Gays, Muslims, and Marines

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There has been a lot of talk lately about Muslim registry and Homosexual rights.  With this being a Buddhist blog on a Buddhist website, I’m hoping it will come as no surprise that I believe Muslims and homosexual people have the same amount of Buddha nature as everyone else does.  When Buddhists say ‘may all beings be free from suffering’, we mean all beings.

However when people question me further on this, they are often surprised that my support towards Muslims and homosexuals, comes not from my experience as a Buddhist, but rather from my service as a Marine. There were two distinct men I had the pleasure of serving with, one was gay and the other was Muslim.

Marines tend to give each other a lot of shit.  The politically correct, social justice warriors littering college campuses today would retreat to their safe place and never come out again if they ever heard some of the racial, homophobic, sexist, and just downright crude language that flies through the squad bay.  Being gay or Muslim does not give you a free pass from this.

If you ask any Marine they will readily tell you that the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy is ridiculous.  Marines know everything about the members of their team.  They have to.  I knew everything from my team’s blood type to what kind of breakfast cereal each of them liked to eat.  If you live closely with someone, say in a barrack situation or for weeks in the field, you are going to know their sexuality.  You’re also going to know their poop habits, whether they floss or not, and a million other things you might not wish to know about a person.

This gay man in my unit did nothing to hide his sexuality because he knew it was pointless to try to do so.  Because of this, he received a lot of hazing from the other Marines.  Fortunately this guy gave way better than he received in the way of insults and teasing.   He learned how to shut down the slurs, usually in a way that had everyone laughing.  But it also made me a little sad that he had to wake up in the middle of the night to shower alone.

The Muslim Marine faced many of the same obstacles.  When I joined the military, America’s enemies were slowly changing from Russia to the Middle East, so to be ‘one of the enemy’ serving within the Corps presented its own unique set of problems.  The Marines gave him the nickname Jihad, and the name stuck to him like white on rice, yet this man still took his prayer rug with him into the field, and did his best to pray five times per day unless it would somehow compromise the mission or endanger his fellow Marines.  He was always quick to bow to you with an as-salamu-alaykum, and showed genuine respect whenever the bow was returned with a wa-alaikum-salaam.

I love these two Marines, and have tremendous respect for both of them.  I often asked them how they endured then endless onslaught shit they had to endure that the other Marines didn’t, and their answers basically boiled down to the same thing: They wanted to be Marines.  The mission always came first with these two men.  That focus on the larger picture gave them an ability to shrug off the slurs and hazing in ways I came to respect.  They were also the two I wanted to have at my side when things went south, because I knew they wouldn’t let me die in some foreign sandbox just because things got hard.  They knew how to fight because they were fighting everyday just to be there.

If you have something to apply yourself to, and can give yourself to it passionately, the minor distractions that piss so many of us off, suddenly are seen for the minor distractions they are.  They become like rainfall during a mission, yeah it might be annoying, but the mission goes on.  You can curse at the rain all you want, but it’s still going to fall.  Or you can bust out your poncho and kick some ass.  The choice is yours.

Sadly, many people will live their entire lives without having that one thing that truly matters to them.  I’m fairly certain the politicians making these fear based laws against these two groups don’t have it.  That thing to live by that gets them out of bed in the morning, the thing they simply cannot live without doing.  If you’re one of these people who are lacking in this I would strongly encourage you to change that.  Don’t do anything half assed.  Some people today get married with the thought that if it doesn’t work out, they can always get a divorce…and then they wonder why the marriage doesn’t work out.  Some of us go into debt knowing if we can’t pay our bills, there’s always bankruptcy.  This attitude of ‘if I don’t like it I can always quit’ attitude brings nothing truly amazing to the world.

If you take a hard honest look at your life and ask yourself what truly matters, I highly doubt that operating from a place of hate is anywhere in your top ten.  Let’s make a pact to learn to have some control over our anger instead of the other way around.

Erase hate as an option for you.

Find out what truly matters to you, and let that be the needle on your compass.


1 comment

  1. Marie

    Darren, As always, thank you so much for your perspective. I love reading what you write because you have a way of wording things that makes people think without making them feel badly about who or what they are. DADT was a stooooopid rule. There was a story about it on NCIS just yesterday. My daughter is a Marine although she’s out now and has gotten a MSW on the GI Bill. Still, she would agree with you here. OO-Rah.
    Carry on Soldier.

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