The following was originally posted on Huffington Post for the 4th of July in 2007. With the recent discharge of West Point graduate and Arabic linguist First Lt. Dan Choi from the New York National Guard for the high crime of wanting to serve his country openly, the piece seemed due for a remix and a repost. A hope, also, that this will be the last July 4th that passes in which such a post will be relevant:
Crispus Attucks was born a slave in the colony of Massachusetts.
Maybe he was born in Mass.
He might've been born around 1723. Perhaps he was born a couple of years prior. Or could it have been a couple of years after? Hard to be exactly sure. Crispus was born a slave. In the early 1700s nobody was much keeping stats on slaves beyond the quality of their teeth, the thickness of their hide and whether or not they had the audacity to make a run to freedom.
Crispus ran. Was never caught. Fell off the 18th Century version of the grid for twenty years.
The next significant event in Crispus's life was his last. March 5th, 1770. A fight broke out in Dock Square between a few good, upstanding Colonists and some nasty Brit soldiers. Crispus took up a stick, rallied a crowd and rolled out to back up the Colonists against the King's lackeys.
It was true then as it is now: don't bring a stick to a shooting match. The soldiers opened fired. Hit Crispus twice. Killed him, killed four others and wounded six.
Though the event was five years prior to the open rebellion, the Boston Massacre was one of the bloody precursors to the American Revolution. It was citizens rising up to physicalize their displeasure with the Crown. In giving his life, Crispus is considered to be the first patriot of the Colonial revolt. Born a slave, he died fighting for ideals society itself didn't extend to him. But, you know, sometimes those without freedom are precisely the ones who cherish it most.
It's a lesson that's been re-taught to the populace by the Tuskegee Red Tails and the Fightin' 442nd: that the desire to secure liberty, a sense of honor and duty are not the sole domain of any race, or gender, or faith.
Nor are they limited by sexual orientation.
And yet . . .
Since 1998 the US military has discharged 58 Arabic and Farsi translators because -- wait for it -- they were gay.
A REMIX NOTE: according to an article in the LA TImes: "Since "don't ask, don't tell" was enacted in 1993, about 13,000 military personnel have been discharged because of their sexual orientation." In his book Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America, historian Nathaniel Frank breaks down the numbers as follows: "11,000 capable service members under the policy, including over 300 linguists, 49 nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare specialists, 90 nuclear power engineers, 52 missile guidance and control operators, 150 rocket, missile and other artillery specialists, and 340 infantrymen."
Sent packing despite the shortage of individuals skilled in speaking middle-eastern tongues. Here we are in the hard heart of the war on terrorism. We are told again and again that this will be a decades-long struggle to secure Western civilization which will require shared sacrifice from all.
So, isn't it ironic that securing freedom for all is not open to all?
Why is "Don't ask..." still our policy when it is the enemies of liberty who don't check a list and mark the particulars of their victimss? There was no type of individual that was not laid low by the attacks of September 11th or the bombings in Bali and Madrid and London. Why, then, would we place restrictions on those willing to stand against our attackers? Because of their sexual preference? Tell that to the dead left in the wake of the next successful Al Qaeda attack; actionable intel could not be verified because we could not abide the private lives of those who offered to help.
Fifty-eight willing to fight despite the bigotry some in the country level against them.
Fifty-eight willing patriots kicked to the curb among 11,000 uniformed men and women similarly set-aside since the early nineties. That's nearly a surge in itself.
This Fourth of July, consider the true cost of freedom. Beyond spilled blood and loss of life, it is tolerating those not like us, who wish to defend us.