much fuss, no point

There’s a bit of fuss about this photograph. Some of it’s deserved; most of it isn’t. First posted on the Wipeout Homophobia wall on Facebook, the photo is said to depict a gay pride flag being raised at a U.S. Marine compound in Afghanistan.

The fuss seems to take two approaches, one that disputes the authenticity of the photograph and one that objects to the message of the photograph. The former is almost certainly an extension of the latter. I suspect the people who call the authenticity of the photograph into question are also opposed to gay folks serving openly in the military (or serving at all, for that matter).

The authenticity arguments are pretty…well, stupid. For example, this guy: “No American commander in Afghanistan would allow that to happen. The American flag and guidons approved by the Institute of Heraldry are the only banners displayed in a war zone. It’s a great photoshop though.”

Since there are also photos of the Marine climbing up onto the Hesco bastion with the flag in his hand, it’s highly unlikely the images are photoshopped. But the guy is right about the commander and the heraldry issues. It’s highly improbable that any commander would authorize that flag and the flag doesn’t conform to military guidelines. Of course, nobody has claimed this was an authorized act*, or that the rainbow flag remained there for any length of time. It’s almost certainly just some Marine making a personal statement in support of gay rights.

Should he be punished for it? I have to say yes, though I agree with what he did. I’d certainly expect him to receive some punishment if he’d raised a white power flag or a Nazi flag. I can’t condone the behavior just because I agree with it.

Still, I’m glad this guy did it, regardless of how long the flag was up and regardless if he gets punished for it. Sometimes making a point is more important than following the rules. If you break the rules, you have to be willing to accept your punishment, of course. But there are times when it’s worth it. There are times, in fact, when it’s necessary.

The fact is, being gay is no more a matter of pride than being, say, right-handed. Being gay isn’t an achievement; it’s not something people strive for. It’s just what some folks are. The pride comes from announcing you’re gay or that you support gay rights at a time when gay folks are being marginalized, discriminated against, killed. The pride comes from making a big deal out of something that shouldn’t be a big deal at all, and continuing to make a big deal out of it until it’s actually NOT a big deal anymore.

There’ll come a day when the grandkids of gay folks will look at photos like this and wonder what all the fuss was about. They won’t think that because they’re innocent; they’ll think that because they’ll be right–there’s nothing here to make a fuss about.

* That’s not entirely correct; some conservatives have claimed that raising the gay pride flag in that military compound was part of the “Obama agenda” of “salut[ing] the colors of the homosexual lobby by flying a rainbow flag in place of Old Glory.” Note that ‘in place of.’ Lawdy, these people are phenomenally stupid.

5 thoughts on “much fuss, no point

  1. Breaking a few flag regulations is quite minor and has been done many, many times. You wouldn’t believe how many US tanks had the battle flag of the Society For Creative Anachronism’s Kingdom of Trimaris both painted on them and flying a guidons.

    The real issue is that the Afghans are wildly homophobic and already rather unhappy with us. This incident has placed our troops in a higher level of danger. Pretty much only flying the Cross of St. George could have been worse.


    • You know, I could see that being an issue if the gay pride flag was there full time–or even for a significant period of time–but there’s no indication that it was displayed for any longer than it took to shoot the photograph.


      • And it’s all over the internet.

        What would be the response to a bunch of Marines, in a private spot but in uniform, making a video or taking pictures of burning the Qur’an and putting on the ‘net? Or if that flag had been say…the Templar Cross?

        We would not be making statements such as, “there’s no indication that it was displayed for any longer than it took to shoot the photograph.” Or, in the case of the video, that it wasn’t done openly (pissing on dead terrorists?).


  2. Burning a Quran can be seen as an active insult to Islam. Pissing on the dead is an active insult to the enemy. I think it behooves us to avoid actively insulting the Afghan people. On the other hand, I don’t think we need to conform all our behavior to meet their sensibilities.

    We don’t require military women to wear the hijab, for example. We don’t insist the chow hall conform to Islamic dietary rules. We don’t prevent our chapels from having a crucifix (I’m aware of an incident in which a Christian cross was removed from the entrance to a US compound, which I think was probably a good political move–but the existence of a cross in a building on a U.S. base isn’t an insult to Islam. Nor is a gay pride flag.

    Muslims who choose to interpret the pride flag as an insult to Islam are no different than Christians who choose to interpret it as an insult to Christianity. While it’s foolish to provoke people with guns when you’re in their country, but I’d argue that anybody who sees the temporary display of a flag as a provocation is somebody who’s looking for a provocation. And those folks will always find one.


    • We do actually require military women to wear the hijab except on base. It’s not an order per se, just a “strong encouragement.” We also don’t have to remove crosses from the exteriors of military chapels because they’re not allowed by UCMSJ outside or inside a military chapel except during Christian services.

      My point, however, was that there’d be no question of this being an extremely piss-poor idea and inflammatory if it was anything other than a Liberal cause celebre, no matter how short of time the flag was displayed since it got on the internet.


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