The Washington Post

RIP ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ — a joke retrospective

So long, “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

I know this is a joyous time. Servicemembers are gaily wedding their significant others, and they’re abandoning years of pronoun-swapping. (I’ve been in a pronoun-swapping club for years now. I recently picked up a bunch of “you’s,” “I’s” and “they’s” for just four lightly used “we’s.” But that’s not the point.) The point is that this joke of a policy supplied a series of actual, real, easy jokes.

So I have to pause and shed a tear for all the easy punch lines. Usually, you have to pause, sweat and furrow your brow to produce a joke. But there was “don’t ask, don’t tell,” just waiting to be called into service. From Broadway to the big screen to the television to the pages of periodicals, DADT has supplied reliable jokes to tens of tens of headline writers, scriptwriters and those people who make YouTube sketches.

Take this musical number, from the classic “Zanna Don’t.”

Or this moment from the most recent X-Men movie.

And those are just two examples.

Remember “don’t ask, don’t smell”?

Or the old joke that the Obama administration had come up with a war strategy — don’t ask, don’t tell. We don’t ask what the strategy is, and they won’t tell us!

This stuff was comedy gold, or something.

The policy was always something of a joke. Now it’s a dated joke.

But as one of the commenters in my weekly chat noted, at least it can date openly.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".


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