I've been thinking a lot about my Uncle Don this week. He was born in the 1920s, served honorably in World War II, then came back to civilian life and became a succesful pediatric dentist in St. Louis.
He lived a long and prosperous life, almost 30 years of it in the same elegant bluff-top home with his "roommate" Richard. When Richard died in the 1990s, Don started drinking too much. He died a few years later, sick and depressed, in a VA hospital in our small Missouri hometown.
He was a sophisticated man -- a concert pianist in his spare time and an inveterate traveler. His presents were always fascinating, and the best thing I unwrapped most Christmases was usually something from his travels.
As was the custom with his generation (and with my Midwestern family), Don's sexuality was never acknowledged. His brother (my father) often would say, "I wish Don would find a nice woman and settle down."
By the time I was 16, I knew the score. And I've never figured out if my father was really clueless or just trying to protect me from the truth. I didn't care. Don was cool.
I took my college girlfriends to St. Louis to stay at his groovy "bachelor pad." He and Richard hosted dinner parties for us with artists and professors and bohemian types. I loved him. He was a wonderful uncle and a good man.
That's why it infuriates me to hear the hypocrisy that came out of General Peter Pace's mouth last week. The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff called homosexuality "immoral," adding: "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is okay to be immoral."
This guy is the military equivalent of my father -- clueless or ignoring the obvious. Recent estimates put the number of gays serving in the U.S. military at around 65,000. Imagine if all those "immoral" folks decided to "tell," without being "asked."
What is immoral is asking people to fight and die for this country without letting them be who they truly are. Bruce VanWyngarden