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Blind Chihuahua

More to religion
than pleasing
your imaginary friend

This is what happened to Russ in Vietnam. On R&R in Saigon, he and a beautiful Vietnamese woman fell desperately, and secretly, in love. After the madness was over, they would come to America and make a life for themselves. But for now, they would meet furtively, rarely, briefly. Nobody who knew either of them could know about both, because her brother was Vietcong. Technically, they were each sleeping with the enemy.

And then, at their meeting place, she didn't show.

"That one?" said one of his buddies casually, "They say she was killed by a mine two weeks ago."

The feeling of a kick in the stomach, the taste of acid on the tongue. And he had to hide it, to stay a soldier.

"Here today, gone tomorrow," he shrugged, feeling suddenly like a traitor -- not to his country, but to her memory and to himself. But if he shared his grief with his buddies, they would say it was to his country, and he would be dishonorably discharged, at best. So he fought on, silenced about what was becoming an incurable wound.

Funny. Here he was depending for his life at times on people he couldn't trust. And ready to give his all for those who would turn on him if they only knew.

When he got stateside, he didn't try to replace the love he'd lost. The singles bar scene was all he wanted, and he went for it with abandon. Alcohol and casual sex were his anesthetics for a while. Eventually he gave them up, left the service, and settled down to a wife and a tolerable job. And though he looked good on the outside, he had two constant companions that were slowly killing him. One was depression, and the other was the virus he'd picked up during one of those dates after the war.

The story of Russ (not his real name) is true, mostly. Except that his lover was not the enemy. His lover was an American pilot who got his name put on the big, black wall in Washington for giving "that last full measure of devotion" while flying a combat mission in Vietnam.

So, when I think of the people who oppose liberalizing the US military's position on gay and lesbian soldiers, I think of Russ and how he suffered under that policy. I think about the statistics on homosexuality, and how they imply that, along with that of Russ' lover, the names of as many as a thousand homosexuals may be written on the Vietnam War Memorial.

Those homosexual soldiers fought, slept, ate, showered, and died as heroes alongside heterosexual soldiers. They knew how to handle themselves in all those situations. Their heterosexual buddies did not, forcing them to keep their secret, most of them to the grave.

Now we Americans are concerned about the effect of gay and lesbian soldiers on military morale and discipline. But a thousand names carved in stone say that's not a gay soldier's problem. It's a straight soldier's problem. People are concerned because that is the nature of homophobia — homophobia occurs when straights who have problems with gays try to make gays solve those problems for them — even if it's just by keeping their homosexuality a secret. A thousand names say the concern is based on mythology believed by straights who don't think they know any gay people.

Except for the concern about how the straight soldiers will behave. On the other hand, gay bashing is another form of sexual harassment, an area that the military needs to deal with anyway, as shown by the Tailhook scandal.

So, I think we should move forward on the legalization of gay and lesbian soldiers. Doing so will take courage and self-discipline, and a sense of security in our own sexuality. It will take, as a soldier might put it, "balls."

Heck, the ancient Spartans encouraged same sex relationships among soldiers.

Dedicated to the memory of the late J. R. and friends.