I wish Supreme Court Justice-nominee Elena Kagan all the best, just as I do any woman being considered for a tough, important job. I even feel a passing kind of kinship with her, perhaps because she is from New England and the academy and she’s unmarried. Full disclosure: I’m pudgy, too.
But you know what? I also know if I met her, I wouldn’t like her. Because she represents the very worst of academic-lefty do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do kind of double standard. It’s OK for Miss Kagan to keep the details of her private life out of the limelight. Fine. Great. Personally I think she probably doesn’t have time to have much of a private life. But it’s not OK, then, for her to have banned ROTC recruiting from Harvard Law School, when she was dean, because of the persistence of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” President Clinton’s brilliant, Solomonesque solution to keeping homosexuals in the armed services.
Miss Kagan can keep her mouth shut to land the job of her dreams, but she does not accord G.I. Joe or Swabby Sue the same privilege. Score one for the hypocrites.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is one of the precious few policies of President Clinton that I respect. Indeed, my respect for the policy, and the president’s wisdom in promulgating it, has only deepened. Here’s why: “don’t ask, don’t tell” actually preserves the recruits’ privacy, in exactly the same way that Miss Kagan has so carefully preserved hers.
In practical terms, what I believe this policy acknowledges–and this is why it is so brilliant–is how we behave in groups and as individuals. Imagine a barracks’ full of green recruits. Some from the inner city, some from the rust belt, some off the farm. Their degrees of sophistication and of exposure to a world wider than ten city blocks or the north forty are as varied as their skin tones. What’s job one with this untested mass of muscle and testosterone? Assessing then building individual fitness, physically, mentally, and, in the sense of group cohesiveness, socially. Job one point two? Cementing that group cohesiveness, so that this company of men can, in times of duress, think and act as one. These early days of making a fighting force out of young and ignorant strangers are really hard: why make them more difficult by introducing the exotic element that even unto today homosexuality represents? Let group-think prevail, until the group is forged and the individual bonds of its member are strong. At that point, “don’t ask, don’t tell” ceases to matter, because that gay guy over there has become your point man, and you’ve learned he’s a tough fighter and a good poker player. You’ve learned something about diversity that I assure you no college kid attending LGBTQ workshops would recognize if he/she/te fell over it.
Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Don’t change the policy. Do call Elena Kagan on her hypocrisy.
On a different subject entirely: Yes. As a single straight woman of a certain age, it annoys the heck out of me that it’s a common assumption that spinsters are lesbians. Yes. Elena Kagan is entitled to her privacy. But not at the expense of her intellectual honesty.