Sunday, 19 December 2010

Ask and Tell

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

You know I don't normally blog on a Sunday, but today is a day of such moment I can't resist. The American Senate, finally, against all the odds, voted to repeal the nasty little law that is Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

I shed actual tears, which was a bit odd, considering all this happened three thousand miles away and I know nobody in the American military. I think it was because I had got so used to bad news coming out of American politics. Every day, some idiot senator would say something egregious, or some dimwit congresswoman would peddle arrant nonsense, or some crazed governor would refuse  desperately ill people liver transplants, or Sarah Palin would shoot a caribou. The voices of intolerance rose high in a twisted chorus, and the voices of reason seemed drowned out.

I think it was because I love and admire America, and I did not like to watch it being mean and petty. Refusing to repeal a law which said that men and women could fight and die for their country but only as long as they kept their sexual preferences to themselves was the ultimate in meanness and pettiness. It also involved hypocrisy and prejudice and a turning away from all empirical evidence.

I think it was also because I still keep faith in Barack Obama, and he seemed so battered by all the forces arrayed against him. He has been called a fascist, a communist, and a socialist, by people who clearly have no idea what socialism actually is. (Repeat after me: the control by the state of the means of production.) He has been accused of being a secret Muslim, a natural-born Kenyan who took the oath of office under false pretences, an anti-American, a kow-tower to dictators and despots. The Left said he was a sell-out who rolled over for the big banks and the insurance companies. The Right said he was a maddened statist, who was coming to get their guns and kill their grandmothers. The press said he was, variously, weak, aloof, out of touch, too stubborn, not stubborn enough, driven by political calculation, not driven enough by political calculation, deluded in his attempts at bi-partisanship, and a general failure on ten different counts, heading for a disastrous Carter-style single term.

I think he is like Mohammed Ali in that great rumble in the jungle against George Foreman. I went to see that film with my friend D at the Fulham ABC, a hundred years ago, and I still remember watching with my mouth open as Ali took punch after punch, sagging against the ropes as violence rained down on him. I could not believe that a human could sustain such a beating, let alone turn around and win. But Ali took the blows, and just as you could not believe he would survive, he got up and landed the knock-out punch.

I think Obama is like that. Everyone said his healthcare bill was dead, and he got it passed. Everyone said the tax plan would never fly, but he got it through. And everyone said that there was no earthly way that he would fulfil his promise on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The forces of reaction were just too strong. The Republicans had their tails up, and all they said was no. It was open season for bigotry, as opponents of repeal all but insisted that if such a thing happened, the armed forces would decide to regale the Taliban with show tunes instead of shooting them. There were endless threats of filibusters and procedural road blocks and the reading out loud on the floor of the Senate of eight hundred page bills; anything to stop the legislation coming up for a vote. But the president kept his head down, while all about him were losing theirs, and pressed doggedly on, and suddenly, like a miracle, this good thing happened.

It is a good thing for everyone who has a gay brother or sister or daughter or son. It is a good thing for anyone who believes in fairness. It is a good thing for all those fighting men and women who no longer have to fear dismissal because of who they love. It is too late for the 13,000 service members who already lost their jobs under this horrid law, but it means there will not be another 13,000.

The President said: By ending Don't ask, Don't tell, no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.'

That was why I shed a tear. It's Christmas, and there is, for once, some Good News.


In other good news, the poor stranded niece is finally on the train, chugging north. I have instructed her to stock up on emergency sandwiches, in case the points are frozen at Montrose.

'I had a little wail on the blog,' I said, 'when I heard you were stuck at Luton.'

'I wailed all over Luton airport,' she said. 'You should have heard me.'

This what she will see when she gets home:

19th Dec 1

19th Dec 2

19th Dec 3

19th Dec 4

19th Dec 5

19th Dec 6

19th Dec 7

19th Dec 8

19th Dec 10

There will be SNOW DOGS coming to greet her.


19th Dec 12


19th Dec 14


19th Dec 15


19th Dec 16

19th Dec 17

19th Dec 18

19th Dec 19

19th Dec 20

I know these pictures are a bit blurry and out of focus, and also there was snow falling at the time, which did not help, but I cannot resist the SNOW DOGS in action.

Here they are in their stiller moments:

19th Dec 21

19th Dec 21-1

And then back in the warm, all wrapped up:

19th Dec 21-2

Exhausted after all that snow dog activity:

19th Dec 21-3

Finally, here is today's view of the hill, almost entirely obscured by the snow. If you look very closely, you can just see the trace of its outline through the white:

19th Dec 22

PS. I got a lovely comment yesterday from a reader who was stuck in a demoralising hotel, so that she could get to work early the next day. She was obviously longing for her own bed, but she said that my little domestic post had cheered her up. There is usually a voice in my head that says: must try harder. I don't mind this voice too much; I think it is good to strive. But sometimes I do worry that a post has been too slight, or rambly, or even self-indulgent. To hear that occasionally something I put up here may dispel a little gloom is a very fine compliment indeed, and has made me smile ever since. I know that some of you will be struggling with travel, or unable to get where you need to go, or without longed-for family or friends because of the weather. That is why I gave you extra snow dogs, because it is my secret belief that the sight of funny black dogs running wildly through the weather must act as a tonic. They keep me incredibly happy, anyway. I hope that they put a smile on your face, wherever you are.

And may I say, one more time, ASK AND TELL. Oh yes.

PPS. Oh, and here is the lovely face I shall see when the train finally arrives:

19th Dec 24


  1. Thank you Tania. I also got a little misty eyed when I heard that the idiotic law is finally to be repealed. It gave me back a little faith in Americans politicians, to see that some of them are capable of not listening to the braying and occasionally, just doing the right thing.
    So glad to hear that your niece is on her way home. Of all the airports that you could be stuck in, Luton must be one of the least appealing. It is the source of my own personal 'why are they never prepared' whinge, for it's barely 8 miles from me, and there's less than 2 inches of snow on the ground here. It seems that they should be able to cope with that. Had I known she was stranded last night, I would have been tempted to offer to rescue her. I do hope she at least managed to find a warm bed for the night.

  2. In need of good news, that your niece is on the way (hopefully with siege supplies - just in case) and that once in a while, in America, in Politics, decency and sheer bloody uncommon sense may prevail, serves the purpose.

    How come your snow looks so pretty. Mine keeps dropping in vicious icy balls then lays in heaps against doors looking non-threatening like someone up there spilled a huge box full of polystyrene bubbles.

    Please do pop up a one line addendum that the niece HAS arrived. safely. I assume she must alight at Aberdeen? Thence????

  3. I would also like to say "Thank you, Tania". Please know that your writing brightens my days too. You do write so beautifully and your posts and pictures seem to come straight from the heart. In South Africa we sometimes describe someone we like as "genuine". A quick way to explain what this means is that someone who is "genuine" is a person with integrity. Of course, you need to hear it with the South African accent which adds emphasis to the meaning so that it doesn't sound the same as if we were saying "This is a genuine Ming vase". To get to my point, you are genuine, and I'm glad to have encountered your blog.

  4. Yeah, I agree with everything you say about "Don't ask don't tell", Obama, everything. The thing that makes me saddest though is McCain, once a man of honour and integrity, who sold his soul to the devil by producing Ms Palin and has never, can never, recover - and to hear him saying it will endanger lives to repeal that disgraceful law makes me want to howl to the moon.

  5. I do not know about American politics very much but am glad that this law was repealed (?) and that everyone now has a fair go.

    I do hope the niece arrives safely and yes your posts are nostalgic and heart warming - specially for those who need a bit of pep!!

  6. Mona - how very kind you are. She did find a bed, poor little thing.

    BYT - The dear niece is home safely after her epic journey, thank you so much for asking.

    Helen - what an incredibly nice thing to say. And a very big welcome to the blog.

    Lillyanne - so agree about McCain. I don't know what has happened to him. I never saw someone so furious about absolutely everything.

  7. ACTION SNOW DOGS! - I adore the running photographs :) So glad to hear lovely niece is home and must put in a big thumbs up for yesterday's eucalyptus.
    As I type it is the early hours of Monday morning and so I can officially say...I'm getting married tomorrow (tuesday). I will miss your incredible blog until I return for Christmas, will have a joyful catch up read on Christmas eve whilst listening to Carols from Kings.

  8. Anne - I suspected you might enjoy the snow dogs. Have the most wonderful day tomorrow, and I wish you all happiness.


Your comments give me great delight, so please do leave one.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin