The Right Coast

November 18, 2005
Harvard Law School meets US Army
By Tom Smith


I have not kept up with the whole Solomon Amendment issue. Last I heard some law schools, or faculty members and students, or something, were suing the United States perhaps, to get out from under the Amendment. I recall getting a smarmy letter from the law school from which I graduated that addressed itself to the subject, among other acts of self-congratulation. When I think about that letter, I still get all teary-eyed.

It is difficult, nuanced issue. On the one hand are these people who get paid barely enough to stay off food stamps, spend months and years away from their families and comforts such as edible food and air conditioning, and do a job that involves the risk of getting your limbs blown off, the flesh seared from your body, your sight and/or hearing permanently destroyed, and your psychic peace forever shattered, among other things worth mentioning. They do it so people like yours truly can live in beautiful San Diego and worry only slightly about some deranged fascist from some rathole in Butwhuckistan setting off a radiological bomb at a Padres game in the service of some bizarre religious fantasy. If you encounter one of these our protectors in a cafeteria and buy them lunch, as I am proud to say I did the other day, they will say "thank you, sir. We really appreciate it, sir." Appreciate it, hell. I appreciate not having to go over to the last place on earth where some holy nazi would try to blow me into nine pieces. They do all this for the rest of us out of a sense of duty, of service, of adventure and a desire to protect their country, which are all things they believe in.

That's on the one hand. On the other we have various law students and faculty who believe it is wrong for the military only to admit gays on the condition that they not be openly gay while in the military. The various law students and professors believe in this so strongly that they do not want military officers recruiting on their campuses, which they probably would not want in any event, because they don't like the military. In general, they find the military icky. This is something they believe. So then Congress said, fine, if you don't want the US Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard recruiting on your campus, then you don't have to take any money from the US government either. But wait. The law school people do not believe it that strongly. Let's be reasonable here. You are talking about taking away a lot of money now. Millions, even. This is unfair, shocking! There must be a way, they apparently think, they can defend their beliefs at a lower cost than that! Much lower! Yes, they are made of stern stuff, these advocates, these heros. Imagine for a moment that all that stood between the Islamo-nutcases and us were these stalwarts. "Oh, you mean you are actually going to shoot at us? But that's so insensitive! Couldn't we just workshop it and find out the issues around your concerns?" Then they would be dead, and soon thereafter so would we.

And another thing. Do any of these people who are involved in this effort to keep the US military off campuses have any desire to join the armed services themselves? Do they even know anybody who would like to, or has? Would any of them be caught dead with an American flag or a "I support our troops" sticker on their 10 year old Volvo? I doubt it very much. They could care less about any effects its policy regarding homosexuality could have on the military. If it hurt the military or our national security, they could care less. Could anyone seriously believe otherwise? If these people could ban the military from recruiting on campus just because they are the military, they would do that, too. And they're not overly fond of Christians, Republicans, Federalist Society members, Jews who support Israel, let alone Israelis, anyone who opposes abortion, and lots of other people besides. This set of attitudes is called tolerance, and they just can't stand anybody who does not possess it.

But remember, while these brave fighters for tolerance are doing what they see as their duty, for as long as it may not be too expensive to do so, the rest of us must stand in awe of their fierce conviction to do the right thing, no matter what, provided that the what involved is not too much trouble.

I'm not a professor at Harvard Law School, just this law school, but when at our graduation, as is frequently the case, some of the students are wearing the dress uniforms of the US Navy or Marine Corps underneath their black gowns of soon to be Juris Doctors, it makes me feel humble, yet at the same time, proud.