You just can't keep me down or out of the "Sun."
The editor has encouraged me to report in monthly from afar, and I'm taking him
up on it. --S/f, EFP
Expanded pursuit of happiness
Ed Palm, your former community columnist turned far-flung correspondent here, staying in touch just as I said I would in my "Farewell to rhetorical arms" column (June 5).
Something happened to me recently that, in the words of the poet, "has given me a change of heart ... and saved some part of a day I had rued."
As you may have heard, summers are hot and humid here in Virginia. Today found me not just overheated but generally frazzled over dealing with all the details of moving so much so that I reverted to absent-minded-professor type.
I had just come out of Lowes with a new weed eater and an $11 roll of laminate shelf paper. Needing both hands to load the weed eater into my truck, I set the shelf paper on the roof. (Dont get ahead of me now.) Sure enough, I drove off with the! shelf paper on the roof, and Mrs. Palm was sorely disappointed when I came home without it. So back to Lowes to see if it was still there in the parking lot. It wasnt.
I went in to the customer- service desk and confessed to carelessness, asking if anyone had found and turned in a roll of shelf paper. Sure enough, someone had a roll rendered unusable due to tire-tread marks running across it.
Would you believe that they gave me a new roll free of charge?
Mrs. Palm, who was born in North Carolina, wasnt surprised. (Ours is a mixed marriage. I self-identify as a Yankee.) "This is the South. People are nice here," she explained.
Of course, there are nice people all over in Western Washington as well as Virginia. We just need more of them everywhe! re.
But enough about my trials and tribulations. On to the passing scene.
The big news out of the Pentagon lately has been the decision to allow transgender troops to serve openly in the military. Im sure well be hearing the same objections to this development that we heard about allowing gays to serve openly that it will undermine unit cohesion and threaten good order and discipline. I remember hearing the military enthusiast and popular novelist Tom Clancy sneering to the effect that the real men in the 101st Airborne wouldnt stand for having gays in their midst. But stand for it they did, and I predict that todays young troops will roll with this reform as well.
As forme, despite being an old fogey, Im fine with allowing a transgendered person to enlist or be commissioned under the gender to which he or she has transitioned. But that should be it. My concern is that the Departm! ent of Defense will also shoulder the expense of surgery and treatment for those still in transition as well as for those who have yet to begin the process. Undoubtedly, some few will enlist just to change gender at taxpayer expense.
The irony is that the Pentagon is undertaking this reform at the same time it is whittling away at retiree medical benefits and otherwise looking to cut the exorbitant personnel costs of the all-volunteer force.
As Ive argued before, the key to having a costeffective military is simply to stop enlisting people with multiple dependents and to start restricting family benefits to career NCOs and officers. We have economic refugees enough in the ranks. We need more troops motivated to serve in the old selfless sense of the term be they gay, straight, or transgendered.
Another blip stillon my radar screen is the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Constitutional issues and societal objections aside, what I keep coming back to is our Declaration of Independence. Ever since Lincoln invoked that document in justifying the Civil War, affirming that "all men are created equal," another of Jeffersons presuppositions has done as much, if not more, to shape American attitudes and expectations. Im referring to the claim that "the pursuit of happiness" is an "unalienable" right. If marrying makes a same-sex couple happy, who is it hurting? Gaysand lesbians are merely claiming the same rights and legal protections afforded by heterosexual marriage.
The religious right, of course, will never be reconciled to same-sex marriage. "Chief Justice Roberts, tear down this wall of separation between church and state!" would seem to be what some are saying. That would be an outcome far worse th! an allowing gays and lesbians to marry. Like it or not, the Bibles strictures defining marriage and condemning homosexuality are not normative for everyone in our secular, pluralistic society.
For my part, Im content to thank God for the blessing of air conditioning. Its so hot and humid here that adhesive Mylar numbers wont stick to our new mailbox.
Give thanks back there in Western Washington for your temperate climate.
Contact the sweltering Ed Palm at majorpalm@gmail. com.
ED PALMCOMMUNITY COLUMNIST