Friday, October 22, 2010

The continued quest for inclusion

You just watch in open mouthed astonishment yesterday evening. I'm referring to the network news. Let's start with CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.

Katie Couric: An update on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It is the law once again after a federal appeals court put a temporary hold on a judge's order that struck it down. So for now, gays are again barred from serving openly in the military. But today Defense Secretary Robert Gates put out new guidelines that will make it tougher to discharge gays who violate Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

That was the complete 'report.' A good thing, as Katie informed at the top of the show, that this broadcast featured less commercials to provide more news because otherwise there wouldn't have been time for the news. What the federal appeals court did was not to consider Judge Virginia Phillips' decision that Don't Ask, Don't Tell was unconstitutional, they tossed aside her injunction barring any discharges during the appeals process. That's a distinction that's not really being made. As for Robert Gates, I swear I'm getting tired of this nonsense. In the snapshot today, we'll go into what Gates was supposed to do and wonder, "Did he finally do it?" A question that the news outlets should be asking -- should have already been asking -- but apparently lay offs have not allowed them to pay attention.

While Katie and company gave more time to the 'breaking news' of teen drivers (one had problems backing her cup out of a parking space) than to Don't Ask, Don't Tell, they did give it a few seconds. That's more than you can say for her competitors. ABC World News with Diane Sawyer had time for such IT-CHANGED-MY-LIFE! "news" as a man teaching a dog 'to pray' but not for Don't Ask, Don't Tell. NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams didn't have time either and I'm sure they had mindless fluff as well but Williams tends to tailor all the stories so they move seamlessly.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell will not survive another 17 years. It will be gone before then. And this struggle for equality is an important story. When people look back they need to take note of how the networks covered the issue. This is a major story that impacts how we see ourselves, how we see our country -- "we" is all of us. This is not a "gay only story." This is an American story and another chapter in the continuing saga of the struggle for inclusion and full equality. But it's treated as a minor issue -- one that you can cover only when nothing else is going on -- by the network evening news.

As well as being part of the larger history of American inclusion struggles, it's also the story of individuals who are punished for who they love or who they're suspected of loving. In Denver, Hendrik Sybrandy (KWGN -- link has text and video) reports on Luiza Fritz, a sergeant discharged from the army for being gay -- and not only was she thrown out of the army due to her sexuality, the army's billing her $15,000 -- a portion of her signing bonus. Or take Sara Story's KLTV (text and video) report from Tyler, Texas on Troy Carlyle who was also kicked out of the service and became "the first person to be court-martialed under Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He states, "Everything I had worked for was reduced in that one moment to the fact that I was gay. Not to my performance, not to my talent, not to my leadership skills, but that I was gay."

These are not isolated stories. And in the very near future, these American stories will be party of American history, you just apparently can't discover these stories on the network news. But again, a man who trains his dog to assume the prayer position on his pasty bare leg is news.

PBS' The NewsHour did what the others couldn't or wouldn't, they treated the struggle for inclusion as the news story it is (link has text, video and audio options).

They started with Kwame Holman reporting on what had changed in the last 24 hours. They zoomed in on Lt Dan Choi as one face in the struggle. They offered exclusionist Tony Perkins
and his words on maintaining Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Then Margaret Warner spoke with Time magazine's Mark Thompson who had actually done the work required -- as had Margaret Warner. We'll note this section of the exchange:

MARGARET WARNER: So, on Dec. 1, which was the deadline, or at least when Secretary Gates told Congress he'd have something, will they have just the results of the poll and some sort of outlines, or are they going to have a full policy recommendation laid out about how exactly they'd implement it?

MARK THOMPSON: I think it will be a full menu of options, saying, this is the best way forward, this is how we should do it.

MARGARET WARNER: But, I mean, will they say, we can do it, or is there some pushback now from the service chiefs?

MARK THOMPSON: Well, no, their -- Well, the sense is, No. 1, their mission is not -- their mission is only how we should do it if the law changes, not should it be changed. So, they're going to look for the best path to undo don't ask, don't tell. There is some sense that the service chiefs, especially the Marines and the Army, the ground force guys, are slow-rolling this thing. They don't want it to move out fast. They want it to take a long time. I mean, it's interesting. The papers filed with the courts have said, we have to train everybody before we do this. Meanwhile, you talk to the generals in Afghanistan who are saying, my lord, we have more important things to worry about. This is the last thing on our minds. So, there is some sort of disconnect there.

MARGARET WARNER: So, is that why you're saying it might take -- they might be saying it will take us a year to roll it out? Because there are so many things that would have to be changed, everything from partner benefits to training, sensitivity training?

MARK THOMPSON: Yes, that's the military's mindset. I mean, when RAND studied this issue in 1993, the think tank, they said the way to do this is to do it immediately and do it with leadership. Don't stretch it out. Don't turn it into a taffy pull, which is what it has become. And that's allowed all sorts of polarization to occur. And we're sort of reaping the fruits of that right now.

So the 'end' of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (this is the point being made in yesterday's snapshot, by the way) may be about as real as the Barack's 'end' of the Iraq War August 31st.

The following community sites updated last night:

And we'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "Some Young Lawyers Still Want to Help The Underdogs" (OpEdNews):

While the public may generally believe lawyers have chosen their profession "for the money," in fact many pick law as a career from a burning desire to help the underdog.
"Just like Superman and Batman they come to the rescue of people in great distress, to battle evil, well-armed opponents in the name of justice and to aid widows and orphans against Wall Street villains and greedy finance companies," says Michael Coyne, associate dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover(MSLAW).
In interviews he conducted with law students on the Comcast show "Educational Forum," to air at 11 a.m. October 24th, 2010, Coyne says, "I want you to meet today's lawyers, the next generation of leaders, and learn why people turn to the law, how the face of law school has changed and how law schools must change to remain relevant."

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