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Washington Nunn sense and Workers' (un)common sense.

There was something seamy, if not downright prurient, about Sen. Sam Nunn's Armed Services Committee prowling an attack submarine and baiting sailors about how they would feel taking showers with a homosexual. What is going on?

Gays in the military is an issue sensible nations came to terms with decades ago. Most European armies have an open policy and it has not affected their military effectiveness in the least. Look at the Israeli army, one of the most efficient fighting forces in the world, if you need a cogent example.

This should have been one of the easiest campaign promises for Bill Clinton to fulfill. It should have gone almost without saying and been behind us months ago, so we could get on to some of the issues, such as a crippled economy, that really do threaten the well-being of the nation.

There was talk last week of a "don't ask, don't tell" compromise, but that is the most rinky-dink nonsolution imaginable. It is time to get real, admit to what is and always has been, and move on.

So why is Nunn, a Georgia Democrat, belaboring the issue beyond belief? No doubt he has some personal motives, but envy, spite and political ambition are mean excuses for thwarting a president and fellow Democrat struggling to find his feet. It is enough to make a Republican filibuster against Clinton's much needed jobs package look almost noble.

Clinton was elected on a swell of hope. Now no one wants to pay the piper. His own tactical errors aside, Clinton is horn-to-horn with a system so bloated with special interests and so politically implacable that it will not move. Once again there is a deepening disillusionment and disgust with the whole Washington mess.

Probably this should come as no surprise, but it can be disheartening, nonetheless. Not, however, to some of the Catholic Workers we are featuring in this issue. They are greeting these developments with a resigned shrug and sadly knowing smile. It is a waste of time, they say, to go on tinkering with a system that is essentially dysfunctional.

The Worker answer is to embrace alternative life-styles rooted in the gospel and your own neighborhood, a long arm's length from the system surrounding them. Some hope that if enough people live that compassionate simplicity for long enough it will have an organic impact for the good on society as a whole.

It is easy enough to brush such visions off as utopian, but the radical alternatives they generate may become more attractive to a lot more people if the Washington gridlock goes on. Worker volunteers report that is happening even in affluent Holland, where there is no political gridlock and everyone has a guaranteed income.

If such alternatives seem too radical, then we had better find other ways to kick the system's butt beyond dead center. As it stands, Washington is little more than a snake pit of vested interests, of greed not creed, as the Workers would say. There is no sense of a common purpose, of the commonweal.

Until we find that common purpose, in the name of the commonweal, the Sam Nunns and Bob Doles will rule the roost, and our economy, political institutions and quality of life will continue to deteriorate.
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Title Annotation:Editorial; Catholic Workers Movement; Sen Sam Nunn's support of gay military ban
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:May 21, 1993
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