by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. -- In 1951, after I'd gone through the full course of infantry basic training at Ft. Jackson, SC, where I learned to dismantle and reassemble an M-1 rifle while blindfolded, throw a live grenade without turning myself or any of my buddies into catsmeat, crawl through the sand on my belly at night, inches beneath tracer bullets from machine guns of notorious inaccuracy, and do other things that the Army wanted me to be better at a few months later in Korea, the brass got down to looking at the battery of tests I'd taken on induction.
Some brigadier at HQ must have thought: this man will be a danger to himself and us in combat, but he seems to have studied a lot of languages - Russian, French, German, Latin, Greek. How 'bout we send him to Monterey?
Monterey then meant the best language school on the face of the globe, The Army Language School, as it was then forthrightly called, at the Presidio of Monterey, CA. With the verbal inflation that is endemic to our government, it is now the Defense Language Institute.
I finished the year course in Russian and was then sent to Berlin as a German translator. This will astonish only those who have never had any contact whatsoever with the U.S. Army's mode of operation.
To tell the truth, in Berlin, where I spent most of my Korean veteranhood, I did in fact translate a lot of Russian along with the German, but we are getting into forbidden territory here, so let me get, at last, to the topic of today's INK SOUP.
The U.S. Army has discharged nine men, six of them Arabic linguists, trained at Monterey, for ... wait for it ... preferring men as sexual partners.
During my tour of duty, "gay" meant happy, carefree, devil-may-care. The British PM who had earlier been in charge of food production during the Hitler war, Harold Macmillian, praised pork as a diet staple by saying: "We liked the pig. It is a gay animal. It likes lots of children." No one supposed that he was referring to porcine improprieties.
At a time when we are desperately in need of people who can tell, say, whether the latest Osama bin Laden tape is or is not Arabic without a lisp, we expel nine of the few men who might help us. Why? Because they are not, in the estimate of the U.S. Army, real men.
This story comes at the same time as another, this from the Boy Scouts of America, which, as it chances, is another of my old outfits.
The BSA expelled an Eagle Scout (a rank of which I only dreamed, frankly) for being ... wait for it again ... not gay, but a non-believer.
This 19-year-old declared that he was atheist. There is, said he, no God. The Boy Scouts, those experts in theology, said his presence would contaminate them.
It is to weep. Of all the positions available to those who care to think about ultimate things, atheism is the most juvenile and therefore the most excusable. The atheist says, I know there is no God.
Not even the most devout believer can say, I know there is a God. The term invented late in the 19th Century by Huxley, agnosticism, is the one that applies to all of us human beings, for none of us knows that there is. And none of us knows that there is not. Hence faith.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.