DREAM Act Dies, DADT Passes Cloture

The DREAM Act which would have in essence granted citizenship to any immigrant who completed two years of post-secondary schooling (I’m simplifying here) failed in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 55-41, while ending the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy of the U.S. military regarding homosexuals sailed through with a 63-33 vote:

The Republican senators voting “yes” with the Democrats were Mark Kirk of Illinois, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, George Voinovich of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who previously stated he opposes repeal, was the only Democrat to miss the vote.

“We are on the verge of ending ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ for good. This is one of those moments in our history when we stepped up and squared our policies with the values this nation was founded upon,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement after the vote. “I applaud those Republicans who have joined us to repeal this policy, and hope that even more will join us on the right side of history when we complete our work, and end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’

So — I guess that means we’re just a little closer to our Greek cultural progenitors?

We are all Greeks now.

And for Harry Reid’s benefit, I hardly think the American revolution was fought over values such as these… in fact, had a poll been conducted of the Founding Fathers on this topic, I’m not sure they would have sized up with Reid’s value system.

At all.

UPDATE:  Lee Talley in the comments section brings up the example of Baron von Steuben:

I do find it ironic that a policy like DADT would have kept the man considered the founder of the US Army, Baron von Steuben, out of the Army today. Yes, there is conjecture on wether or not he was gay but with the rumors surrounding him even back at Valley Forge that would have been enough to remove him from the modern US Military.

Apparently Baron von Steuben ran into some problems with young men (and boys) according to the American National Biography Online in an article dating back in February 2000.  Newsweek apparently reference the same claim in a February 1993 article, which referenced a letter included in a 1937 biography on the general.

The book does makes reference to an anonymous 1777 letter which concluded that the charge of homosexuality was “probably a malicious slander that originated among Steuben’s enemies.”  Baron von Steuben’s 17-year old interpreter, who is alleged to be von Steuben’s lover, was in fact later married (to a woman) and was indeed very proficient in languages.  In other words, the young man was selected for his abilities, not for his abilitiesat least according to WallBuilders (no friend to homosexuals).

There is also some mention that von Steuben served at the court of Frederick the Great… who is also rumored to have been a homosexual.  Who makes this spurious claim?  None other than Voltaire — who published an anonymous tract entitled The Private Life of the King of Prussia which forced Frederick to place Voltaire under house arrest.  Voltaire eventually left Prussia never to return, and though while Frederick never acknowledged the work and Voltaire never recognized that he wrote the tract, the anonymous tract remains nonetheless.

So was von Steuben gay?  He never married, and had no children.  Frederick the Great may have been… though rumors were set out to argue that he had deformed genitalia form a venereal disease (hence the reason why his marriages were never consummated).  Did von Steuben serve at Frederick the Great’s court?  Undoubtedly so, as that was one of the laurels which von Steuben wore in his attempt to gain employment in the service of the American Army.  But was he really a homosexual?

Most of the direct evidence hinges on that one single letter repudiating the charge.  Either the charge was rejected outright as a calumny, or various excuses were drafted such as this one circa 1796 being cited by the same gentleman included in the 1993 Newsweek article, stating that the charge was:

“…abominable rumor which accused Steuben of a crime the suspicion of which, at another more exalted court of that time (as formerly among the Greeks) would hardly have aroused such attention.”

This does raise the question of  pederasty (since we’re talking about 17 year old boys here).  Not being a historian of all things von Steuben, I couldn’t precisely say.  Most of the evidence is against the idea, but on a single thread — given the mores of the time and the crowds von Steuben mingled in — it’s not entirely inconceivable (but highly unlikely) that von Steuben enjoyed the company of young men.  Whether that points towards von Steuben’s homosexuality or pederasty is still up for a great deal of research and debate, and whether that distinction matters really depends on whether or not you conflate homosexuality with pederasty.  I’ll let others more concerned with the issue debate the merits of that one…

Of course, all this could be an exercise in how a falsehood travels around the world before truth has an opportunity to get their shoes on.  It’s unquestionable that von Steuben did a tremendous service to the American military in its most perilous time, and in fact served well both during the Point of Fork engagement (which just happens to be down the road from where I live in Columbia, Virginia) and the subsequent Yorktown campaign.

As to his sexual preferences, if that’s your focus in life, I’m sure there’s plenty to discuss.  The evidence for it on first glance is scant, built on conjecture and a great deal of speculation, as von Steuben apparently never repeated such acts while in America (or elsewhere).

Still, Mr. Talley does bring up a pretty interesting tidbit from American history, one that can be disbelieved but not entirely disproven.