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Don't Ask, Do Tell!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2011

    A Well Written, Humorous, and Very Powerful Indictment

    By encyclopedia definition, Comedy is a 'genre of dramatic literature that deals with the light and amusing or with the serious and profound in a light, familiar, or satirical manner. Comedy can be traced to revels associated with worship in Greece in the 5th century BC. Aristophanes, Menander, Terence, and Plautus produced comedies in classical literature. It reappeared in the late Middle Ages, when the term was used to mean simply a story with a happy ending (e.g., Dante's Divine Comedy), the same meaning it has in novels of the last three centuries (e.g., the fiction of Jane Austen).' 'Aristotle's definition of comedy as 'the painlessly ugly' has proved less resonant than his famous definition of tragedy (which has more to do with his philosophy than with ordinary usage), and the centuries have brought scant agreement about the nature of dramatic comedy, its function, or its components.' And going back to Shakespeare, comedy is the moment of relief to provide the audience with some room to breathe before resuming the tragedy afoot. So why is this examination of 'comedy' pertinent to this book - DON'T ASK, DO TELL! by William Bonzo? Because Bonzo very cleverly approached a tragic fact - the fact that yet today the military refuses to fully accept gays as equal member of the forces that are out there to protect this country - and delivers his story with some of the most humorous, tongue in cheek, out and out hilarious writing to come along in a while. Bonzo is brave enough to tell about his experiences in the US Navy as an Ensign (who later became a Lieutenant), decorated several times, beloved by his subordinates, bravely carrying out his duties, all the while sublimating his sexuality as a gay man in order to abide by military regulations. Other authors have approached this subject in retrospect, making the resulting book a whining diatribe of anger and loathing: the military is all bad and likely immutable in its approach to Human Rights. Bonzo doesn't go there, though he has every reason to. Instead he shares with us, his readers, how his mind worked through the frustrations of having to deal with living in the closet, sublimating his attraction to other military men, doing without having a meaningful relationship even while on leave, turning a blind eye when those under his command were less careful, never being able to share with anyone his true feelings for fear it might bring the end to the career he not only loved but wanted to continue. Yes, there are unspoken moments when the military homophobia created silent retorts of frustration and hearing those thoughts in the context of this book makes even those moments bloom with highly skilled humor in Bonzo's hands. Well loved by his men, highly respected, and a thorough-going lover of the ocean and the Navy that provided him with experiences he wanted, Bonzo finally resigned form the US Navy, untarnished, his way of telling the military to 'Kiss my gay...'. In his final pages of this inordinately well-written memoir, Bonzo writes: 'I had to ask myself what I had been fighting for, and had it been worth risking my life for? My immediate response was "My country, and absolutely!" Was it worth having to wear metaphorical camouflage every day in order to hide my sexual orientation? Was it worth feeling love and knowing that love was forbidden? Was it worth living a lie, always being afraid of my true self being found out?

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