If you were to credit a single individual with defeating Hitler, it wouldn’t be a statesman or a general. It would be a British mathematician — Alan Turing.
Turing figured out how to beat Enigma, the machine that used over 150 trillion possibilities to change German military codes every eight hours. Turing’s breakthrough gave the Allies access to information that led to victories on land and at sea. Indeed, since outwitting Enigma was what secured the Atlantic, Turing made D-Day itself possible.
How was he rewarded? Seven years after V-E Day, Turing notified police that his home had been burgled. When apprehended, the burglar accused Turing of something deemed far more serious at the time: perversion — specifically, “gross indecency.” The police questioned Turing, who, believing they were investigating the burglary, confirmed his dalliance with another man in that very same home.
He was convicted as a sex criminal. Usually that meant prison, but the highly experimental medical culture of the 1950s offered new alternatives to “cure” homosexuality: lobotomy, electric shock, Pavlovian reconditioning and chemical castration. Great Britain offered Turing the latter in lieu of prison. Turing figured it was an alternative he could live with.
It wasn’t. On June 7, 1954, Alan Turing was found dead in his bed. He had a half-eaten apple at his side and cyanide in his system. Ruled a suicide, the cause of his death is now disputed by Turing devotees, noting the many reports of his remarkable cheer in the days preceding his passing. Those of us who have known a suicide victim know that cheer all too well.
We celebrate D-Day now as the beginning of the end of the Nazi Germany, a regime based on a worldview of superiority that was grounded in the basest kinds of “othering” — of Jews, yes, but also of gypsies, Blacks, the disabled, Jehovah’s Witnesses, artists and, of course, LGBTQ.
If you don’t think that kind of othering is rising again, wake up and smell the coffee. The dog-whistling, particularly on the “dangers” of letting people be who they are and love whom they love, is deafening — and growing louder every day.
Our Republican legislature devoted unconscionable time in the middle of a pandemic to an issue they didn’t run on in order to blow that whistle. They manufactured crises about transgender youth that played on and inflamed misunderstanding about this already profoundly misunderstood demographic.
Our governor got his whistle out, tooted along, and signed on the dotted line.
And on D-Day of all days, I read an opinion, ostensibly written by U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale and ostensibly alerting us to the impending doom of “critical race theory” being imposed on our military. (I used to say you can’t make this stuff up, but clearly you can.) Our congressman, who has never served in the armed forces, could not resist trashing a recently released Army recruitment ad about Emma Malonelord, who has served and continues to do so.
Corporal Malonelord appears to be white. Her story has absolutely no connection to race theory, critical or otherwise. She is a college graduate who wanted to serve her country and make a difference in the world. Her unforgivable sins, in Rosendale’s worldview, are that she has marched “in left-wing social protests” and was raised by two moms who proclaimed their commitment to one another in a “lesbian wedding.”
The ad featuring her story was posted a month ago. The comment section has now been disabled. After a million views, it had 36,000 dislikes and only 775 likes. Our congressman knows a good dog whistle when he sees one. Oh, and thank you for your service, Emma.
Ten years and one day after D-Day, the individual who, more than anyone else, made that day possible took his own life because there was no place for him in a society that — whatever debt of gratitude it owed him, whatever another Matthew admonished us in 7:1-3 — called it righteous to cast him out as not “one of us.” Sixty-seven years later, too many of us are responding to the call to do the same thing. Now, that’s perversion.
I stand with Alan and Emma. With pride — and gratitude for what he did and she does to stand for me and you.
Mary Sheehy Moe is a former state legislator and writes from Great Falls.