Don’t Ask Me
by Paul Rudnick, from The New Yorker
“I do not see how permitting open homosexuality in these communities enhances their prospects of success in battle. Indeed, I believe repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” will weaken the warrior culture at a time when we have a fight on our hands.”
—General Merrill A. McPeak, former Air Force Chief of Staff, on the Op-Ed page of the Times.
My name is Marine Corporal Roger T., and I am one gay soldier who agrees wholeheartedly with General McPeak, although I think that he doesn’t go far enough. Because my staying closeted, in fact, makes me a better soldier, through what I term sublimation. For example: Right before heading out into a firefight with Iraqi insurgents, I always imagine myself at the beach with Merrill A. McPeak, both of us in helmets, camouflage-print Speedos, combat boots, and sunglasses. I picture myself rubbing sunblock all over the luscious, leathery hide of General McPeak, and the adrenaline rockets through my veins, and by the time I leave the Green Zone I’m ready to kill anything that moves, and then make savage, passionate love to its corpse. I’m at what I like to call my sensual, combat-ready McPeak.
As a gay man, I naturally spend much of my time debating casting issues involving the musical theatre, although, thankfully, I can’t share such thoughts with my unit. Instead, when I spot a potential suicide bomber, I think of him as someone who insists that Tyne Daly was the greatest Mama Rose of all time, even better than Merman. This makes me so enraged, and my aim grows so steady, that I can pick off the bomber with a single well-flung grenade, while shouting to myself, “Tyne was appealing, but she didn’t have a shred of Angela Lansbury’s esprit, or Patti LuPone’s thwarted fury! Anyone who ranks Tyne over Patti deserves to die! ” It’s called valor.
General McPeak speaks movingly of unit cohesion. He says, “We know, or ought to, that warriors are inspired by male bonding, by comradeship, by the knowledge that they survive only through relying on each other. To undermine cohesion is to endanger everyone.” To which I say, Sing it, sister. I love male bonding more than anything, and I live for unit cohesion. Just the sound of the words makes me tingle with manly aggression. Whenever I see my unit, or anyone’s unit, all I want to do is cohere. I embrace my unit, with both hands, and I draw it to me, again and again, in a vigorous manly embrace, often until the guy on the top bunk says, “Roger, calm down. That Vogue is from two months ago.”