Friday, June 28, 2013

More history of my first "Do Ask, Do Tell" book, and "conflict of interest"

Today, o the “Issues” blog,  I referred to the “conflict of interest” that I perceived when I wrote and published my first book (“Do Ask Do Tell: A Gay Conservative Lashes Back”) while I was employed by a life insurance company that specialized in selling life insurance to military officers. 
As many readers know, I traced the history of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for gays in the military up to 1997, and particularly my own ironic relationship to the policy, given my history of being thrown out of a civilian college in 1961 (William and Mary), but, after taking the draft physical three times, getting “drafted” in 1968 and “serving without serving”, being rather sheltered by my education.

The company *USLICO”, in Arlington VA, was acquired by NWNL in Minneapolis in early 1995, and the new company became (with a few other components) ReliaStar, which would in turn be bought by Dutch conglomerate ING in 2000. 

I did discuss the matter with the company at the end of 1996.  Although everything was informal and off the record, it seemed everyone agreed that a transfer to Minneapolis to the new host company, and away from the appearance of a possible conflict would be a good idea.  I took a new position in Minneapolis at the beginning of September, 1997, rented an apartment on the Skyway at the nearby Churchill, and started one of the best periods of my life 
When my mother, back in Arlington, needed coronary bypass surgery in May 1999, I did not come right back for the Monday morning of the surgery, and did not cancel a prepaid trip to Europe which followed shortly thereafter. (I'm lucky that the medical conflict did not explode in 1997; it might have.)   I went back to see her in June.  During that period, I worked back at the office in Arlington, but for formal COI reasons did not get paid for those days.  That’s the way I handled it. ‘
Right after her surgery, she did go to an SNF (skilled nursing facility) for two weeks, where she was treated carelessly.  A friend intervened, but of course I caught some social criticism for not being there.  I was asked why family reasons would not justify my transferring back, and I stuck to my guns that doing so would be ethically inappropriate given what I had published.  We hired a live-in caregiver, and she recovered well by August.
Of course, there’s another overview of all this.  The military issue was so sensitive because military service involves opening oneself to sacrifice, as we know from the days of the draft and the deferment system, which I wrote about extensively in my first book.  So why shouldn’t I be expected to prove I could “step up” now, and make a sacrifice?  Maybe use the family leave from the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (unpaid)? 
All of this fits into a “class warfare” kind of discussion, I can see that. I do know that the culture of my own upbringing in the 1950’s was that it’s wrong to expect to “ get out of things” (a term of my mother) that others then have to endure, even imposed by an unjust external world. 

It just might be that when everyone has to “step up” and does, a more virtuous cycle follows.  People accept and embrace some interdependence and social capital.  People accept the idea that complementarity will occur in their most personal relationships.  In the modern world, complementarity is no longer predicated so much on gender as on polarity, and it has to be more flexible than it used to be -hence, the “modern family” which must be “family” nevertheless.  Part of the reason this gets necessary is that when people are left too much on their own, they just run into bad luck, and yet are still judged as failing.  Then respect for “responsibility” and democratic values really can break down, and real class warfare can start.  That’s how it looks to me now.  

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