Letters to the Editor

Letters from February 14, 2001

Don't Ask, Don't Tell ...

... And don't hold your breath: As a gay Navy veteran who had the misfortune to serve under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," I think it is naive to think that any research done by a private think tank, no matter how objectively that research is conducted, will sway the military from their hard-line position on gay men and lesbians serving openly in their ranks ("Asking, Telling," Jan. 31). As you reported, the Pentagon's own studies have already concluded that gay service members do not undermine cohesion and morale or negatively affect combat readiness. Despite this overwhelming evidence, the armed forces have yet to be moved.

Perhaps what gay and lesbian service members need is a president with the moral courage to order the generals to stop discriminating. Recall that President Truman integrated the armed forces despite fierce opposition from military leaders and the public. Clinton was bowed down with such intense political pressure that it overcame any inclination he had to do the right thing. What makes anyone think an-other president would face different circumstances?

Perhaps what gay and lesbian service members need are gay rights organizations to give a damn about them. There are only three words I can think of to respond to the assertion by the Human Rights Campaign that it will commit to gay military issues "at the strategically appropriate time": Shame. Shame. Shame. Just how much time does the HRC need? The policy has been in place for over seven years! It has already destroyed thousands of lives and careers.

Gay men and women, and those perceived to be gay, who put their lives on the line to serve this country are treated like criminals every single day. Very few Americans, queer or straight, Democrat or Republican, dove or hawk, seem to care. The day academic research overcomes such unmitigated apathy, I'll walk down Castro wearing nothing but a sailor hat.

Laura Stratton
Oakland

End the military. Yeah, that's doable: I fall on the radical side of the issue and don't agree with the stance that we focus too little on this issue (queers in the military) when pushing our "queer rights movement." In fact, it sickens me that the most vehemently supported issues are same-sex marriage, hate crimes legislation, and gays in the military. When our "community" is wrought with racism, sexism, gender bias, classism, ableism, etc., it is crucial that we take a step back and focus on breaking down these systems of oppression within our movement, before we can begin to focus on fighting the conservative right.

I stand with the folks who want to throw the military issue off the table. The military is such an oppressive structure and economic torturous killing machine that my idealism pushes me to want to tear it down, not find ways to make it more bearable to other queer folks.

Joe Ereñeta
Oakland
Thank you for a superior letter:Thank you for a superior article! Those of us who are gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender veterans appreciate your on-target, articulate, important presentation.

Bud Robbins
Bernal Heights

Raising a red flag: Having lived in San Francisco for over 30 years, I thought I was shockproof. However, I was quite taken aback at your cover, the one that shows the famous photograph of U.S. Marines raising the -- rainbow? -- flag on Iwo Jima. Come on, guys! Did you have to do that? My father was a captain in the Marine Corps. He was not on Iwo Jima, but he died in the Pacific war. He was 34 years old. I was 3 1/2 and never knew him.

I am 59 now and still have the flag that was on my dad's casket. I can assure you it was not a rainbow flag! If you want to fly the rainbow flag that is your right (it is part of living in a free country). But please refrain from insulting our veterans, living or dead.

David McLaughlin
Lower Nob Hill

Power Politics

Grave-spinning -- a new energy source?: In his Jan. 31 column ("Don't Let Them Turn Out the Lights"), Matt Smith exhorts consumers to demand a "real system of consumer choice" that would deliver "the promise of the original electricity deregulation discussion." To inspire us, he invokes past California titans like Hiram Johnson and Pat Brown.

This was great fun to read (an area where Smith never disappoints), but also icon abuse. Governors Johnson and Brown were master builders -- architects of the massive public investments, and strong government regulation, that helped build California's prosperity. Both men are spinning in their graves as they watch today's generation of pygmy politicians unravel their best work. Indeed, the wrecking crews now occupying Sacramento and Washington are busy rolling back all the 20th century's progress, through follies like energy deregulation and Social Security privatization.

So I'll pass on "real" deregulation, thanks -- the surreal variety has already driven up my electric rates quite enough. The only viable way out of the power meltdown is for government to acquire as much as possible of the power infrastructure (bankruptcy risks mean low asset prices), then make sure that whatever's left in conniving private hands is subject to regulation with real teeth.

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