Let’s All Go Forward Together

Sunday night the United States House of Representatives took one step forward on the journey toward America’s future.
Today, President Obama signed a bill that marks another step (and VP Biden described that new law pithily). Another step — a big
step — nearly went unnoticed, though: Captain Tajdeep Singh Rattan, a Sikh, took his oath as an officer in the United States Army today, at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. This is how that swearing-in ceremony looked:

Captain Tajdeep Singh Rattan

Fort Sam Ceremony today

.

Twenty-five years is long enough for the taint of Ronald Reagan’s legacy to stain our nation’s ability.

It is as illogical and demoralizing to exclude a servicemember on the basis of faith as on the basis of sexuality. Thanks to the failure arising out of the Reagan years, though, the United States Armed Services have forced observant Sikhs to choose between their faith and serving their country. That’s every bit as “compassionate” and “conservative” as “Mission Accomplished,” and every bit as last-century as “you’re either with us or against us.” It’s as bassackwards as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and as self-defeating as “you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you wish you had.”

It’s been more than half a century since outright racial discrimination in the military — all five flavors of it, in the United States — was shoved aside by a forward-looking President. It’s time to take the next step in that journey: rescind the policies that drive out observant Sikhs (Captain Rattan had to obtain a waiver in order to enter officer training, and this despite his medical skills, desperately needed in the modern military), drive out translators (particularly those fluent in Arabic who are also homosexual), and otherwise discriminate (against women, particularly in “nontraditional fields; against non-Evangelical Christians; against nonwhites).

If we cannot all go forward together, none of us will get very far.

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3 responses to “Let’s All Go Forward Together

  1. grahamfirchlis

    Thanks for bringing this up, I surely would have missed it. Good for him, and good for the CO who decided to step up and make it happen.

    But y’know what struck me when I looked at the photo a second time? The two female officers standing front and center, not part of some rear-echelon affiliate but regular Army. Not so long ago, this was extraordinary. Now their presence is not even noticeable enough to rate a mention, as indeed it ought not to be. That is the measure of real progress, when something once unjustly vilified occurs without comment.

    We still have a ways to go, for sure, when it comes to equality of opportunity in all walks of life, but as we contemplate the tortuous road ahead it is useful to also remember the long uphill way we have already come.

  2. being a total heathen myself, i’m not up on religions and i’m curious, what is it about sikhs in particular that the military has objected to?

  3. The Other Sarah

    My understanding is it’s the hair and the beard. The Sikh Coalition can explain it better than I can, I bet. The Army changed its regs to exclude beards in ’84.

    http://www.sikhcoalition.org/Mission.asp

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