Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why the repealing of Don't Ask Don't Tell is a spiritual matter too

This Shabbat we were blessed with some very good news from our government.  Finally, the policy, 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' has been repealed.  This is the policy by which men and women who serve in our Armed Forces who are gay or lesbian could only do so at the cost of keeping this part of their identity secret.  It meant much more than simply not talking about it; it meant being especially careful about where they were and who they were with in public space in their time off too - anything that might be construed as a public revelation of their sexual identity.
Lt. Dan Choi, a courageous advocate for repealing DADT
The Reform movement took on this issue as a social policy matter that our Religious Action Center lobbied on because it was matter of basic decency and human rights that this discriminatory policy be abolished.  But it is also a spiritual matter.  Perhaps what has troubled and yes, even angered, me the most about the debates that have been heard on the Senate floor, is the complete lack of comprehension of what it means to ask someone, and especially someone who lives in the kind of closed environment of an army barrack or base, to hide one piece of the essence of who they are.  Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla), for example, was quoted in the press as having stated: "I was shocked at how well this has worked for a long period of time," Inhofe said. "We have a saying in Oklahoma, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Well, this isn't broke, it's working very well."

The Senator clearly has absolutely no concept of what it feels like to be hiding in public as a gay man or lesbian woman.  He clearly has no inkling of the effect it has on the nature of one's friendships, one's relationship to parents, grandparents and siblings, to be keeping a piece of oneself secret for fear that the information may become public and bring an end to one's career.  And the Senator clearly cannot imagine how, when one no longer has to hide, the ability to simply fully 'be' is a soul-expanding, spiritual experience.  Whatever one's faith, the ability to be whole, and the inner peace that comes with a sense of the integration of the parts of one's life, and the ability to be fully present to others in the sense of the spiritual 'I-Thou' relationship that Martin Buber wrote of in his famous book of the same name... this is as central an aspect of the spiritual life as any other I can think of.

I am delighted that this terrible policy is now gone.  I look forward to seeing it bear further fruits as it becomes equally evident that other things denied gay men and lesbian women by the Federal government, purely on the basis of sexual identity, simply have no place in a modern, civilized democracy in a country that claims that all citizens are equal under law.
Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz


  1. YAY!!!! I still can't even believe this stupid and ridiculous policy ever exsisted in the first place. It also saddens me how hard it was to end that policy.

    If someone can fight for their country with love and passion and all that it means (freedom) why must they hide who they are? It's so wrong and inhumane to demand that of anyone!

    If only the closed minded Senator would spend half the time he spent on this, on the economy and envirnoment...*sigh*

    United we stand, divided we fall...time for some elected officials to get their heads out of the air and onto being United! USA, geesh!!! Come on, people!

    Anyway, I'm glad that this disgusting policy is no more. Hurray!

  2. As a lesbian discharged from the Navy in '83, this was wonderful news indeed! Now if this decision can just parlay into the elimination of the federal DOMA, then all would be perfect!!!! Or much closer to it! It truly is a spiritual thing to be free to just be oneself.