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The Daily Tar Heel

From defeat, a unified struggle

This week, we witnessed an example of American government at its worst. In a hasty attempt to garner votes for the midterm elections, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., attached two controversial amendments to an otherwise incontrovertible piece of legislation.

The bill was the National Defense Authorization Act for 2011, which provides funding for the Department of Defense and the armed forces and is enacted every year. The amendments were the repeal of the military policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which prevents openly gay people from serving in the military, and the DREAM Act, which would afford undocumented students the opportunity to gain legal status if they attend college or serve in the military for two years.

Democrats are facing a tough election cycle this go-around, and that mostly has to do with promises made and still to be kept by the Obama administration. Two of these promises were the amendments that failed this Tuesday on the Senate floor as the Republican threat of a filibuster stalled debate of the overall bill by four votes.

This by no means is the end of the defense bill; Congress would never allow the military to be underfunded, regardless of which party was in charge. The question that remains when the smoke from Tuesday’s political mishap clears is how long we have to wait for our elected officials to take on our generation’s great civil rights injustices­—that of the freedom to live and worship openly and to be accepted as a member of society without any caveats.


While their histories are different, I believe their current struggles are linked. Both communities long to serve their country, yet their country will not allow them to serve in the military as they are.

When did we start turning Americans away from serving America? What better way to show your allegiance to a nation than to voluntarily enlist and risk it all for patriotism? Even the Department of Defense acknowledges the benefits to an all-volunteer force with the passage of DREAM in their own strategic plan for 2010-2012.

America has a long history of fearing those whose seem different or foreign, from the 19th century Catholic menace, to 1930s anti-Semitism, to 1940s Japanese internment camps, to 1950s segregation and beyond. What’s different today? Well, we’ve got gay people trying to join the military, Latinos trying to get an education, and Muslims trying to build a community center.

On Tuesday, we witnessed a loss for America and Americans. When we turn on our principles, we find that we are at war only with ourselves.

We are still a people “yearning to breathe free,” just as long as we don’t ask for it, and you don’t have to tell us that it’s not for us.

Ron Bilbao is a senior Political Science major from Miami, FL. E-mail him at

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