I went to an Army promotion ceremony yesterday.
A young man made specialist.
His wife was there, and his parents.
And a United States senator.
And the folks from the newspaper and the TV.
Everybody was there.
Except the strapping soldier whose portrait was on the easel. A stunningly handsome paratrooper, with a jaunty, confident smile, he died last summer.
He died in Afghanistan and left a bride of three months. A couple of weeks ago she and the others who had gathered at City Hall for the wedding took the piece of cake out of the freezer and toasted one another with the fluted wedding glasses as they all took a bite.
All but Theodore Matthew Glende.
He was a private first class when he died.
Now he is a specialist.
Now he is one more son of our Republic who has laid down his life in service to his country and his comrades.
It was a beautiful day on the Veterans Walkway, behind where they were setting up for the Lilac Festival, and the family stood on either side of the microphone-cluttered lectern. The senator walked up comfortably and began softly delivering his remarks.
Chuck Schumer is no shrinking violet. He is fond of the cameras, he offers opinions on any topic under the sun, he has a hand in everything big in Washington. He is a liberal Democrat and yesterday he was visiting a town that isn’t always fond of liberal Democrats.
But this wasn’t that Chuck Schumer.
At least it wasn’t that facet of that Chuck Schumer.
This was a tender man who spoke softly and comfortingly, who teared up at times, who set people at ease and who, in a steady, measured text, spoke for a nation. He was a father and a grandfather, come to thank and come to lead. To speak for the loss and to speak for the love.
The gun-banning senator come to speak to the memory of the gun-collecting specialist. Conservatives on every side and a liberal in the middle.
And none of that meant a thing.
It was one family, a red, white and blue family, and everyone knew it.
Later, in a private conversation, Senator Schumer would talk about his appreciation of those who serve, the incomprehensible sacrifice of those who die, and the unwavering burden borne by the loved ones they leave behind. Saying that the country must always remember, honor and support those heroes, he said, “And that is something upon which we will always agree.”
He was right.
That is something upon which we will always agree. They are our
sons and brothers, daughters and sisters, spouses and children. There are no politics, there are no divisions, just one flag and one heart.
And the senator exemplified that.
The promotion is mostly for sentimental reasons, for the pride of achievement that comes from earning another rung on the ladder. For the tip of the hat that comes from upward progress in a world where you wear your status on your shirt and your peers rejoice at your success.
The Army said when he was killed that he would be promoted. It was put on his headstone, spoken at his memorial, made permanent on the Internet. But the paperwork never came through. There was a hang up and then a dead end and for all the difference some ink on paper made, it looked like Theodore Matthew Glende would march into heaven a private first class.
But his wife pushed. A tall, lovely girl who works nights as a nurse and still posts pictures from their wedding, she wouldn’t take no for an answer.
She contacted the senator again and she pushed for an answer and he got one for her.
He got a promotion for her husband.
Specialist Theodore Matthew Glende.
That’s what it will say on the outside of the big post office down on Jefferson Road, the one where his wife goes to buy stamps.
Chuck Schumer is going to get it named for him, as a worthy reminder.
Of the man who got promoted yesterday.
A couple of blocks from where, a year ago, in the hours after the wedding, he and his wife posed by the big cannon for a picture.
No, it wasn’t brave of Jason Collins to announce that he is gay.
It probably was a last-ditch attempt to milk a career that is essentially dead.
Thirty-six years old, an unattached free agent, nobody beating down his door to sign him. That’s not exactly what you call an “active” NBA player. That’s somebody who got retired when he wasn’t looking.
That’s somebody who was about to transition into the anonymity of being a former athlete we never heard of when he was playing.
And then he went gay.
He played the purple card.
And now the president knows his name, and releases a statement calling him brave. With one online piece of unsolicited self-revelation, he is the hero of the liberal class. Somehow, the fact he likes to get it on with guys puts him in the same league as Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks.
At least if you believe the evening news.
If you believe the evening news, this man is a brave crusader for equality and tolerance.
In fact, he’s just one more booster and beneficiary of America’s current obsession with all things queer.
It wasn’t brave for Jason Collins to announce what he claims is his sexuality, it was self-serving. He just bought himself a relevance that 20 years on the basketball court couldn’t.
In this day and age, to come out of the closet is to step into the spotlight of public adulation. To be the first male athlete from a significant sport to do so is to buy yourself a place in the scandal sheets that will one day be history books.
Which makes no sense.
Because homosexual people have been in sports forever, and have been publicly acknowledged and accepted in sports for at least a generation.
Have you ever heard of figure skating?
Isn’t Greg Louganis a central figure in one of the most popular shows on American television?
Are you familiar at all with women’s professional tennis? Or soccer? Or golf?
Do the letters WNBA mean anything to you?
The true pioneers – if that’s what you want to call them – among gay athletes are elderly women today who are probably fondly received wherever they go.
Most notably, they are remembered for being great athletes, not gay athletes.
That’s where Jason Collins won’t be in their league.
Another aspect of this is the very premise of needing to announce one’s sexual interests. As it turns out, humans are sexual beings. Pretty much all of us have sexual desires and sexual lives. It’s human nature.
And, among polite people, it’s private.
Bedrooms have doors for a reason.
Just as we all use the toilet, we all also have sex, and we tend to keep quiet about both.
Most people don’t talk about their sexual desires or practices, and that is as true of athletes as anyone else. Those athletes, gay or straight, live their lives as they will, but don’t feel obligated to rub other people’s faces in their own private business.
There is a general assumption that other athletes, including some nationally admired athletes are homosexual. People presume, but don’t know. And why don’t they know? Because it’s none of their business, and the athlete has decided to keep private matters private.
Is that a matter of social oppression?
Are those gay athletes being forced to hide their true nature? Are those gay athletes cowardly, somehow less brave than Jason Collins?
Or are they just private people, and possibly showing some courtesy toward the beliefs of others?
See, not everyone things the current gay wave is the greatest thing. Some people, usually because of religious reasons, believe it’s a sin. They don’t have hard feelings toward gay people, but as they raise their children and transmit their values, they have their own perspective.
So-called “closeted” athletes may just be respecting those different perspectives. Sports aren’t about sex, so they leave the sex out of it.
People watch football or soccer or basketball because they want to watch those sports. They don’t know or want to know who the athletes are sleeping with. They can admire and support those athletes without needing to know their personal sexual interests.
That’s just normal decency.
And it is irksome that sports are now being exploited to advance the agenda of homosexual normalization and advancement. People don’t watch sports to engage a social cause, or to take a stand in a political debate. They watch sports for the entertainment, enjoyment and escape. We watch sports to get away from the world.
And to infuse the rigidness of political correctness into the happy tradition of American sports is selfish and cruel.
Have your gay pride parade somewhere else, we’re trying to watch some basketball here.
Is you is, or is you ain’t?
That’s where the Boy Scouts of America is. It sits awkwardly astride an issue that divides its liberal professional staff from its conservative chartering organizations, and which further divides those chartering organizations into progressive and conservative factions.
The issue is homosexuality.
For some 20 years, the Boy Scouts have been under attack by homosexual activists. The pretense has been public acceptance of gay scouts and leaders, the real issue has been evil versus good. Boy Scouts is a values and morality based organization focused on teaching those values and morals to a rising generation of boys. Consequently, it is a target for the amoral and immoral, and destroying or defaming the organization is their objective.
That attack has taken various shapes.
Now, in the name of equality, it wants the acceptance and normalization of homosexuals as scouts and leaders. The Boy Scouts’ professional staff tried to cram down a policy change allowing that last year, but the chartering organizations – which actually sponsor the myriad Boy Scout troops all across the country – pushed back.
This year, the professional staff has offered a compromise – allow gay Scouts, but not gay Scout leaders.
The proposal will be considered at a big Boy Scouts of America meeting in May, and has already been endorsed by the Mormon church, the biggest sponsor of American Scout troops.
The proposal, however, has problems. Whether you support or oppose changing the current ban on gays, the one-foot-in, one-foot-out approach is awkward.
It seems to say that juvenile homosexuality is fine, but adult homosexuality isn’t. From either side of the issue, that’s hard to really grasp.
As a practical matter, it makes the 18th birthday a Berlin Wall of Scout participation. A Scout would be welcome and encouraged until a magical date passed on the calendar, and then he would be barred at the door.
It is not uncommon for a young man who really likes scouting to advance to the highest rank – Eagle Scout – and stay active until he turns 18. Many of those young men will then become assistant scoutmasters. That’s a seamless move from the highest Scout rank to the lowest leader rank. Boys are encouraged to make that move, to continue their scouting lives.
Apparently, gay Scouts won’t be allowed to.
It would seem awkward for two boys who progressed through Scouting together to be parted on their 18th birthdays because one of them was homosexual. It’s really hard to understand how a young man is acceptable one day, but not the next.
Homosexuality either belongs in scouting or it doesn’t, the wisdom of a division based on age and role isn’t obvious.
The proposed policy seems to be an expediency or intermediate step. The organization wants to appease critics on one side while not overly offending stakeholders on the other side. The solution seems likely to satisfy neither side and annoy both. The half step toward embracing homosexuality is being wrapped up in a supposed desire to offer Scout programs to all boys. Anyone who opposes changing the current policy is positioned as being hurtful of boys, as wanting to deny children services.
The issue is not really the orientation of an individual, it is the promotion of an activity. The concern is that as the Boy Scouts of America embraces homosexuality it will – in the name of tolerance and acceptance – become a proponent of homosexuality.
That’s the concern with gay leaders; not that they will be child molesters, but that they will be role models – role models of a homosexual lifestyle. It’s not that parents are worried that the gay scout leader will sexually abuse their sons – Scout programs work hard to keep that from happening – it’s that they don’t want him bringing his gay husband around and normalizing a lifestyle that many of them consider immoral and sinful.
That’s the bottom line.
And the proposed policy does not address that completely. It keeps out the gay leader role model, but by welcoming openly gay Scouts, it still allows examples many families consider inappropriate. Peer pressure and example are powerful in the lives of young people, and an openly, assertively gay Scout can be just as problematic as an openly, assertively gay Scout leader.
So what do you do?
Leave it the way it is now.
But acknowledge the way it is now.
As a practical matter, there is not a ban on homosexual Scouts or leaders today in the Boy Scouts of America.
Rather, there is a policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
And that’s not a bad policy.
At no point in the registration process for either Scouts or leaders is there any sort of inquiry about sexual orientation. They don’t ask. It doesn’t come up.
And it won’t come up for either a Scout or a leader unless the Scout or leader engages in inappropriate activity or conversation.
And that’s not a bad policy.
Promoting or normalizing homosexuality is not the role of the Boy Scouts, and is offensive to a significant percentage of Scout parents and chartering organizations.
And yet there are now gay Scouts and leaders in the Boy Scouts, as there have always been.
How have they done it?
By keeping their private life private, at least as far as scouting is concerned.
The proposed policy is flawed.
The current policy is best.
But it should be understood and defined. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Scout or leader, young or old. No one cares if somebody is gay, just don’t make it a part of your Scout life.
That’s what the organization should do.