Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dan Rather: It is a cruel irony that President Truman desegregated the U.S. military 69 years ago

Throughout much of U.S. history, homosexuality was grounds for discharge from the military.

Truman’s desegregation policy addressed race but didn't touch on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The don't ask, don't tell law enacted during the Clinton administration allowed gay, lesbian and bisexual people to serve, but only if they didn't disclose their sexual orientation.

In 2010, ‘don't ask, don't tell was repealed, which opened the doors for gay, lesbian and bisexual people to serve openly. However, it didn’t apply to transgender people, who still had to serve in silence or be discharged for medical reasons.

In July 2016, President Barack Obama lifted the transgender ban. Our country was headed in a positive direction.

Now we have President Donald Trump ordering the military to go back to days of segregation. For now, it’s transgender people, but if we don’t bring this president down there is no telling how far back he will go. He certainly has the mindset to do just that. Everything Trump has done so far has been reactionary. Apparently, all he wants to do is destroy the progress our first black president accomplished. He has taken actions that take our nation back in time, actions that have divided America, not progressive, which is the direction our country should be heading.

It is a cruel irony that President Truman desegregated the U.S. military (according to race) 69 years ago today. And now we have a president ordering the military (what he calls "my generals") to sow seeds of deep division.

Meanwhile, another anniversary. In late July 1965, Congress voted overwhelmingly for Medicare. Now we may be on the brink of rolling back health care for millions of Americans.

I am saddened but not surprised by either development. Mr. Trump feels under siege, and a man who is desperate for the adulating huzzahs of his most devoted followers is throwing red meat to his base. The ban on transgender people from serving in our armed forces is getting bipartisan criticism, but this type of bigotry plays well with too many of our fellow citizens. It should be noted that the military was already working this out, and now they have to shift course. Of all the things the armed forces need to worry about, they didn't need this new ill-conceived presidential directive.

Meanwhile, almost every Republican in the Senate is lining up to deliver a "win" for their president on health care. And by "win" we must clarify that we are only speaking in terms of short term political optics. Not policy. And maybe not even long-term politics considering how unpopular the Republican approach to healthcare seems to be. Tell the cancer patients who lose their coverage that they are winning. But for years Republicans played in a cynical and baseless game of fearmongering over the Affordable Care Act and now that bill is due. Will there be enough who vote no to put the brakes on this runaway train?

I remain an optimist. I believe that the majority of Americans see these shenanigans for what they are. I believe that what unites us is stronger than what tears us apart. I believe that on LGBTQ rights and civil rights more generally we are on a path for greater justice. I believe that most Americans now see health care as a right.

But an isolated and embattled president and his enablers in Congress will continue to push division to rally support. From protests in the streets to messages to Congress, to energy at the ballot box, it will be imperative for those who claim the mantles of reason and resistance to make their voices heard.

By Jeremy Berke