Left Out

IN A GAY COMMUNITY united in support of a just and necessary war against a network of mass murderers and the theocratic dictatorship shielding them, a few isolated voices have distinguished themselves by their mushy-headed disapproval. For these gay-left writers, the real enemies are not Islamic extremists who crash planes into office buildings but U.S. "militarism," gay assimilation, "unthinking patriotism," children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, a president prone to malapropism, and American wealth.

Consider a recent article by the author Michael Bronski. Shortly after the September 11 attack, some gay activists prematurely celebrated when it was believed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" - the policy of discharging openly gay service members - might be suspended during the crisis. Yet Bronski says he is "frightened" by the possibility that gays might be allowed to serve just now. "Why," he asks, "would any gay and lesbian group be happy that 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' be lifted?"

Bronski nostalgically lauds the gay liberationists of the late 1960s and early 1970s who sought "social justice, anti-racism, [and] anti-militarism." He avers that gay liberation groups of that era would never have "advocated for the right of American homosexuals to fight in Viet Nam [sic]."

Bronski contrasts this with present-day gay-rights groups, who want the "'right' to be just like everyone else," including the right to defend the country when it's attacked. This is the familiar charge of assimilation, the worst possible offense in the liberationist catalogue.

Instead of wrapping themselves "in a flag of uncritical and unthinking patriotism," writes Bronski, gay groups ought to supply "draft counselors" to young gay men who might want to resist a future draft.

Someone should tell Bronski it's not 1968 anymore and the Vietnam war is over. September 11 was the bloodiest single day in American history, with thousands of civilians killed by a foreign enemy on American soil for the first time in 185 years. Whatever the ideological fixations of a bygone era - and Bronski is wrong as a matter of history to suggest gays in the 1960s weren't fighting to end discrimination in the military - many gay Americans today want very much to serve their country. That's true even - no, especially - when it's directly threatened.

However flawed, Bronski's world-view is at least coherent, a charge that can't be leveled at the next nervous Nellie of the left. Matt Lum, writing in the Texas Triangle, reports it's been "disconcerting" to see "all these red, white and blue flags flapping in my face everywhere I go."

With all the self-satisfaction of someone who imagines he's just discovered a verity, he snickers: "All this talk of freedom and opportunity, the American spirit. For some."

Lum pronounces himself "suspicious" when students recite the words "One Nation, Under God" during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Next, Lum takes shots at President Bush for saying the terrorists "misunderestimated" him and for predicting a "winning victory," as if a verbal miscue matters next to the administration's widely acclaimed, adroit handling of complex diplomatic and military strategy. I suppose this elevation of form over substance - of words over policy - is what we should expect of a generation raised on Bill Clinton's politics.

After creatively observing that "this whole thing seems to be more about beef and petroleum than anything else," Lum closes: "Practice peace, people."

Guess what, Mr. Lum? You have the "freedom and opportunity" to criticize a sitting president at a time of supreme national crisis precisely because, when the need arose, your forebears had "the American spirit" at which you sneer to give their lives to defend your rights.

I guess we can't expect the same self-sacrifice of Lum, who's discombobulated by waving flags. But it's a little bit too much to admonish us to "practice peace" when we're still shoveling up the ashes of 5,000 dead.

Perhaps the most tortured reaction comes from gay-left activist Pokey Anderson, writing in Houston's OutSmart magazine. The September 11 attack, she writes, quoting a wise and knowledgeable uncle, "'is the fruit of our calloused arrogant affluence flaunted before helpless people for decades and decades of their sufferings.'"

This about a country that has given away more of its hard-earned riches than any before in history, that rebuilt Europe and Japan after World War II, that saved millions of Muslims from dictators like Hussein and Milosevic, that has donated billions of dollars in financial aid to help poor nations feed their people and build infrastructure and acquire medicine, and on and on.

If some people around the world don't grasp those facts it's not because we've been flaunting our affluence. It's because we haven't been flaunting our generosity.

Anderson urges against "blindly bombing" innocent people in a mad desire "to lash out at somebody, anybody."

She wrote those words before we began the military response, which has demonstrated beyond doubt that we're not blindly bombing Afghanistan. In fact, given the circumstances, we've been almost unbelievably restrained in our efforts not to harm innocents, even at the expense of quickly eliminating the terrorists who threaten us with every passing day.

A truly militarist nation, lashing out at anybody and blinded by flapping flags and unthinking patriotism, would have disposed of the matter with a couple of well-placed nukes.

The real question is why Anderson or anyone else might have imagined we would blindly bomb innocent people to begin with, so that she found it necessary to caution against it. The whole idea of needlessly killing people seems to me against our history. Why would anyone assume the worst about us?

The answer, I think, is this: To most Americans, including most gay Americans, this is basically a good country that sometimes does bad things. To some on the left, however, this is basically a bad country that sometimes does good things. The war has exposed that fundamental cleavage as never before.

Finally, rather than use "old methods" like "bombing and dirty tricks and saber-rattling" in response to the terrorist strikes, Anderson advises that we rethink our opposition to "numerous treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol" on global warming and attend gatherings like the recent "World Conference Against Racism," memorable mostly for its anti-Semitism.

I have some news for Anderson. Osama bin Laden and his syndicate will not be satisfied by a more equal distribution of wealth or more global warming treaties or more conferences denouncing racism. They are not motivated, as some on the left imagine, by the left's own long list of grievances against the West.

No, Mr. Bronski, Mr. Lum, and Ms. Anderson, they just want you dead. And they want you dead because you live in a strong country that defends religious pluralism and individual liberty, which they abhor.

Now would you please let the rest of us get on with the business of figuring out how to defend you against them?

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