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Entries in gay rights (4)

11:04AM

First openly gay US flag officer - a big move for all involved

Obviously a calculated gesture that had to have been cleared with a lot of people beforehand, but a very nice move by the US Army, Defense Department and the Obama Administration.  My hat off to all of them - especially the flag officer (newly promoted to BGEN) and her spouse.

An Army officer being promoted to brigadier general openly acknowledged her homosexuality on Friday by having her wife pin her star to her uniform, thus becoming the first openly gay officer of flag rank in the United States military.

Everyone knows we've had gays and lesbians in the military forever.  The only question left hanging all these years was: would we allow them their identity - openly - in exchange for their service?  Too much to ask?  Hardly.

It's a tough job and a hard life, and everybody deserves to be able to acknowledge their fundamental sexual identity while serving their country.

I can tell you exactly when the whole subject jumped the shark for me:  There was this study done sometime (I believe) in the 1990s.  An inside job where some trusted Pentagon contractor went back over the personnel records of the entire force throughout the entire Cold War, looking for instances in which homosexuality led to somebody being successfully blackmailed by the enemy.  Their finding?  Not a single case.  

Despite all those Allen Drury novels saying otherwise, nobody gay (uniform or civilian) ever had their secret used successfully against them in a security-breach manner.

It was at that point that I knew it was just a matter of time - and the right administration.

So my thanks to Obama on that score.

I have to admit that when I saw the headline in the NYT, I thought it was a gag.  I mean, I don't think there are any publicly acknowledged enlisted personnel, so how did somebody get all the way up to being a general, I thought (rather stupidly, I realize).  But then it struck me: the DoD wanted somebody prominent as the first to step forward in this manner, and somebody going from officer to flag is the perfect tipping point in a career to hold up as an example.  

Very smart.

12:06PM

Why the special relationship (US-Israel) isn't going anywhere

Fascinating factoid:  80 percent of the world's Jews live in US and Israel (roughly an equal split in numbers).

Then look at the lower right-hand bar charts and realize - Holocaust or no - that the 20th century was the best century the Jews ever had, because of the location of, and population concentration within, the two great safe places in the global system: the Jewish homeland of Israel and the next best thing called America.  The Economist (where the chart is drawn from) notes that the Jewish faith is now stronger and more "alive" than it's been for a very long time.  Naturally, Judaism experiences the same crises of all religious identities in this modernizing world (absolutely nothing "special" about the Jews in that regard, even as they consider themselves "chosen" like every other faith on the planet - the Lake Woebegon effect that all religions suffer ("I get it!  You don't!")), but there's no question it's a powerful and well-placed faith in a world experiencing religious awakening (everywhere but Europe's non-Muslims).

Expats and coreligionists driving US foreign policy constitutes a long and storied tradition in America.  It - for example - essentially defines our special relationships with the Brits and Europe in general.  Is it weird or "unfair" with regard to Israel?  Hardly.  People want to see conspiracies and what not.  But it's the simple - and beautiful -business of money talking.

America is a supremely fair place when it comes to minorities - save African Americans for obvious historical reasons.  But, in general, if you're an immigrant group or otherwise minority, you can make yourself heard and somewhat obeyed in our political system simply by organizing yourself and applying your collective wealth to the system of influence that is our political system.  Many people find this process slimy, but I love that the only color that matters in this country is green, because that's eminently more fair than skin tone. (And yes, the fact that our first African-American president is a genius at raising money in small amounts is highly indicative of this process - thank God!).

Simply put, NOBODY in this country gets what they want until they organize and start donating money (or spending in the market corollary) - i.e., start making their market heft known.  We've seen it with ethnic group after ethnic group over the decades, and we're watching now with Hispanics and Asians - and Indians in particular (who are becoming amazingly adept at it at a rather fast pace).  We likewise watch it now with the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender).

Again, cry all you want, but I like a process where money beats prejudice.  If you want to deny the party in question, then you mount a bigger effort. But, fortunately, people operating on the basis of love for something win out - time and again throughout history - over people operating on the basis of hatred (my personal fave being the early Christians v. Roman empire).  This is why I don't argue over things like gay marriage or America's continued support to Israel:  the connectors always win out over the disconnectors.  May take some time, but it always happens.  

You just can't bet against people wanting to connect. 

Strategy-wise, you just doom yourself to failure.

Pulling back the lens, this is why I don't - in the end - worry about globalization's future.  The fear-meisters will have their days (and revel in them), but history is stunningly clear on the subject - once America rose up and started running the show.

There is a reason why this is the greatest country in the world.  It's not that we're the best at doing this (personally, I would choose Canada or the Netherlands or Sweden or Norway - all very Wisconsin-ish, so it wouldn't be a big change for me), it's that we're right up there with the best AND we have the capacity and will to spread our system across the planet.  Notice how world history improves incredibly over the past several decades?  It's no accident. It's America doing on a global scale what minorities do on a national scale within our country.

Again, money talks . . . and wins over prejudice and tradition and intolerance and hatred and violence and . . ..

10:23AM

Chart of the Day: Being Gay in Core v. Gap

NYT story from October about new gay rights in Portugal.

Map caught my eye for obvious reasons.  Quick crude overlay of Core-Gap divide shows you want to be gay in the Core - not the Gap.  

Not true in every single instance, but as a rule . . ..

Wherever you still are cranking babies as a means of survival, you will look down on gays.  Almost all of your survival rules - like religion - will tell you to do so.  But once industrialization and connectivity kick in, then you start to value them for the diversity they bring - especially in key globalized industries (yes, gays tend to concentrate somewhat in certain industries, but so do heterosexual men and women, so there!).

But the more basic point: when you connect you have to go with the acceptance of others, because you value the ties and the business more than your precious identity. Plus, you probably also see more of the world and get over yourself.

12:01AM

Chart of the day: It's not easy being gay--in the Gap 

The Economist's point:  it ain't just because of "local culture."

Some 80 countries make homosexuality illegal, and guess what?  They're overwhelming located inside the Gap, where women's rights are much harder to obtain as well.

So check out the chart and notice they are all Gap countries.

Story ends with that old Hubert Humphrey bit about a society/government being measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members.