Being Forced to Lie
February 3, 2010
“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”
—Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 2, 2010
I could never escape it, either, Admiral Mullen, and if we can’t, just imagine the predicament of the soldiers forced to lie.
From the time we are small children, we are told that lying is a bad thing. Some of us are told it is a sin; all of us are told not to do it.
As we grow older, we learn about “little white lies”—the lies grown-ups tell in public to save face. We are told that such lies are acceptable, but always still reminded that lying, in general, is a bad thing.
Imagine, after being raised with those lessons, joining the military as a gay American and being told, “We won’t ask, and you just make sure you don’t tell, okay?” That sounds like a perverse game somebody would play with a young child in order to get them into a compromising situation: “Just don’t tell Mommy what we’re doing.” And what the gay American soldier is doing is living his or her life! But, don’t do that while you’re here, okay?
The underlying message that the gay person’s life is trivial enough to be shoved under a rug would make treason justifiable. But instead of rebelling, gay soldiers have earned medals and promotions and served honorably, only to have that rug pulled out and shaken, thereby disrupting their lives and careers for no good reason at all.
The fact that Admiral Mullen, who works with soldiers and knows a great deal about how they interact, can see that being forced to lie is a problem gives me hope that gay rights will be coming soon to the United States.
Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would be a public admission that being gay has nothing to do with being capable of defending your country. That will place us closer to admitting that being gay has nothing to do with declaring your commitment to another person in what we call marriage.
We need more people like Admiral Mullen, people thoughtful enough to see that this is an issue we cannot escape.
And we need more stories from the ones who were forced to lie, to help the rest of us reach that point of no escape. See Senate candidate Kirsten Gillibrand’s site if you have a story to tell about “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell.”