ease with which user-posted content can be found around the world was starting to produce sporadic controversies in the earliest years of the Internet, and indeed this particular aspect of user content was obviously making DADT impossible to enforce well before 2010. I found myself in the odd position of commenting publicly on many issues when I no longer had personal “skin in the game” but had the resources to self-publish. (Inheritance after mother’s death at the end of 2010 figured into this.) I have never done well socially when it is important to bond emotionally to others in a group with “solidarity”. You can see how this could be seen as creating an ethical problem. Yet it wasn’t until about 2014 that the “algorithmic” business model of social media companies (that sold the end user as a product whose information is “sold” to customer advertisers) began to feed the social and political polarization (and even cancel culture) that we see today. This started to happen right after the publication of the third book (early 2014). But algorithms aren’t the only source of trouble. I can see how “extreme capitalism” and the hyperindividualism (or absolute meritocracy) that I espoused even in the Introduction of my first book, which seems at first to promise libertarianism, can eventually feed fascism (as we saw with Trump, Jan. 6, etc.). The problem is that without more social cohesion, many individuals (sometimes but not always belonging to marginalized groups) simply fall too far behind, when one mistake can destroy them, and they snap (and feeds into the gun crisis – and I haven’t talked about the Second Amendment much my writings as much as the First, but I do understand the dilemma).
So, Fourth, the real philosophical conflict in people (including me):
There seems to be a problem with personal liberty where it swallows itself. People sometimes find a false liberty in knowing that others will be held to the same standards of purity that they think have been expected of them (to function in family creation and sustenance). There seems to be a problem with idolizing others and then not being open to really being needed by others – when this is widespread, we all tend to migrate toward authoritarianism, as if we always had a craving for it. But there is also a problem with being open to allowing others to bond with you when they claim the basis for their personal identity is group oppression.
Indeed, it is very striking to me, I don’t seem to have ever had the emotional bonds for people in a close-knit family or tribe that others have. Everyone has to keep some distance (usually).
Here are a few films that have dealt with gays in the military
“The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (2011), directed by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, HBO Documentary. (Recovered review).
The next three films are reviewed currently on doaskdotell.com, but reviews will be removed soon, may be reposted.
“Soldier’s Girl” (2003), directed by Frank Pierson, Showtime
“Any Mother’s Son” (1997), directed by David Burton Morris, Lifetime
“Serving in Silence: The Magaret Cammermeyer Story”, directed by Jeff Blecker, with Glenn Close, Sony Pictures television.
(Posted: Friday, June 10, 2022 at 10 AM EDT by John W Boushka)