Author (or Editor): William Jefferson Clinton
Title: My Life
Fiction? N - autobiography
Date: 2004, 2005 (Preface and Afterword)
ISBN: ISBN 1-4000-3003-X
Physical description: Paper 969 pg + index in paper
Relevance to doaskdotell: gays in the military and “don’t ask don’t tell”
I’ll focus here on former president Bill Clinton’s record on gay issues, most notably his attempt to lift the ban on gays in the military right after his 1993 inauguration.
There are a lot of references to gay issues in the index. For example, in
“Don’t ask don’t tell” basically said that if you say you’re gay, it’s presumed that you intend to violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice and you can be removed unless you convince your commander you’re celibate and therefore not in violation of the code. But if you don’t say you’re gay, the following things will not lead to your removal: marching in a gay-rights parade in civilian clothes, hanging out in gay bars or with known homosexuals, being on homosexual mailing lists, and living with a person of the same sex who is a beneficiary on your life insurance policy. On paper, the military had moved a long way to “live and let live,” while holding on to that it couldn’t acknowledge gays without approving of homosexuality and compromising morale and cohesion.”
In 1993, the focus of compromise seemed to be a “zone of privacy,” where each servicemember would have his or her private life and the ability to choose adult significant other. The difficulty in making this work without openness would become apparent in the mid and late 1990s as the Internet grew and as sexuality became perceived more as a vehicle of selection and self-expression.
What is most remarkable, of course, is the idea that the military assumed that accepting semi-open gays would imply approval of homosexuality. Why cannot the military follow orders and assume that its public attitude is neutral? I developed this idea myself in Chapter 2 of my book, when I discussed the draft. Typically, society has not taken freedom for granted, has presumed that it must be earned by rites of passage for men, and the military always had a big say in what these rites should be.
The afterword gives an autumnal recapitulation, as he recreates the tribunal of his own coronary bypass surgery. In the end, he says, “every person counts, deserves a chance, and has a responsible role to play.”
Bill Clinton had also written the brief book
View 1993 Defense Authorization Bill (Appendix 10)
Bill Clinton, while president, authored Clinton, William
J., President of the
I lived in Greenwich Village for the first two years of the Carter
presidency, 1978 being a particularly memorable year (I remember the Camp
David meeting that Carter arranged between Begin and Sadat), and the next two
years in Dallas, when the Iran hostage crisis occurred. Of course, we all
know the history since then. During that time, the pastor at the moderate
In the mid 1990s, I also heard Mr. Carter speak at the Washington Cathedral, when he talked about “service” in conjunction for Habitat for Humanity. Now, in this book, he manages to tie practically every major issue together, which is quite unusual and remarkable.
His thesis is pretty transparent. The “Religious Right” is using its pretense of morality and arrogant intolerance to try to get its own way. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Mr. Carter discusses fundamentalists and evangelicals, and soon moves on to the social issues, and provides an original poem, “A Contemplation of What Has Been Created and Why.”
Chapter 7 is “Sins of Divorce and Homosexuality,” and Carter summarizes the right’s preoccupation with homosexuality in simple fashion. It makes an easy mark to try to polarize the public, which on its own has grown more accepting of homosexuality. At the end of the chapter, he makes a rather libertarian proposal.
“Rather than letting the controversial issue [gay marriage] remain so divisive among our citizens, perhaps we should separate the two basic approaches, by letting governments define and protect equal rights for citizens, including those of “civil unions,” and letting church congregations define ‘holy matrimony.’”
He moves on to the big international issues, maintaining that hawkish Bush administration is wrong in waging preventative war in Iraq when there was never any evidence of weapons of mass destruction, then discusses the environment, energy, and global warming, and finally ends to the heart of the crisis, the growing divide between the haves and have-nots. Here he points out the irresponsibility of the Bush practice of staggering deficits while allowing huge tax cuts for the rich.
The question then is of moral leadership. A superpower, he says, is like a great person. Doing the right thing need not involve sacrifice; he also says that. But it is the mapping of the public policy back to citizenship responsibilities of the individual that is indeed controversial.
The religious right gets away with its diversion of picking on homosexuality partly because, in today’s world, male homosexuality symbolizes in a deep-seated way a pungent problem: personal autonomy and self-promotion and narcissism without appropriate level of family responsibility (primarily through openness to having children) and commitment to others. Of course, the same “sin” is created on a much grander scale by heterosexuals. But, the Gospel seems very clear on its expectation of socialization, shared sacrifice, and connection to others ahead in line of self-promotion. Given that kind of commitment, the Bible seems to accept some inequality in exchange for a sum or personal attitudes that will take care of people, even at the compromise of what we have come to see as freedom (autonomy). It may well be that the moral crisis can only be resolved at a personal level by every one of us first.
Former President Carter has authored many other books, including Why Not the Best? (1975), and An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood (2001)
“It’s obvious that the Palestinians will be
left with no territory in which to establish a viable state, but completely
enclosed within the barrier of the occupied
Blogger discussion is here.
American Journey (New York: Random House, 1995) ISBN
0-679-43296-5. 645 pgs hardcover, indexed. This is Colin Powell’s
autobiography, in four distinct sections that trace his boyhood and his rise
through the military, starting in the
“If I have heterosexual young men and women who choose not to have to be in close proximity because of different sexual preferences, am I then forced to face the problem of different accommodations for homosexuals and heterosexuals, and by sex within the homosexual community?”
“Skin color is a benign, nonbehavioral characteristic.,, Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument.”
The first of these quotes would have compelled four sets of quarters instead of two. It is interesting see Powell discuss these sensitive points in rather objectivist language.
Related: Belkin, Aaron and Bateman, Geoffrey. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Debating the Gay Ban in the Military; Halley, Janet: Don’t: A Reader’s Guide to the Miltary’s Anti-Gay Policy Goodwin’s Baptists in the Balance; Gomes The Good Book
Back to doaskdotell book reviews
Back to strike page for all reviews
Back to doaskdotell home page
Email me at Jboushka@aol.com