Sometimes it seems as though most of the change coming down the pike is regressive, and that the odious tea-baggers are winning the war for the cultural soul of America. The daily outrages of boneheads like Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, Louie Gohmert, and Wayne La Pierre can quickly cast a deep and despairing pall over the entire country. When I begin to feel weighed down by all of the ignorance and hate spewing from the loony right-wing fringe, I find the best way to handle it is to step back, turn down the volume, and put things into perspective.
Fifty years ago segregation was still the actual basis of law in much of the land. I didn't grow up in the "deep" south, but I can remember my parents talking quietly and very seriously about how they would handle it if a black family ever tried to rent a room in their tourist motel. Women had a firm footing in the workplace, thanks in large part to the changes that were forced upon society by needs of our fighting men - and a few (almost entirely all non-fighting) women - in World War II. They could even serve in female military organizations (like the WACs and WAVEs), but certainly could not participate in the bloody duties of the battlefield.
And back then almost all homosexuals, at least the smart ones with a modicum of survival skills, were deeply closeted.
The military, as one significant element of society, was basically a straight, white boys' club.
How things have changed!
President Truman integrated the military, allowing blacks and whites to serve together in non-segregated units. (Most, of course, still had white leadership - it took awhile for that to begin changing.) At some point (probably during the Vietnam era) women were also allowed to serve in the same units as men - initially as non-combatants, but now almost fully on par with their male counterparts.
And then there was the matter of the gays.
In the 1990s President Clinton created a Rube Goldberg-type of policy with his approval of "Don't Ask - Don't Tell" (DADT) giving gays the opportunity to serve in the military as long as they did not do so openly. Any gay who was "outed" while in the military was promptly shown the door and denied future benefits. It wasn't a popular policy in any quarter, with those of the left angrily arguing that anyone who wanted to serve should be allowed to do so, regardless of with whom he or she chose to share a mattress. Many on the right felt that DADT was too liberal, and gays should be completely barred from military service - even if they were in the back of the closet standing behind all of the winter coats.
After struggling with Clinton's two-decade-old deeply flawed policy, President Obama finally got off the dime and, albeit somewhat reluctantly, announced that DADT would no longer be enforced in the military, and that gay individuals could serve openly. The news was soon sprinkled with photos of men marrying men and women marrying women - in their military uniforms.
But one significant hurdle remained. The gays with same-sex spouses could not get military ID's and benefits for those spouses. Then, earlier this year when the Supreme Court, in one of its increasingly rare intelligent decisions, struck down the meat of federal statute called the "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA), suddenly there was nothing standing in the way of gay service members getting ID cards and benefits for their same-sex spouses. Another wall had crumbled.
Today the American Forces Press Service said that the Pentagon has announced that the military is "gearing up" for issuing military dependent ID cards to the same-sex spouses of gay service members.
The only hitch (pun intended) is that the couples must show legal marriage licenses from states or countries where those marriages were legal at the time they occurred. The new policy will hopefully take effect by September 3rd of this year.
The military has never been known for being too proactive in the area of civil rights, but now it seems to be getting itself in line with the rest of society.
Maybe the tea-baggers will also wake one morning and smell the coffee, but it's more likely that they will spend their waning years stockpiling weapons, fomenting conspiracy theories, and showing up in their walkers to heckle their congressmen at public events. It is, after all, what Jeezus would do!