Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thank you, Sarah Silverman. Please listen, President Obama.

We were all pretty shaken up by the suicide of Tyler Clementi last month. Many of us out in the world, away from the uncivilized behavior of dorm rooms and teenage callousness, forget the kind of hell that our gay younglings go through. I was reminded of it when I spoke to my campus Gay/Straight Alliance about two weeks after Clementi took his life. I was on a panel for Coming Out Week. The room was filled with young people who did not seem all that surprised by Clementi's despair. They seemed familiar with vicious treatment. This is why I was so impressed and grateful to hear "Sarah Silverman's "Message to America on Gay Suicide." With just a few words, Ms. Silverman made it all too clear why America's gay youth are harassed:
"Dear America,
When you tell gay Americans that they can't serve their country openly or marry the person that they love, you're telling that to kids, too. So don't be fucking shocked and wondering where all these bullies are coming from that are torturing young kids and driving them to kill themselves because they're different. They learned it from watching you."

Sarah Silverman's compelling message about discrimination was made all the more chilling just a few weeks later when President Obama chose to fight the court ruling that threw out Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Even though President Obama has claimed to oppose the anti-gay military policy, he is choosing to fight for it to remain in place. He says the better place to dispose of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is in the courts—even though the Pentagon seems happy to suspend its enforcement and even though more than half the country opposes the policy (according to the latest Pew Research poll). One of my in-laws is a decorated Army officer who has served in Iraq. He is straight and says he does not care if gays serve openly. "A soldier's a soldier," he says.

Perhaps an even better argument against President Obama's resistance to overturning DADT can be found in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail" Dr. King criticizes those who cry "wait" to Americans seeking swift action against unjust laws. Dr. King's greatest disappointment is in those who should know better. "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

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