There’s a strong wind blowing through North Carolina today, one that has swept much of the Southeastern U.S. on its way here. It was a wet and balmy 64 degrees when I took the dog out before dawn, but a cold front is passing through, and the wind is blowing, and the weather people say it will be clear and 20 degrees chillier by afternoon.
Sometimes that sort of weather pattern seems appropriate, as if the accompanying showers bring the land a needed bath while the following wind blows it dry and ready for something new.
I thought of that as I perused the paper this morning. Winds of change are blowing in other areas, too. In North Carolina, today marks the onset of several new laws including rather innocuous ones like changing rules for automobile license plate holders, and more significant directives such as the banning of video “sweepstakes” machines, a pernicious form of gambling designed to get around earlier bans on video poker and other games of chance.
Of course, the hypocrisy of the act remains evident: while banning sweepstakes gambling, the state still promotes its own gaming industry through the lottery. One might wonder if lawmakers really have the best interest of problem gamblers at heart, or if they’re more concerned with limiting competition to the states’ own sweeptstakes games.
Another welcome wind of more national import comes in a report that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other top leaders, previously cautious, are now calling for an end to the American military’s policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The 17-year-old system, a tentative step toward lifting a total ban on homosexual persons in the military, allows gays to serve, but only if they keep their gender orientation a secret. A new Pentagon survey shows that two-thirds of active troops think the ban is unnecessary, that 69 percent of them felt confident they had served alongside gay troops, and 92 percent of those believed their units still worked well together.
Gates acknowledged one obvious discrepancy in the current system: while the military regularly beats the drum of integrity and honor, it requires some members to hide or deny a central truth about their identity.
Sadly, though the winds of change are tattering the edges of the fraying policy, it’s unlikely to be repealed soon because many members of Congress will not vote for anything that might subject them to the charge of being soft on gays. As a result, political expediency will trump justice, an all-too-frequent refrain.
Sometimes I wish the winds would calm, but in some cases, they need to keep on blowing.