STATEMENT OF CONCEPT

 

It's pretty obvious that "Do Ask, Do Tell" sounds like a snazzy title for a movie, maybe a silly comedy. Presumably, the public associates the phrase with homosexuals in the military, and one wonders how readily that topic lends itself to goofball, sitcom-style, "movie genre" comedy.

In my Do Ask, Do Tell book, I instantiated a much broader interpretation of the concept. One a political level, DADT implies that citizens may need to strengthen the firewall between themselves and government interference with their personal lives. Hence, we get to the "Bill of Rights 2" proposal. On a moral level, there are many tensions in present day society over the way people set personal priorities, particularly with regard to "family values" and the distribution of wealth. On a historical level, the post World War II era the last half-century of this millennium has been marked by the rise of individualism as a major ideological influence upon public policy (as opposed to the usual politics of nationalities, races, religions, and other "groups"), and the mixed public credibility of the homosexual community and "lifestyle," as (at least by appearances) compared to the psychological automatically of the "nuclear family" strikes me as a central development marking the growth of this individualism. The 1990's debate over gays in the military characterizes sudden change in public attitudes towards homosexuality and gender roles, and also brings up the question of self-ownership when viewed in comparison to conscription thirty years earlier.

Indeed, the last half of the twentieth century is simply an incredible time to have lived in, and it probably was the first time that an ordinary person could make his own expression important with relatively little bureaucratic approval. This has been a time when, finally, a basic paradox of human civilization is finally recognized. To wit, men and women must use their rational faculties to transcend their own immediate adaptive existences, even (in the long run) to survive at all; yet men and women need focus in making and keeping personal commitments (as with "family values") essential in a fair, just, and "reasonably" free society built on "ordered liberty."    

It should be possible to show all of this with a compelling narrative film. The ascent of individualism has been covered in, say, Ayn Rand: The Sense of Life, and the gay community has been chronicled in a number of films, such as After Stonewall; but no film or, for that matter, cable miniseries has put these two together. Furthermore, most sweeping historical films (even the best ones, such as the PBS series by Ken Burns on several topics) tend to focus on short clips and interviews or readings rather than upon continuous drama and character interaction (although Winds of War does an excellent job of the latter). I think that an effective technique would include putting a lot of characters in one room and having them interact in a My Dinner with Andre format, perhaps in Williamsburg's Raleigh Tavern, where they contemplate a Bill of Rights 2. Then their many stories could be interleaved in a flashback Dr. Zhivago style unfolding.

The "Do Tell" epigram refers to a person's pride in following his own purposes (closely related to "being himself" or saying "I am proud of who I am"), and in not having to pretend that someone else's agenda is his own. The "Do Ask" component refers to a moral duty to be open to answering for his motives, as to whether they really adequately address the needs of others in an evenhanded way.