I’m posting twice today, Gentle Readers, because I just can’t stand it.
I was reading the Language Log this evening, where I was directed to a NY Times Op-Ed. piece written by Stephen Benjamin, a (now former) translator for the U.S. Navy. Go ahead and read; it’s not long. I’ll wait….
You’re back? Great. Can you explain to me, please, what possible wisdom could be credited for firing this valuable man from his critical job? How does his sexuality have any bearing whatsoever on his skills as a translator? How is his sexuality anyone’s business but his own?
If he’s being honest about the circumstances that led to his dismissal – that the messages to and from his former roommate “had included references to [their] social lives — comments that were otherwise unremarkable, except that they indicated [they] were both gay” – how can the military justify dismissing him? He didn’t threaten anyone. He wasn’t explicit or hateful. He may not even have actually used the word “gay,” the military simply took it upon itself to relieve these men of duty.
I understand the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I understand that the military can set up whatever rules it sees fit (though I don’t agree with that – I think that it should be held to the same standards of tolerance that the government expects of everyone else). The thing is, though? The military didn’t ask, and Mr. Benjamin didn’t tell. They Navy figured out Benjamin’s status by reading his IM messages. Essentially, they overheard the information and are taking actions based on that.
Granted, Benjamin and his old roommate probably shouldn’t have used the military’s IM system, but I’m not sure they had any other communication option. The fact that the heterosexual IM offenders aren’t facing dismissal sends me over the edge – that the military is willing to allow straight people to behave abominably but can’t bear to have gay people talk about going out to dinner is just a little more than I can stand.
We’re losing this war, make no mistake about it. People who are fluent in the languages spoken in the hot zones are vital to what little safety our troops could hope to have while they do their jobs. Those fluent people are at a premium as it is; is the military really so stupid and arrogant to think that it can do the work it has to do – and do it well – while continuing to dismiss highly qualified people for utterly stupid reasons?