Wednesday, December 22

The DADT Dipsydoodle

I, like a lot of other people were captivated by the Don't Ask/Don't Tell debate that raged in Congress for most of the lame duck session and for the many years prior. As a firm believer in civil rights for all, it was not logical to be for a policy that said it was okay to serve, but don't act out sexually or talk about it--like anyone else could.

However, now that it has been defeated, I have some serious buyer's remorse. It began when I heard stories about Ivy League schools reconsidering their ROTC policies to allow on campus programs to be installed. Today, as I was reading an article on the Nation's website, it really hit home what one of the unintended consequences of DADT's repeal now is. It is an excuse to gin up the war machine's most valuable asset, new blood in the ranks and create the next generation of the Pat Tillman-like hero.

By virtue of gays and lesbians being able to serve as themselves, the message that is now out there is "if they can, why don't you man-up and join up?" It is cool to be a red-blooded American who defends the country against all enemies foreign and domestic no matter who you sleep with (except, presumably, the enemy).

For those of us who think that building up military might is against the idea of creating peace, the movement to make sure that we have the person power to fight any damn war that our government can get us into is always a bad idea. True we have a voluntary army, but now that serving is like taking up smoking--dangerous, but a rite of passage, what young person can resist?

On the other hand, if what it takes for this nation to embrace civil rights for all is heroism at war, then it could be a good thing--it worked out well for African-Americans didn't it? Didn't it?

Friday, December 10

So Long to the Resilient Elizabeth Edwards

In 2008, while my wife was falling in love with Barack Obama and what she thought he represented, I was thinking about campaigning for John Edwards. He was the only candidate talking about the vast expanse between the wealthy and the poor and had a plan to bridge the gap. It was during that time that Elizabeth Edwardsa came to Iowa to promote her book, "Saving Graces" and I decided based on meeting her, that if she thought her husband would make a good president, so could I. Like many people, I lived to regret this decision, but it was because of him, not her.

I remember that she had chemotherapy the day before and, yet there she was holding court for maybe a hundred or 150 people in the Buchanan Hall at The University of Iowa. She read a bit of the book that had to do with her son Wade, who she referred to in the present tense. And she moved people, not just to read her book, but to share their stories.

Elizabeth Edwards struck me as a strong, deep thinking, good-hearted person who had been dealt an incredibly bad hand. And yet there was nothing about her that said, "feel sorry for me." On the contrary there was a resolve in her that said "as long as I'm here, I'm going to make sure my family is okay and try to make my country a better place too."

The tragedy and redemption of her story lies in the knowledge that she lived to see her marriage crumble, but long enough to make sure that her young children would know their mother past their precognitive years and can choose to carry on her legacy in their own way when they grow up. She was there to be sure that her eldest daughter Cate would become a strong woman in her own right.

How many of us wouldn't want to be around for their children as long as possible? The difference for Elizabeth Edwards was she knew she wouldn't be and did the most with the time she had to spend with them, to write books, and to fight.

I'm sure that she was far from perfect, who is? But faced with the untenable knowledge that she would not live to see her progeny grown, she gave of herself like few others likely could. I am fortunate to have spent a few minutes with her. How many people have had the impact on others in the way that she did? Not many.