New ideas, new hopes for new administration

WILEY A. HALL

January 28, 1993|By WILEY A. HALL

A few ideas to kick around . . .

I am beginning to wonder whether some of our nation's military leaders feel uncomfortable about their own sexual identities. How else can you explain their continued, vehement objections to President Clinton's common-sense proposal to lift the ban on homosexuals serving in the military?

On Tuesday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- the military's top brass -- rushed to the White House to implore the president not to give gays this freedom.

They claim that lifting the ban on homosexuals would destroy the armed forces. Barracks life would be consumed by sexual tension and anxiety, they argued. Morale, unit cohesiveness, and esprit de corps would plummet.

"Homosexuals are notoriously promiscuous," claimed one Navy spokesman, although he had no statistics to support this claim. Heterosexual men would feel like they were being stared at in the showers, he continued.

A Marine officer has argued that he would rather see the corps disbanded than "defamed" by the presence of homosexuals in the uniform.

At the same time, military officers concede that there probably are thousands of homosexuals in uniform now and that there always have been.

The armed services have had their ups and downs -- they have won some battles and lost some -- but our nation's military leaders concede there is no evidence linking our defeats to straight men feeling as though they were being stared at in the showers.

It seems it would be a simple task for the military to adopt a code of conduct outlining acceptable behavior in the barracks and in the showers for both straights and gays.

The president, after all, has proposed to allow homosexual individuals in the armed services, not homosexual behavior. In fact, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin reportedly is working on a strict code of conduct at the president's instructions.

So why the uproar? What is the military brass really afraid of? I can understand and appreciate the positions taken by conservative politicians.

I suspect they hope to make homosexuals in the military the rallying cry for the far right, now that the anti-abortion movement is losing momentum. The far right just doesn't feel right unless it has an emotional issue with which to divide the nation.

But I had higher expectations for the star-studded generals and admirals at the very highest echelons of our nation's armed forces -- especially after they beat up on the mighty Iraqi army during Operation Desert Storm and whipped the mighty Panamanian war machine during Operation Just Cause.

When objections begin to get shrill and illogical, wise people look for the reason.

*

You want to know what all this talk about our first Baby-Boom president really means? It means that it was all but inevitable that Hillary Rodham Clinton would be given some kind of important position in the White House. On Tuesday, the president appointed his wife to head his Task Force on National Health Care Reform.

This isn't a ceremonial post. The task force has been ordered to report back by May.

I think Mrs. Clinton's new role is great. After all, she is an educated, trained professional. She is intelligent and hard-working. What career woman of her generation would be content to toss her talents aside to preside over White House dinners?

Mrs. Clinton, I believe, is a prototype for future first ladies. We had better get used to it.

*

This week, the National Urban League issued its annual State of Black America Report and found cause for optimism for the first time in at least a decade.

In its report, the Urban League's panel of experts foresee an improved climate of racial tolerance in the country and greater attention to the desperate plight of the urban poor.

Black unemployment is more than 25 percent, counting discouraged workers. And the disparity between median income for black and white families is more than $16,000 a year.

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