People probably have different opinions on whistleblowers. While all might not be as memorable or infamous as Deep Throat and Linda Tripp, there is a general sense that whistleblowers are important. Particularly in these economic times, if there is wrongdoing happening in corporations, we want to know about it, and we have many laws that protect individuals from repercussions if they “blow the whistle” on their companies. Where would we be without Jeffrey Wigand, Karen Silkwood, or Sherron Watkins, just as examples?
Under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, however, the military has a policy of punishing whistleblowers. I’m talking, of course, about those who simply try to honor their respective codes of conduct and are unfairly discharged for doing so. These are individuals who speak out against the discrimination enforced by Congressional law who are then discharged merely for attempt to demonstrate their own integrity.
Speak out against wrongdoing? You’re fired, thanks to the wrongdoing you called out. You get punished for not living a lie.
I was particularly troubled by the story this past week of Sara Isaacson. She had a full ride through Army ROTC at UNC Chapel Hill, with aspirations to became an army doctor like her grandfather. Then, this past November, thanks to the identity development she experienced during three years of college, Isaacson realized she was a lesbian, and decided to come out to her superiors. She describes why this was important for her:
Soldiers need to be able to mention their spouses and loved ones when interacting, Isaacson said. Those significant others need to be able to use the military’s support network if they’re stationed away from their loves ones. And those soldiers need to be able to name their partners as their next of kin, she said.
“Being in the military is hard on families, and those support services are there for a reason,” she said.
This seems admirable.
Not only has Isaacson been recommended for discharge, but also to repay the $80,000 worth of educational expenses that, so far, her ROTC scholarship has covered.
This seems abusive. Isaacson didn’t know she was lesbian when she enlisted; she was taking advantage of an opportunity open to all young people. Simply because she did not know then she was lesbian and now refuses to live a repressed life, she is being viciously punished.
You think the armed services will help you get an education? Sure, so long as you’re not gay.
Where is the protection for people who speak out for their own protection? Where is equal opportunity? Where is compassion?
DADT is so severe that the Army cannot honor its contract with Isaacson, as if to suggest they were conned. When we agreed to pay for your education in exchange for your service, we were under the impression you were a heterosexual. Now that you’ve matured enough to realize you’re not, we want it all back.
It’s the armed services that are conning us. And since we now know the President’s drop-in of DADT repeal in the State of the Union was a farce, the White House is conning us too. They’re the ones discriminating. They’re the ones abusing power. They’re the ones that need to be held accountable.
How many have to speak out without protection before the government takes responsibility? My hat is off to Isaacson and the many servicemembers who are making sure the President knows their stories. If the government won’t defend your right to stand up against their injustice, it’s up to the rest of us to support you.