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