Elaine Donnelly is beginning to sound more and more like Sister Aloysius.
The lead character in John Patrick Shanley's play, and film, Doubt, Aloysius spends much of her time whipping up the winds of controversy and declaring, as if preaching an undeniable gospel, the evils of those who champion change and put faith in the evolution of humanity's common sense. What initially appears to be a dementia fueled by a God complex, however, is later revealed to be the manifestation of an internalized fear of progress and a deep-seated belief that nothing different can ever be good.
Yet all the while, beneath the sheen of her self-assuredness, the wronged Sister has buried suspicions that, in fact, she may not even be right.
Similarly, one look at Donnelly's recent comments on Congressional efforts to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" leads one to the inevitable question of whether Elaine can even possibly believe her own distorted delusions.
In an interview with the online news service NewsMax, Donnelly tells reporter Dave Eberhart that, "Indications are that repeal of the 1993 law would hurt the 'Three R's' - recruiting, retention, and overall readiness in the volunteer force." And, like Shanley's Aloysius, Donnelly refuses to support her suspicions with fact, and leaves little "doubt" that her predictions of the end times are greatly exaggerated, and based on anything but truth.
Indeed, our mistress of the school of unfounded rhetoric would do well to heed a more relevant version of the "Three R's:" Responsibility, Reality and Respect. To date, she has failed miserably in all three categories and, in doing so, has scraped away any sheen of credibility she may have once worn like a too-tight habit.
Donnelly's false claims, which she repeats to the media and even Congress with little effect, are the epitome of irresponsibility. Public debate on serious issues should be grounded in fact and based on the truth. Yet, there is no truth in her assertions that any evidence exists to argue a potential erosion of recruiting, retention or readiness should the military welcome LGBT troops. But, in stark contrast to Donnelly's claims, there is much research to suggest otherwise.
The Williams Institute, a well-regarded source for demographic data and statistical analysis, has estimated that, in fact, the military would gain more troops if Congress would just lift the ban. As many as 41,000 new recruits, the Institute's Gary Gates has estimated, would enter military service if the "gays not welcome" sign were taken off the service's doors. And that estimate doesn't even take into account the number of troops who would renew their service commitment, and continue their careers, if the armed forces were not forced to discriminate against them. There's no threat to readiness when good people stay... no evidence, based on a recent Zogby poll, that recruiters would be impeded by an expanded pool of potential recruits... and no legitimate worry that retaining qualified gay troops would create an opposite effect among the straight soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines who are already serving alongside them.
Which brings us to reality... a phase of existence that Donnelly has always been hesitant to participate in. That reality - shown in data obtained by polls and evidenced by the growing chorus of military leaders advocating change - is both simple and undeniable: Straight troops already know plenty of gay troops who are serving with them, and they haven't gone screaming into the streets because their bunk mate has a uncontrollable fondness for Madonna. Instead, they've done what the military has always done, since the days of George Washington. They've gone to work, respected each other's ability to get the job done and carried out the mission that has been given to them.
And that, in turn, shows how much Donnelly's "'Three R' theory" disrespects our men and women in uniform. To insinuate that those who voluntarily risk so much to protect a nation they love make exceptions to their patriotism when it comes to who their fellow troops love shows an blatant disregard for the good character of so many who serve. In truth, the men and women who wear our country's uniform - whether they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or straight - are, by and large, good people who admire and defend our country's commitment to "liberty and justice for all." They do not sign up to only protect heterosexuals from terrorism or only defend straight Americans from attacks on their freedoms. Unlike Donnelly, they have an unwavering commitment to guarding the liberty of everyone who calls our country home.
All of which underscores the simple reality that there are few people in today's armed forces who are as homophobic as Elaine Donnelly herself.
And it leaves us to wonder: At the end of the day, does Ms. Donnelly believe her own shouts of certitude about the erosion of military morals... or, in quiet moments of self-reflection and private conversations with the man upstairs, does she, like Sister Aloysius, find herself mired in doubt?