Self-Promotion, and a Confession

This morning I blogged at Campus Progress about the new movement in D.C. on repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, why you should care, and why, if you find yourself on the far-left, queer-radical side of things, you should really be ignoring the issue of DADT because you object to the military-industrial complex instead of complaining that this new compromise doesn’t go far enough:

The New York Times reported yesterday afternoon that the new deal on a repeal timeline would give the Pentagon until December to “[complete] a review of its readiness to deal with the changes,” which the White House would also have to sign off on; before even this can happen, the House and the Senate must find the votes to add a DADT repeal measure as an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill. There’s reason to be cautiously optimistic about those votes, but they’re not in the bag yet, and it seems as if some of the moderate Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee will need to be convinced—though, Steve Benen predicts, Congress might vote on the amendment as early as Thursday. If it makes its way into the defense reauthorization act, the Pentagon and the White House will then be able to conduct their respective reviews; if these conclude satisfactorily, DADT will be history.

If you’re curious about how this complicated new process might or might not work, the rest of my post I think lays it out pretty clearly—or as clearly as it is possible to lay out the web of D.C. LGBT politics. Even when I was in D.C. last summer, going to some of the hearings and press conferences, it was hard to keep track, and now I feel more distanced than ever from how things get done in Washington.

I was reminded of how much my life has changed in this past academic year today, because after sending in that DADT post, I went to grab some lunch. Walking past my mailbox on the way to the student-center cafeteria, I picked up the latest issue of the New Yorker, which was waiting for me, and I sat down to my seriously lackluster roast beef and iced coffee (hey, I’m not really complaining—it was dirt cheap) while reading a totally fascinating review of a new biography of Somerset Maugham. I knew nothing about Maugham before reading this article—except that he was the author of Of Human Bondage, which is a fact I memorized back when I memorized authors and titles for my quizbowl team, and which came in useful in one memorable home match when I was a sophomore, one of the first times I played on the varsity team. I had no idea, however, that Maugham was gay (or its early-20th-century equivalent); I suppose I should probably have surmised as much, but it took reading this article for me to add him to my mental roster of queer writers whose biographies I read and by whose cultural contexts I am fascinated. It was a funny realization because it took me oh-so-very out of the context of glaringly polarized D.C. LGBT politics into a more amorphous world of biographical and historicist literary criticism, and a world of long-dead men and women whose sexualities are not, unlike Dan Choi’s, the stuff of headlines. Maugham reminded me that I work in a different context now, one where nothing is black-and-white (or blue-and-red) polarized, and one where nuance is everything, where even the people we’re so certain are one thing or another aren’t, really.

My RSS reader has been changing, over the past year; I’ve pared down my number of political blogs and upped my intake of the likes of the New Yorker, the NYRB, the TLS, and the higher ed press. I’m reading book reviews instead of Politico, and I’m grateful for it. We all do what we have to do in order to stay sane, and to seek beauty; I am thankful that I know now that I am suited less to explaining Washington than I am to explaining the long-dead writers whose identities are so far removed from our own present cultural context. I look forward to seeing what this summer will bring, and whether I can find in every part of it as much joy as I found last summer in the elusive moments when I could escape from politics to the National Gallery or to the Dupont bookstores.

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