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December 21, 2010

The Art of Politics

Roy Meachum

Rushing to exit the Capitol for America’s High Holidays, the U.S. Senate once again put on national display what politics is really about. I’ve never been able to find the genius who described the game-playing as “the art of compromise.”


No better examples can be found in laws enacted and signed this weekend. Liberals were squelched to get through the so-called Bush’s tax cuts. And conservatives were struck dumb by the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. The Tea Partiers were furious, considering the repeal an insult to the country’s fighting men and women.


Never mind the majority of people in uniform indicated consistently in polls that, as the Hillbilly saying goes, “H’it will make no never mind.” A lesser number of troops thought it might weaken their combat capabilities. Without repeal, lesbians and gays will go on giving their lives for our freedom to think and say what we want to do.


In my long years spent in Army, nobody ever needed to paste a label on homosexuals. We generally knew who they were and cooperation between us was not affected by our majority’s affection for the opposite sex.


When I was in the American Forces Network, because of the creative nature of our jobs, any single meeting might be balanced away from heterosexuality. Homosexuals in uniforms faced immediate less-than-honorable discharge, losing all the G.I. Bill’s rights, including tuition and support.


At the same time, there seemed absolutely no sexual restrictions on hiring civilians; I worked with the most flamboyant gay I knew and the most butch lesbian I’ve come across. There was a sizable homosexual community, some in uniform, which held wild parties at AFN’s transmitter site, out in the boondocks around Frankfurt. In preparing for radio shows, I spent several nights sleeping in a hotel’s twin bed only inches away from my producer’s; he was the flamboyantly gay I mentioned. Both sober and drinking, he never made a move in my direction.


On the other hand, we were all shocked, disregarding sexual preferences, when a quiet blond corporal was caught with a young German technician; the phrase is in flagrante delicto – in the act. The American was shipped home to Ohio, fully disgraced. His lover was fired, of course, but otherwise unpunished.


The Nazi defeat ended Hitler’s treatment for homosexuality by shipping those guilty off to concentration camps; they wore a pink triangle so they would not be mistaken for the six-pointed yellow Star of David on Jews. Gays and lesbians were murdered and tortured along with everybody else in there: Gypsies, Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Scientists, even ministers and Catholic priest – despite the dictator being baptized in the Church of Rome.


Down to the end, bigots fought tooth-and-nail against the integration of woman and blacks into the Armed Forces. As I pointed out, from the Kennedy Center Opera House stage, when I was invited back for a concert, there were neither females, nor African Americans in the United States Army Band when I served as the outfit’s announcer. But, assuredly, there were homosexuals; deep in the closet, fearful of being discovered, although the rest of us suspected several.


Maintaining the cut in income taxes fell before the argument that the richest citizens facing the highest penalties could create more jobs sounded to me like a political payback to a class of big political contributors. Coupled with substantial extensions of unemployment benefits for the average citizen made the combined bill a first-class example of politics as the art of compromise.


As for the Tea Partiers, I hope I’m far away when they wake up on the morning of November 7, 2012, to discover their one-term Democrat president has received another four years from voters impatient with what Republican control of Washington has delivered.


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