Friday, March 7, 2014

First "Stupid" Then "A Knucklehead"

Several years back, when it came time to do the college search, our oldest son decided to apply to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  Living in Manhattan, coming from an international private school, and, for us, a family with no military background, it was an unusual path to take.

It generated not a few comments from those unflaggingly progressive New York City neighbors and friends of ours, most of whom had nothing particularly nice to say either to our son or to us as parents.  One especially angry neighbor stopped me on 14th Street just in front of the post office to ask what was going on and she (yes, it was a woman) finally could contain her distress no longer.  Her face red and her stance belligerent, she yelled after me that "only a 17-year old would be stupid enough to do something like that." Shortly thereafter, when our son was a first-semester plebe at West Point, then-Senator John Kerry delivered his own version of what most of my neighbors had been saying a few months earlier. Kerry told a college-age audience that they needed to be smart and get a good education lest they get "stuck" in the military.

Well, our son did do "something like that" and while he's not "stuck in Iraq" he is now a 25 year old soon-to-be captain in the U.S. Army.  He's been a platoon leader, planned missions and conducted training sessions. He handles and is responsible for equipment valued in the millions of dollars.  He lives in beautiful country, but he's 3,000 miles from the rest of his family.  He works long hours with modest pay.

And according to First Lady Michelle Obama he's a knucklehead. 

Oh, it's not just our son by any means, and she wasn't singling out knuckleheads in the military.  She was more sweeping in her characterization of young people as a group of knuckleheads.  I happen to have three in my family.  As Mrs. Obama puts it, my kids would be among those young people who are "cookin' for the first time and slice their finger open."  Presumably, according to the first lady, when my kids and their goofy lot aren't bungling something in the kitchen,  they're out "dancing on a bar stool," drunk enough to fall off and get a concussion I would imagine. And since they're all knuckleheads, they won't have insurance so they won't be able to get their finger stitched up, that is, if they're even smart enough to think to go to the doctor.

The First Lady's shallow humor was a push for her husband's Affordable Care Act, delivered at the expense of the young people who helped send Mrs. Obama and her husband to the White House.  Her hapless remark, like Kerry's "botched joke," has been covered by a variety of sources and there's not much more I can add except to shake my head in the disappointing knowledge that the first lady has a lot in common with my neighbors and friends of eight years ago.  They were merely speaking their minds when they let go with their opinions on young people joining the military just as Michelle Obama let us know who she thinks is stupid.  While I applaud them their honesty, I find it remarkable that these unflattering, critical labels roll so easily off the tongues of, well, liberals who pride themselves on being tolerant and well-educated and smart.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Are you a homophobe?

You just might be called one if you have any doubts whatsoever that college football player Michael Sam who announced a while back that he's gay, is courageous or made history.  You just might be labeled a homophobe if you're not rushing to acclaim his action as "unprecedented" and "postmodern".  You certainly will be consigned to the ranks of what the enlightened elite calls homophobes if you aren't at least proud, respectful, and supportive of Michael Sam.  Watch out!   Being cast as a homophobe in today's politically correct culture puts you on the negative side of the balance sheet.

Sam's statement has created somewhat more hub-bub than NBA player Jason Collins's announcement of last year perhaps because, as eligible for the NFL draft, Sam could be the first openly homosexual NFL player. But back in April, even Collins's moment of truth elicited a response from Barack Obama who referred to Collins's announcement as an "extraordinary measure of progress."

There's something curious about the matter if you stop and think about it for a minute.  First,  I really don't know any homophobes.  I don't know anyone who has a fear of homosexuals, who is so afraid  that he won't speak to a homosexual or who is so terrorized by homosexuals that he would cross the street to avoid possibly grazing shoulders.  I know of no one who would first inquire as to a person's sexual preferences before patronizing their business, calling them a friend or helping them as a neighbor. A homophobe is a rare phenomenon.

Second, both Sam and Collins seem intent on emphasizing that their identity is not their sexuality but their profession. Sam himself testifies that he's a "football player", that's who he is, that his sexual preference shouldn't be a "big problem" that being gay is "nothing" compared to the hardships he's endured in his life.  Jason Collins has offered much the same.  He doesn't have time to think about making history.  He wants to focus on his job.  He says that this is about Sam "just being a football player and me just being a basketball player and trying to help our respective teams win."   Obama himself had this to say. "We judge people on the basis of their character and their performance, not on their sexuality. I'm very proud of him."  

So if we judge people on their character and not on their sexuality, why are we talking about their sexuality?

In the current public discussion of these sports figures, having a same-sex attraction, being 'gay,' is characterized for us as nothing special, just another choice, an alternative life style, not a big deal.  Anyone who doesn't buy into that characterization is a homophobe.  Period.  The label is tossed off freely, carelessly---and with not the kindest intentions.   

The powers that be, that nebulous "they" have dictated that there will no discussion, no dissent, no ifs, no whys or maybes. If you don't care to agree--for whatever reason--that homosexuality is no big deal, then you, my friend, are a narrow-minded, nasty, backwards fool.  You are a homophobe.  Is nobody allowed a little time for introspection,  questioning, wondering?  How did homosexuality all of a sudden become no big deal after millenia of being considered something different? When did homosexuality become the norm?  Or is it?  Sam and Collins are telling us it's nothing, they're just regular guys but they and the chorus behind them are also telling us that they're different and special and courageous. For being normal?  Which is it?