Zach Slater Demolishes “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

The Secretary of Defense is for it.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is for it.

So — particularly eloquently — is Zach Slater.

Zach Slater

“It” is repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — the policy that prohibits gay men and lesbians from serving in the U.S. military.

Zach — a Staples senior, and captain of both the water polo, and swimming and diving, teams at the high school — tackled the controversial rule during the finals of the local Rotary finals last week.

Organized by both Westport Rotary Clubs, the oratory contest asks students to apply Rotary’s 4-Way test to ethical issues.

The test asks:  Is it truth?  Is it fair to all concerned?  Will it build goodwill and better friendships?  Will it benefit all concerned?

Zach’s answer to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a resounding “no!”  Here’s what he said:

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  It is a policy that has discharged over 14,000 members of our armed forces.  It is a policy that has cost our government hundreds of millions of dollars and it is a policy that has rid our armies of brave gay, lesbian and bisexual service members.

I have determined that this policy must be abandoned and I have done by asking myself:  Is it the truth?  Is it fair to all concerned?  Will it be beneficial to all concerned?  And will it build goodwill and other friendships?

First, is it the truth?  Some of our political and military leaders believe that “don’t ask don’t tell” creates cohesion among the armed forces.  They claim sexual orientation ambiguity makes sure that there will be no distractions while fighting for our country.

However, those serving in the military feel differently.  A study released this pass week by the Pentagon reports that over 70 percent of people serving in the army are comfortable with gay, lesbian and bisexual peers.  A majority of Americans, also 70 percent, believe that gay people should be allowed to serve openly.  This is what America wants, this is the truth, and why “don’t ask don’t tell must be repealed.”

Second, is it fair to all concerned?  “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is not fair to those brave enough to risk their lives for our country.  If discovered to be gay, a serviceman or woman is immediately discharged, and any openly gay person qualified to serve our nation is turned away at military offices around the country.

According to the Pentagon, over 75% of young Americans are unqualified to serve in the military because of growing drug use, obesity, law-breaking and poor education.  Yet a physically fit, law-abiding, well-educated gay person interested in serving is not allowed. Why someone interested in protecting us, Americans, should be turned away, simply because of their sexuality when there are only so many people qualified to fight?  This is unfair and why this policy must be forgotten.

Third, will it be beneficial to all concerned? “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is disadvantageous to our country and all Americans. Expelling someone from the military because of their sexuality simply makes us less strong.  It is one less person keeping us at home safe, safe from an enemy, safe from terror, safe from corruption and safe from the evils of our world.

There are an estimated 66,000 closeted gays is the armed forces.  Imagine if all of them were to be outed and discharged.  That is 66,000 less people keeping us safe.  By abandoning “don’t ask don’t tell,” more gay people would feel comfortable joining the armed forces.  Therefore, more people to keep us safe and more people fighting for the greater good.  It will be beneficial to all concerned if “don’t ask, don’t tell” were to be revoked.

Fourth, will it build goodwill and other friendships?  “Don’t ask, don’t tell” currently limits goodwill and friendships in the army because it is a policy not in touch with the times.  The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network reports that a majority of those who have fought in 21st century wars do not care if someone is gay or straight and do not find any connection between sexual orientation and job performance.

The Joint Force Quarterly reported “after a careful examination, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly.”  And if gays were allowed to be open, in a way they could be there true selves, creating true cohesion between the troops, building true goodwill and friendship.  This is why “don’t ask, don’t tell” should be repealed.

By using the rotary four-way test, I have come to the conclusion that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is not the truth; “don’t ask, don’t tell” is not fair to all concerned; repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” will be beneficial to all concerned, and repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” will build true goodwill and friendships.

This policy is not in touch with the times and is unsupported by a majority of Americans, and servicemen and women. This is why it must be repealed, and this is why it must be repealed now.  Those who understand that this policy is not right must call their senator today and let them know that they can repeal this policy today, and let them know that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is not the truth, not fair, not beneficial and does not build good will and other friendships.

Zach’s speech won him $500, and advances him to the Rotary 4-Way Test regional contest next month at Fairfield University.

11 responses to “Zach Slater Demolishes “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

  1. When I was a new Infantry Platoon Leader in Germany in 1963, I was told that my SP-4 machine gunner was being discharged and I was to stay with him in the barracks while he packed. I wanted to know what was going on, because he was one of my best soldiers and replacing a good machine gunner was difficult.
    Apparently, he said something to someone in a bar that got picked up by the CID [Criminal Investigation Division] and they put in the paperwork for his General Discharge under Honorable Conditions. He was charged with being a homosexual and chose not to dispute the charges. He was being sent back to the States.
    It takes a while to pack up your entire world, so we had plenty of time to talk about his life, the Army, and his sexual orientation. He was a good man, a great soldier, and I never quite understood the policy [this was way before DADT], so I started asking questions. I got 2 answers for the policy of excluding homosexuals: Foxholes and Treason.
    “Foxholes” was the theory that in the Infantry, you could be ordered to share a foxhole with anyone, and some might not feel comfortable with a homosexual person. It’s important to note that there are some “hillbilly and urban rednecks” in the military who are wildly homophobic, so there was also a danger to the individual. Both situations would lead to a failure of “good order and discipline.”
    “Treason” was the theory that, since homosexuals had to be closeted, if the enemy discovered one, he could be easily be coerced into revealing military secrets or be “outed.”
    I share this story to add to the discussion, not to defend or advance any particular position. These are the answers I got when I asked the same questions some 47 years ago. I wonder when we’ll get it resolved…

  2. Way to go Zach – well done!

  3. An eloquent, cogent argument. Congratulations, Zach. If only we could convince congress…

  4. Eric Buchroeder

    The military awaits direction from dully constituted civilian leadership which is its duty under the Constitution. This is no different than the chain of events that occurred beginning in 1946 when President Truman issued an executive order that ended segregation in the military. DADT was nothing more than political posturing in 1992. Right now on the heels of his leadership of last week its a perfect time for the president to take action and direct the military to scrap DADT and immediately begin accepting all qualified candidates for military service.

  5. The Dude Abides

    They called it “Section 8” and there was reported “fragging” aboard aircraft carriers to those suspected of being homosexual while I served in the Vietnam era conflict. That was 40+ years ago and it appears such bigotry has faded according to the 70% WTFC (Who The F*&# Cares) poll among current soldiers. Congrats, Zach, your argument is spot on and it is about time our Congressional leaders begin to listen, instead of playing their chickenhawk bravado tactics with the military.

  6. “Being gay myself, I am not sure why we choose to do our battles over the military and marriage. I mean really? Those are two institutions I have no interest, whatsover, in entering into.”

  7. Even though I am a fictional character, I agree that DADT is counterproductive and cruel and needs to be abolished.

  8. DADT is an anachronism and needs to go. The Joint Chiefs think so, and most of the civilized world thinks so. Only John McCain, and a small band of legislators on the Right disagree. Thank you, Zach, for an articulate reminder.

  9. So proud of you Zach!!! Congratulations!!!

  10. Pingback: Zach Slater’s Great Week | Aaron Meyer