I have spent the majority of my life up until now living in Europe. For the last 11 years, though, I have been living in the U.S. It has allowed me to view things sometimes a little differently than most. Note...differently, not necessarily better ... .
If I have a criticism of America as a nation, a nation that I love, it is that Americans have very little sense about the rest of the world outside the borders of their own country. Have you, like I, watched in horror at the "Jay Walking" segment of the Tonight Show when Leno stops people on the street and asks them seemingly simple questions about the world. Too often the people he stops reveal themselves to be extraordinarily ignorant of seemingly the simplest things about the world they live in.
It seems symptomatic of the major "disconnects" that happen in society's understanding of the world and what happens. As a result people get away with saying or doing things that they really should not …
For example, some justify U.S. military activities in other countries around the world by pointing out that we are fighting for basic American freedoms...freedom of speech amongst them. Yet in the last few weeks do you remember the vitriol heaped upon Bill Maher for some comments that he made on Politically Incorrect, and more frighteningly the attempt by Condoleeza Rice a few days ago to muzzle the U.S. press in what they broadcast or say about the Taliban.
This is a gay publication ... . The particular "disconnect" that I found most noteworthy surrounding the events of Sept. 11 involved a gay man, Mark Bingham. While we will never know for sure exactly what happened on Flight 93 that plowed into a field in Pennsylvania instead of hitting either the Capitol or the White House in Washington D.C., it seems likely that he was one of the three or four men who "took on" the terrorists.
You'll remember he was the 31-year-old 6' 4" gay rugby player who owned his own business in San Francisco.
While like the vast majority of us I never knew Bingham, playing amateur psychologist, having played rugby as a kid in Britain, and worked like hell to run my own small business, he does seem to have "A"-type personality stamped all over him.
Senator McCain, a man who many regard as something of a hero in his own right for the way in which he and others managed to withstand being prisoners of war in Vietnam, delivered a public eulogy to Mark Bingham. McCain was generous in his fulsome praise of this "out" gay man. He acknowledged that it was conceivable that he and fellow senators and congressman survived having a plane crashed into them thanks to the courage of Bingham and the other men on the plane.
I quote a couple of lines from McCain's speech: "I love my country, and I take pride in serving her. But I cannot say that I love her more or as well as Mark Bingham did, or the other heroes on United Fight 93 who gave their lives to prevent our enemies from inflicting an even greater injury on our country."
There is not a word of McCain's eulogy I or anyone else could possibly argue with.
However, very few people seem to have picked up on the fact that while Senator McCain is only too happy to have a gay man lay down his life to defend both he and his fellow senators and congressmen, he and the majority of his colleagues voted against letting people like Mark Bingham serve openly in any of the U.S. Armed Services.
McCain and his colleagues need to be 'called' on this. When the heroes on Flight 93 decided to 'take on' the terrorists seeking to crash that plane into either the White House or the Capitol, they didn't care less that one of their number was gay. They just did what Americans are supposed to do. We know from a phone conversation that another passenger had with a loved one on their cell phone that the men apparently took a vote, decided to act, and put their lives on the line.
There is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that had Mark Bingham decided to join one of our armed services rather than work in the civilian sector, our country would have been well served. McCain, it is time for you to stop and think. The greatest eulogy you could deliver to Mark Bingham is to announce that you have changed your mind on the issue of 'Gays in the Military' and acknowledge that if a gay man or a lesbian is prepared to lay down their life to defend this country and the people and institutions inside it that we hold dear, they should be allowed to, and that we as a country should be only too grateful that they do.