A reader writes:
Watching clips of John McCain move the goal posts again on DADT repeal, and listening to my teen age kids react to what he is saying, has made it clear to me why DADT repeal is held up by the Senate. It is a perfect illustration of the generational shift that has taken place regarding acceptance of gays and lesbians in general.
My kids are 16 and 18. While my wife and I are progressive, we sent our kids to a Catholic High School in Dallas, Texas so they get plenty of exposure to conservative thinkers. Nevertheless, they and all of their friends simply cannot understand why anyone would be “freaked out” by letting gays and lesbians serve in the military. It seems as ridiculous to them as forcing “coloreds” to drink from separate water fountains.
My kids aren’t gay, and they don’t really understand being sexually attracted to a member of the same sex. But they think it is private, and the result of the way god made people, so let them be because they aren’t hurting anyone. They all know gay kids because, thankfully, they are no longer afraid to “come out”. Teenagers all understand that no one would “choose” to be gay and face the hysterical ranting of the far right. They laugh at older people who say that soldiers would be afraid of being “targeted” by a “homo” as complete nonsense.
On the other hand, John McCain is 74 years old. People who are his age and served in the military have a very different perspective. When they were in the military, being gay would have been viewed as shameful and perverted. Many people that age still think that. Senators, given the bubbles they live in, don’t realize how much things have changed. When McCain was saying that he wanted to “hear what the soldiers had to say” he was certain they would be against repeal because he would have been uncomfortable serving with gay soldiers.
You can tell by watching McCain that it is simply inconceivable to that 74 year old military man that gays and lesbians would be accepted by soldiers. It just doesn’t compute. He can’t process that information because it is so different from his world view. When he gets a survey that tells him that such acceptance has occurred, he can’t believe it; it must be wrong. Most of the men in the Senate are much closer to McCain’s age than to the age of the average soldier serving today. What we are seeing is what happens when cultural norms change and “the old folks don’t like it.”
Alas, I don't actually believe that in McCain's case. McCain knows and has worked with and relied upon openly gay people in his own staff. His disgusting posturing on this question now is not, in my view, out of conviction but out of calculation. He got re-elected by veering to the far right and junking much of what he once believed in. He is also clearly consumed with bitterness and hatred of the president who so humiliated him in his disastrous campaign. He is lashing out. And he is contemptible for it.