Linguists Dismissed
December 3, 2003 6:00 AM   Subscribe

Knack for language? Great! Gay? No thanks. Interesting WaPo story of how DoD desparately needs linguists trained in Arabic, but dismisses linguists when it comes out that they are gay.
posted by cpfeifer (34 comments total)
Well, come on...they don't want it translated into gay, they want it translated into English!
posted by vraxoin at 6:07 AM on December 3, 2003

They obviously fear for their asses.

Foreigners, intelligent people and those who enjoy the arts have the same effect, I'll bet.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:11 AM on December 3, 2003

military leaders have argued that allowing gays to serve would . . infringe on the privacy rights of heterosexuals

This would be funny if it weren't so frightening.
posted by archimago at 6:20 AM on December 3, 2003

From the article:

"I developed a hubris about my ability," said Gamble, 24, who lives in Washington and works for an architectural design firm. "I believed I could do my job well and they would be foolish to separate me."

His hubris is misplaced He's right in believing that the Army would be foolish to separate him, but he was mistaken in believing the Army is beyond foolishness.

Talking with my brother, a retired Marine captain, the UCMJ needs a total overhaul on sexual matters anyway. Basically, a married serviceperson who's engaging in anything other than missionary-position sex with his/her spouse is violating UCMJ laws on acceptable sexual behavior.
posted by alumshubby at 6:22 AM on December 3, 2003

Hey, don't knock the DoD's prejudice!

When they come to drafting people to be slung into the fiery bowels of Iraq, a skill like buggery could come in handy!
posted by Blue Stone at 6:40 AM on December 3, 2003

Whoa. Deja vu.

It's good to see mainstream media outlets picking up on this, but one wonders what the hell took so long.
posted by jburka at 6:41 AM on December 3, 2003

Foolish but probably not surprising. It does sound like she did go out of her way to violate the don't ask, don't tell policy. Even though it's a stupid policy (It's ok if you're gay, it's ok if we think you're gay but it's not ok if either of us talks about it) it's still the policy - and the military is big on policy and procedure.
posted by substrate at 6:50 AM on December 3, 2003

'Not surprising'. Predictable, in fact. But not part of some immutable natural law.

Which is what makes it so foolish. Your National Security is more endangered because of this prejudice, and you seek to shift responsibility for the policy onto the skilled enlisted volunteer.

Ever heard of blaming the victim?
posted by dash_slot- at 6:56 AM on December 3, 2003

I don't shift responsibility for the policy onto the skilled enlisted volunteer. The responsibility for the policy rests squarely on the shoulders of the federal government. Responsibility for knowingly violating the policy does belong to the victim however. It's a stupid policy, the government should change it. I feel more compassion for Alistair Gamble. If what he says is true and the heterosexual couples weren't discharged then it's a sickening example of a double standard.

Again, I don't agree with the policy, it in itself is a double standard and double standards are wrong as is discriminating against anybody.
posted by substrate at 7:27 AM on December 3, 2003

Even if she was a bit too forthcoming with the information, the article does mention that she's one of 37. With the huge glut of arabic-speaking linguists (they still advertise on the front page of the New York Times web edition), it's an idiotic move.
posted by destro at 8:02 AM on December 3, 2003

Wow, that is too funny. I was in the air force 4-5 years ago. I was also a linguist (not arabic though, serbian-croatian). And I was also discharged. (for a startlingly similar reasons). Glad to see they still haven't gotten their head out of their ass.

Ahh, I miss Monterey. Good times.
posted by tcaleb at 8:18 AM on December 3, 2003

it's an idiotic move

Deciding to not hide behind archaic stereotypes and hate-based policies?
posted by archimago at 8:38 AM on December 3, 2003

Ahh Christian america.. where its ok to treat anyone who doesn't think like you like shit! Is there anyone wonder why people "hate america"
posted by MrLint at 8:50 AM on December 3, 2003

You don't even have to be gay to be royally screwed by the U.S. military.
posted by magullo at 8:56 AM on December 3, 2003

In fact, all you have to do is get married ... to an Iraqi
posted by magullo at 8:59 AM on December 3, 2003

"But.. but.. he might be saying unspeakable camel-themed things about me in Arabic, and I'd never know it!"
posted by orange swan at 9:09 AM on December 3, 2003

Isn't this really old news?
posted by mathowie at 9:14 AM on December 3, 2003

So I'm lead to believe the US military has a problem with cunning linguists...
posted by five fresh fish at 9:20 AM on December 3, 2003

I had a big to-do with my brother over this one. It came down to this: The military doesn't want to deal with the consequences of openly homosexual personnel in close quarters with hetero personnel, nearly all of whom are in their late teens and early twenties -- an age where a lot of them are still defining learning how to deal with their sexuality -- typically under conditions of tight discipline (spare me the snarky double entendres, please) and usually considerable stress. The rationale goes that even if the military tried to open things up, the straights wouldn't be able to handle it. I think much the same rationale was used to justify racial segregation in the military once upon a time, but Jim kept insisting this was different because too many straights had serious emotional hang-ups about having to be undressed around gays. While acknowledging his experience in dealing with the issue firsthand (he had to deal with the pre- DADT days when gay and lesbian officers and enlisted men/women in his own command had to be "administratively separated," in at least one case losing a valuable skill set from his shop because he basically had no option but to follow Marine Corps policy), I had to say it all sounds like a tautology to me -- treat gays and lesbians as undesirables because they're undesirable.

BTW: The article talks about uniformed personnel. Do civilian DoDs and other gov't agency types (CIA, NSA, DIA, etc.) also attend Monterey? How is the homosexuality issue dealt with for them: Are they subject to similar regulations as potential security risks because they might get blackmailed or something? I can remember the day when gay civilian intel types routinely would get shitcanned for exactly that reason.
posted by alumshubby at 9:26 AM on December 3, 2003

Well, lemme find you a translat... oh.

Sorry. Carry on!!
posted by dash_slot- at 9:33 AM on December 3, 2003

Deciding to not hide behind archaic stereotypes and hate-based policies?

Well, that's assumed. I was more surprised that the military would make what seems like a giant tactical error just to preserve these policies. At least with Turing, they waited untill the war was over before prosecuting him for sodomy.
posted by destro at 9:46 AM on December 3, 2003

Why do they need linguists? Is there an urgent need to construct syntax trees or construct a proto-Arabic?

They just need people fluent in Arabic, I think.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:50 AM on December 3, 2003

With the huge glut of arabic-speaking linguists (they still advertise on the front page of the New York Times web edition), it's an idiotic move.

I think you need the word "dearth" instead of "glut" there. A glut would be tons of Arabic-speaking linguists.
posted by beth at 10:43 AM on December 3, 2003

posted by Veritron at 10:54 AM on December 3, 2003

It's good that stories like this get attention, but I'm hoping that people don't get the wrong point. The problem here is not just that "Don't Ask Don't Tell" is hurting the military by depriving it of enormously talented people. The problem is that DADT is immoral and stupid. We should get just as upset about a private with no special training getting canned as we should about a super-duper foreign-language expert getting canned.
posted by profwhat at 11:40 AM on December 3, 2003

Yes, profwhat, but when J. Random Private gets canned, the military's chances for success in its missions don't get compromised. When Lt. Fluent Arabic gets canned, the US, as a whole, uses.

Mayor Curley, they want people fluent in Arabic who are not of Arab descent themselves (because of rampant pre-Manzanar style xenophobia--and because we see how well the experiment of getting random military personnel of Arab descent has worked at Guantanamo and all!)

Here in the US, with our notoriously bad foreign language education record, that translates to: a) people married to Arab nationals (who are out for above reasons), and b) college and university majors in Middle Eastern languages and studies.

"Linguist" does not necessarily mean "person who studied linguistics"; it also properly refers to "person who studied a language or languages in a formal, usually university, setting".
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:11 PM on December 3, 2003

For "uses" above, read "loses". (I believe that I had typed "luses" but the spell-checker thought it was smarter than me.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:11 PM on December 3, 2003

"Linguist" also implies that one studies the language as a factor of the culture in which it is spoken. It's not just a matter of learning how to speak and write it but how the language exists within the larger cultural context.
posted by archimago at 1:32 PM on December 3, 2003

Could be worse, you could work for the UN Weapons Inspection Team and have a dirty little secret...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 3:52 PM on December 3, 2003

Which turns out to be common knowledge, rather than a secret; and something the guy was open & honest about, rather than ashamed & feeling dirty about.

What was your point again, Ogre Lawless?
posted by dash_slot- at 4:39 PM on December 3, 2003

What archimago said so eloquently.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:32 PM on December 3, 2003

Dear FBI: How do you say "Wow, you're as bad as the DoD and anti-semitic too?"

So - don't be gay and don't be a Jew if you want to translate for the USA.
posted by swerdloff at 7:30 PM on December 3, 2003

The policy reminds me of what I like to think of as the "stages of gay acceptance" that seem to go like this:

1. Total and complete unacceptance and misunderstanding. (Homophobia - Insert queerbashing comment here)
2. Denial. ("There are no queers in the military" or "you aren't gay, you are just going through a phase")
3. Don't ask, don't tell. (in non-military terms - "I know and understand that you are gay, but don't bring your boyfriend home for thanksgiving or talk about him or your life together - ever")
4. Acknowledgement with limited acceptance. ("And, um, how is your friend?" shifting of eyes, shuffling of feet)
5. Acceptance (Where is Bob? How come he didn't come to the family reunion? Is he at the Gay Pride Fest this weekend instead?)

We will get there. It just takes some families longer than others to go through the stages. The thing is trying to drag anyone kicking and screaming through to the last stage is often counter-productive. Besides, the military is always about 10 years behind.
posted by jopreacher at 2:43 AM on December 5, 2003

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