In my Audio Production course, the first assignment is to write a piece about American Values. Promptly, I asked the professor if I could make it satirical. He said no. So, since then, I’ve just been trying to figure out how I’m to seriously include a set of “Values” that, to me, seem absurd and hypocritical. But thinking further on the topic at hand it dawned on me this morning that the People of the United States have a different set of Values than the U.S. as a nation does. The assignment doesn’t distinguish People from State. I do, though.
My Values are very similar to most other Americans. And, similarly, your Values are. What you envision the end-goal as is very similar to what others envision the end-goal as. For instance: I love peace. I love prosperity. I love fraternity. Define those as you wish. But, is it not evident that people love to live their lives in prosperity associating with whoever they choose, seeking out the peace they desire? I know many of my friends agree to those ends. Do you?
With the formal end of DADT less than a month away, GQ’s Chris Heath spent six months assembling an oral-history-of-sorts about what it was like to be a gay man serving in the U.S. military. The resulting piece, which appears in our Sept 2011 issue and runs a bit longer at GQ.com, is funny, sad, horrifying and, above all, surprising. Life under DADT is both everything—and nothing—like one might expect. A brief sample below, from a heartbreaking section of the piece titled “Invisible Partners”:
Air Force #4 (senior airman, four years): “Right now our relationships don’t exist.”
Air Force #3: “I’ve had three deployments [while] with the same person. Every time it’s been ‘All right, see you later.’ All the spouses get together, do stuff. He’s just there by himself, fending for himself.”
Marines #2: “The relationship lasted for about four years, but I always felt like I was disrespecting him, to have to pretend he didn’t exist when I went to work. When I got deployed, he was there with my family when I left. It kind of sucked—to shake his hand and a little pat on the back and ‘I’ll see you when I see you’ kind of thing. And when you’re getting ready to come back, the spouses were getting classes—here’s how you welcome your Marine back into the family—and my boyfriend didn’t get any of that. I had a really hard time adjusting to being home. We tried to make it work for a year but he was getting more and more paranoid about people finding out about us. It killed me that he felt that way because of me. I don’t think we ever really had a chance, ultimately.”
Air Force #3: “When I was deployed, every Sunday we would sit down on opposite sides of the world and we would each order a pizza and we would watch a movie together over Skype. We weren’t doing anything bad except trying to spend some time together. But there was no ‘I love you.’ Certainly nothing sexual, or anything like what some straight guys do over Skype.”
Navy #2 (captain, twenty years): “Personally, I haven’t had a lot of struggles. The hardest thing that I faced was about eight years ago. I was dating somebody for about two years who had gotten out of the army. He was HIV positive, and I didn’t know that, and he ended up dying—it just happened very quickly. I am not positive, luckily. So I had a lot of difficulties grasping with that personally, dealing with his death, and I had to take time off work, but still not tell them. I couldn’t go to the doctor or the psychologist. There wasn’t really anybody to talk to.”
The Japanese economic miracle had nothing to do with competitiveness or the supposed omniscience of Tokyo’s elite bureaucrats; it had everything to do with the resilience of ordinary Japanese people and the country’s deep reservoir of social capital. And when Japan’s economy faltered during the “lost decades,” this likewise had nothing to do with a stodgy growth model or Tokyo’s elite bureaucrats having dug their heads into the sand. Japan was urged to make radical economic reforms by many foreign observers, who were then disappointed by Tokyo’s glacial progress in making them. But economic efficiency was never the end goal, whether Japan’s economy was rising or falling. It was social stability. And this foundation has survived two tough decades and is now a national insurance policy being paid out in the aftermath of the recent disaster.
Japan will rebuild its economy, probably with impressive speed. But don’t expect to see a plethora of Japanese billionaires emerging, along the U.S. or Chinese model, or the adoption of hostile takeovers, Reagan-Thatcher-style supply-side reforms, and the rest of the neoliberal agenda. Instead Japan will dig deep into its own values to forge a 21st-century version of the “rise from the smoking ruins.”