Friday, May 28, 2010

Don't ask, don't tell, but do yell at your television sets

Scientists have provided no conclusion to the controversial and often contentious debate between nature and nurture. Therefore, it is impossible to determine whether it was during the nine months in my mother's womb, or the many years afterward in my parents' house, that I developed one of my most defining characteristics: My tendency to talk to inanimate objects.

Yes, I am one of Those People. The evidence clearly points to genetics, as I appear to have inherited this trait from my mother. My earliest childhood memories consist of my mother talking to other cars on the road, instructing them to move in certain directions or chiding them for being parked incorrectly. It took many years to realize that my mother was not actually addressing these objects; she was using irony to point out idiocy, stupidity, and foolishness. "So nice of you to take up two spots," was not a compliment for the Porsche straddling the line in the crowded lot behind Waitrose. It was my mother's way of expressing anger at someone who wasn't present. And it was healthier than taking that switchblade out of her purse and slashing the tires.

Today, I find myself talking most often to the television set. And I talk to television set most often when an ad for the military comes on. And, these days, the talk has turned from grumbling to full-on yelling.

In the past, military ads said pretty much the same thing: be all you can be and slay a dragon and make everyone proud and did we forget to mention the giant computer-generated dragon? These ads were irritating, because they did not mention that the military explicitly did not want certain people to be all they can be: gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people. Under the ill-conceived Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy, gay men and lesbians could serve in the military as long as they kept their mouths shut. "You need an asterisk," I'd shout at the teevee. "Tell people you're not an equal opportunity employer! Admit you kick service members out if they use the wrong pronoun to describe a date!"

In recent years, my shouting has become more brazen. I started yelling these things in movie theaters when military ads run. (Although I am just as likely to loudly question the National Guard ad that says the National Guard is older than the nation itself, and features a rock star and race car driver that have never served in the military.) I particularly like to shout "The few, the proud, the discriminatory," when the ridiculously cartoony Marines ad runs. Of course, I am something of a coward and will not open my mouth in the theater unless I am absolutely certain no one will know it's me doing the shouting.

Recently, military ads have changed. Instead of focusing on individual glory, they seem to promote skills training and career opportunities. In fact, one series of ads positions a branch of the military as an exclusive executive training school, showing recruits both in class and performing battlefield exercises. Another series of ads features former service members testifying about the experience and training they received in the military, which they wouldn't have received anywhere else.

This new breed of military ads inflames me more than the older ads. I yell at the teevee with unbridled rage. "My taxpayer dollars are funding that on-the-job training! Say that those career opportunities are limited if you are gay or lesbian!"

I will shout until I am red in the face, or until a less irritating ad begins. "Run an ad showing the thousands of people whose careers were cut short by DADT! Show us who is not getting those valuable job skills now because of they were hounded by a terrible policy and told the truth!"

I often use saltier language than this, by the way. My mother would wash my mouth out with soap if she heard me. She once washed my mouth out with liquid dishwashing soap because we were out of bar soap. So I do not want to admit the kinds of horrible filthy fucking things I yell at the teevee.

It appears that a repeal of DADT is in the cards, but success is far from certain. Congress took important steps toward repeal yesterday, but there are still plenty of representatives and senators would like to see the current policy stand — or even replaced with something more draconian.

Change is coming. It is inevitable. I hope it comes sooner than later, for the sake of our service members and all those who look to the military for the invaluable training, skills, and career opportunities to improve and define their lives.

And I hope change comes soon for my sake. While I shall never stop talking to the teevee, I'd rather root for military ads than against them. There are plenty of other things on teevee — and objects in the world — that need my critical attention right now. That is, after all, how I was raised. And it's in my nature. Right, mom?

Posted via email from The Daily Dave 3.0

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