It’s been several hours now since our military officially turned gay, and, as far as I can tell, we’ve yet to be invaded.
– Mark Maynard, about five minutes ago on Facebook
I didn’t know it until this very moment, but this statue, which stands in the shadow of Ypsilanti’s incredibly phallic water tower, isn’t unique to Ypsilanti. According to Wikipedia, the statue, entitled The Hiker, exists in about 20 other locations around the country. The sculpture, created by Allen George Newman, was, according to Wikipedia, “made to honor the American soldiers who took long hikes in steaming jungles during the Boxer Rebellion, the Spanish-American war and the Filipino-American War,” all of which took place at the turn of the last century. The first statue appeared in New York in 1904. Ypsilanti has the distinction of being the last city to commission one, getting its in 1940. (Detroit’s Belle Isle got one in 1932, which, I’m guessing, is where we got the idea.)
Anyway, when I drive by this statue, which I refer to as The Sashaying Soldier, I often think about what a drag it must be to fight and risk your life for a country that doesn’t acknowledge who you are. I’m happy that our country turned a corner today, and joined the rest of the civilized world in recognizing that gay men and women can serve their countries with just as much distinction as their straight counterparts. Despite all the bad shit going on these days, this is something to be happy for.
The military demands conformity. I appreciate that fact. It beats the individuality out of people. It has to. That’s what it takes to turn young people into reliable killing machines. And, like it or not, that’s what we need to do given the state of the world we live in. If you’ve never read War: The Lethal Custom by historian Gwynne Dyer, or watched the accompanying PBS series, I highly recommend them. At any rate, for reasons expressed by Dyer, I don’t anticipate the military to start welcoming individual expression in any significant way. Fortunately, though, I don’t think that’s what the gay men and women in the military were looking for. They weren’t fighting for the right to play show tunes during sniper practice. They just wanted to know that who they chose to love when not in active service couldn’t be used against them. And that’s what happened today… Congratulations to everyone who kept pushing this issue forward over the past 25 years, and to all of those before them who suffered the threat of dishonorable discharge in silence.