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Man the Barricades, Men! The Gays Are at the Gates!

By Aubrey Sarvis
The Huffington Post
April 20, 2009

Let's get behind the misguided missile that four retired flag officers fired out of the 1950s into the heart of the liberal media last week - that is, if anyone still considers the Washington Post's editorial pages liberal and if the word itself still carries any meaning except as a red flag to the know-nothings who mutter darkly about "European socialism," the gay conspiracy, black helicopters, and similar bugaboos of the far religious Right, who, as has often been pointed out, are neither religious nor right.

The missile came in the form of an op-ed column warning of the "grave harm" that will ensue if gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly in our all-volunteer military. Essentially, "in our experience," volunteers would leave in droves - 228,600 is their "conservative" estimate, an estimate derived from extremely dubious sources including, I would say, their own experience. The armed forces would be effectively crippled and America would be . . . . Would be what? Conquered by Cuba? Held hostage by Somalian pirates? Annexed by Canada?

They cite their experience. They have experience with gays in the military? But they say that, by law, "homosexuals are not eligible for military service." Ipso facto they have no experience with gays in the military - or, since they most likely did, they just didn't know it. The column was signed by two generals and two admirals, all retired. Their average age is 75.5. The youngest is 73, the oldest 79.

Ordinarily, their ages would be irrelevant, but not here. These good ole white boys are stuck in a time warp. They all went to high school when schools were still segregated by race. They entered the military when women were not allowed in the military academies and the military itself had only recently been integrated by President Truman's 1948 Executive Order. (The last all-black unit was not disbanded until 1954.) In those days the FBI was actively seeking white Catholic boys and the CIA white Protestant Yalies, or at least Ivy Leaguers. Senator Joe McCarthy was brandishing on the Senate floor lists of Communists and gays he purported to have found in the State Department, and to be dubbed either Communist or gay was to find your name on a blacklist that ended any career ambitions you might have had. As far as the military goes, being gay still does if you come out, and the Shameless Four who put their names on the Post's op-ed want to keep it that way.

Those who came of age in the 1950s weren't called the Silent Generation for nothing. The smart boys went along to get along. Don't rock the boat. Keep your nose clean and your mouth shut. Oh yes, don't sign any political petitions, either. That would be sticking your neck out. Stick your neck out and you might lose your head, figuratively speaking. Keep it where it belongs and you'll probably be promoted. I cite the ranks of the signatories as evidence.

It was a different era, and it is the era these four flag officers are not only coming from but unfortunately stuck in. Others have moved on but the anachronistic four stand firm in their belief that the strongest military in the world will collapse, utterly fall apart at the sight of gays and lesbians serving openly on shipboard or in the field. Do they think maybe gays translate differently from their straight counterparts? Perhaps they put a peculiar gay slant on their intelligence analyses? Do they think a straight soldier would turn away a gay medic trying to save his life? "No, go away, gay doc. Send me a straight medic." And when a gay soldier dies in Iraq or Afghanistan do they think he's given a special "transfer case" marked with a lavender triangle? But in their world there are no gay service members, so all of this is utter fantasy - right? No, utter nonsense.

In one sense, though, the fears of these Shameless Four are true. It will be the end of civilization as they know it, but what they don't realize is that the civilization they knew ended a long time ago. They've been living in a bubble with the other dinosaurs in a gated country club community known as Jurassic Park. It will not be the end of civilization as the majority of us who live in the real world know it. It will simply be a reflection of that world.

There have been two or three profound cultural shifts in this country since these retired officers came of age. The military they joined then is not the same military, either. Minorities compose 27 per cent of the current freshman class at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Not included in that minority figure are a few gay and lesbian midshipmen who are almost certainly there and probably known to their classmates.

Those of us who work on this issue recognize the finely manicured hand of Elaine Donnelly behind this op-ed and the warning letter to President Obama they sent out March 31, which was also signed by a thousand other retired officers of Jurassic Park. For one thing, it went out of the same L Street address that Ms. Donnelly lists as her Washington office. There is the same old language about "social engineering," unit cohesion, lack of privacy, and blah-blah-blah. (We heard all that when President Truman said he was integrating the armed forces.) That is the doom-and-disaster language Elaine Donnelly has been spouting since she founded her Center for Military Readiness in 1993, the year Don't Ask, Don't Tell passed into law. This woman is obsessed with keeping women in their places and gays out of the military that she herself has never experienced. Not so oddly, Elaine Donnelly was a protégé of anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly, mother of a gay son, who now serves on her board. Dr. Freud may be able to explain all this, but I can't.

President Obama, who is 47, grew up in a different era. The 1980s, when Mr. Obama was in his twenties, were very different from the 1950s. Presumably he won't be intimidated by this thinly veiled threat. He's faced worse, and he can recognize a dinosaur when he sees one.

By Aubrey Sarvis, SLDN Executive Director |


Comments for this entry are closed.

Tom Carpenter in Los Angeles on April 27, 2009 at 07.45 am

Mr. Pietrangelo: As I expected,rather than addressing the substance of either my post or the article itself you resort to personal attacks and insults. Reom your past performance, I know you just have to have the last word.

James E. Pietrangelo, II in Cleveland, OH on April 24, 2009 at 09.25 am

Mr. Carpenter:  Please grow up.  Each post of yours is more childish, more ludicrous, and more pathetic than your last.  Your latest post is so ridiculous as to defy all belief.  First of all, your beginning presumption has no rational basis.  Ronald Reagan is not my hero.  As for your argument that there is no political bias in the piece, try reading the first sentence of the piece where Mr. Sarvis bashes the “far Right.”  No mention of the “far Left.”  Clearly political.  Your excuses for the piece’s reference to the race of the authors also obviously falls flat.  Just because your Southern family was racist and just because there were “good ole boys” who supported segregation of blacks, does not allow you or Mr. Sarvis to equate being white with being racist, or to assume that the authors support racism simply because they are white, or to bring their race into the issue at all.  There are plenty of black racists in this world too.  Finally, it cannot be denied that Obama is a bigot, if bigotry is defined by support for discrimination.  Obama indisputably opposes Gay marriage, and—despite his rhetoric to the contrary—has done nothing to end DADT. As for Obama’s Gays in high places, I’ve heard many white racists say they have alot of black friends….YOU should spend YOUR TIME growing up.

Tom Carpenter in Los Angeles on April 23, 2009 at 09.08 am

Mr. Pietriangelo: To quote someone who I presume is a hero of yours, “There you go again!” Unlike the partisan comment I just made, where is Mr. Sarvis showing any political bias in this piece? He is merely pointing out the mindset of these septuagenarians who are clearly out of touch with the reality of the 21st century armed services. I don’t know the political affiliation of these writers, perhaps you do and that is why you think Mr Sarvis is being partisan. Your contention that Mr. Sarvis remarks are discriminatory really is beyond the pale. He and I were brought up in the South and grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. We knew “good ole white boys” and, sadly, in my case, some of them were my family members. They were the same folks who voted for the Dixiecrats and gave us “separate but equal.” It is that mindset that stands in the way of our progress. These four officers represent that era and want to cling to the past, just like the segregationists did. Your most outrageous contention is that our President is a bigot. Can you explain why he has so many gays in high level positions on his staff? Perhaps I missed it, but has the President repudiated his promise to do away with DADT?
I suggest you spend your valuable time more productively, attacking the law rather than Mr. Sarvis, by writing letters to the editors of various newspapers around the country at

James E. Pietrangelo, II in Cleveland, OH on April 20, 2009 at 12.56 pm

Dear Mike: I suppose and suggest we do what you have just suggested we do and what I have continuously on this blog suggested we do: mobilize, but maintain our own innocence in doing so.  We should engage the political process but not do so in a “political” or partisan manner.  MLK Jr. marched and condemned racism, but he did not call supporters of segregation “whitey” or “cracker,” etc.  We don’t need to call supporters of DADT “good ole white boys” to condemn DADT.  Our susbtantive arguments against DADT are forceful enough on their own.  Moreover, those op-ed authors (and Donnelly for that matter) cannot end DADT, but President Obama can.  He can issue an executive order neutralizing DADT until he can push a repeal through Congress.  We should be holding HIS feet to the fire.  Don’t you find it disgraceful that President Obama has spent more time on his new dog than he has on getting equality for thirty million Americans, and yet Mr. Sarvis has said nothing critical of the President?

Mike Gorman in Lodi, Ca on April 20, 2009 at 12.19 pm

Dear James, what would you suppose we do then?  I myself would like to pie Elaine Donelly because she’s this era’s Anita Bryant.  Civil rights and politics unfortunately ARE going hand in hand.  My state voted against the right to marry.  Politics are involved in social strctures probably for the forseeable future.  I would suggest you do what I’m doing and get the area’s angry fags together and convince your congress person to co sign the Enhancment of Military Readiness Act.

James E. Pietrangelo, II in Cleveland, OH on April 20, 2009 at 10.29 am

As I said before, there is absolutely no room for politics in a civil-rights blog or movement, and Mr. Sarvis does the Gay-rights movement a disservice by his partisan, and, quite frankly, discriminatory, remarks.  In trying to condemn the bigoted arguments of the op-ed writers, Mr. Sarvis himself glaringly stereotypes, saying that the officers are “good ole white boys” and “of the far religious Right, who…are neither religious nor right.”  What does the officers’ skin color or religion or political stance have to do with the issue of Gay rights?  Nothing.  And since when did Mr. Sarvis become the judge of right and wrong? He didn’t.  There are certainly as many far-left, non-religious bigots, black and white, who oppose Gay equality.  One of them is in the White House: Barack Obama.  Yet Mr. Sarvis says nothing of them, even as Barack Obama makes a fool out of Mr. Sarvis by breaking his promise to end DADT.  Bigotry knows no skin color, religion, politics, etc., and thus we should attack bigotry itself, not irrelevant characteristics.