At breakfast the other morning Tom, who’s liberal, folded back the page of his newspaper and slid it across the table to Mike, who’s conservative, rapped the headline with his finger, and said, ‘Now, that’s what I call progress.’
Mike glanced down at the headline – West Point Chapel Hosts Gay Wedding. And laughed. ‘I reckon a battalion of ghosts all the way back to Winfield Scott are turning over in their graves.’
Last week an army chaplain conducted the first same-sex marriage in the Cadet Chapel at West Point for a lady who graduated from West Point in the first class to include women thirty years ago.
From Tom’s point of view that wedding is another small step toward enlightenment – following the three milestones of Minnesota, Maryland, and Maine voting in favor of gay marriage on Election Day.
But, if you think about it, Tom may have it backwards.
Because the Army is more than a collection of men and women in uniform – it’s an institution. It may well be the oldest institution in America – after all, the Continental Army was created before the Presidency, the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court or the public schools.
After we got drubbed by the British in the War of 1812, years ago, old General Winfield ‘Fuss and Feathers’ Scott, a sort of institution in his own right, decided a military academy was the cure to avoid future drubbings – so he founded West Point, and it gave birth to ‘the long gray line’ of cadets stretching from Robert E. Lee to Dwight D. Eisenhower.
West Point rests at the heart of one of the oldest and most respected American institutions – and if you share Mike’s point of view – the wedding last week in Cadet Chapel may be the real milestone.