Monday, March 1, 2010

Generously Running Interference

For the first time, the Navy will let women serve on submarines.

Subs are the only class of ship from which women have been barred, so this is a significant change both practically and symbolically. Female sailors will face no impediments—unless they suffer from both claustrophobia and seasickness like I do, in which case their service should be on terra firma.

According to The Seattle Times, Congress can block the change. If it doesn't, the new policy could be in effect by mid-April.

Those in the know say lawmakers probably won't halt the shift. Why would the prospect of women squeezed together with men for months at a time not agitate socially conservative Congressmen?

Guess. C'mon, just try. One guess.

"Many Republicans, who would be the most likely opponents, are working to preserve the ban on gays serving openly in the military and aren't likely to expend time and effort on the issue of female service members in submarines," said the newspaper.

Congressmen will forego fretting over men and women packed together like sardines because they have bigger, less salty, fish to fry.

They perceive gays as the greater threat. We're at the top of their hierarchy of fears. Women have been serving in the military long enough that people have gotten used to it, so on the fear hierarchy, women in uniform rank somewhere between Al Gore and hip hop.

Bottom line: Women will sneak in because gays are running interference for them.

I'm fine with this. I want to see women advance. In fact, we could use our power for good in other arenas besides the military.

Consider the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI is all about defending traditional doctrine. Many gay Catholics continue to call for an end to Rome's official homophobia. I think we should try something new in addition. We could do a deal with the Pope. Promise him that we won't tell the world how very many American priests are gay if he will let women be priests.

Or we could get every gay priest to come out. Then he'd be obliged to fire them, which would mean untended sheep wandering and sampling different grazing fields from coast to coast. The Pope would have to turn to women to round up his flock. These female priests would forever be known as the Sisters of Bo Peep.

That's how we exploit fear to gain advancement for our friends. We marshal the dislike for us, a distinct negative, into something positive. We'll be one part Machiavelli, one part Pollyanna.

Sticking with religion, the Episcopal Church is still smarting over the issue of openly gay bishops. Some of the churches that have split away also take the view that women shouldn't be priests. Time for an arrangement. They change their sexist tune in exchange for no more openly gay bishops.

For a while. Eventually the women we've helped will see that we get ours, too. In a Christian, do-unto-others sort of way.

Turning to politics, now that I think about it, the ascension of African-American Michael Steele to the top spot in the Republican Party might not have been an effort to match Barack Obama. Perhaps he got the gig so a Log Cabin Republican wouldn't. Perhaps a leading gay GOP'er was forced to be generous.

I think fixing the health care system is so important I'm trying to figure out how we could run interference. Do you have any ideas for how we can leverage the fear and loathing of assorted Congressmen? Maybe a simple threat: Pass health care reform, you nudniks, or endure the sight of a thousand gay lip-locks in the Capitol Rotunda.