Catch 22 – that most elegant no-win conundrum - entered our language in Joseph Heller’s World War II novel of the same name. The essence of catch 22 was this: In order for a pilot to be grounded he needed to be crazy. However, if he asked to be grounded that was taken as evidence of his sanity. Anyone who wanted to get out of combat couldn’t be crazy. Case closed.
Another ex-pilot is now facing his own catch 22. (New York Times.) Tracy Thorne-Begland, a former fighter pilot and Navy officer lost his bid for judgeship in Virginia despite widespread support from both Republicans and Democrats in Virginia’s House of Delegates. The final vote came at one am, and some of the more fair-minded delegates, assured of Thorne-Begland’s appointment, left leaving the more conservative members to vote down his candidacy.
Here’s where Thorne-Begland’s catch 22 comes into play. At the time of his application, the Navy had a ban on homosexuals, so he kept the fact of his homosexuality to himself. Now, more than three decades later, one of Mr. Thorne-Egland’s opponents based his opposition on “the fact that he defied his oath and could not have been candid on the application.” There’s not much room in that one either.
Another factor in the opposition’s position was concern that Thorne-Begland who has been active in gay rights causes would use his judgeship to pursue an “activist agenda.” It always strikes me how, in relationships between the dominant culture and the “others,” it’s assumed that only the “others” have an agenda. Dominants are so enmeshed in their culture that their agenda is invisible to them; their agenda is simply the way things are. Yet that agenda is there, and it has been used – temporarily one hopes – against Tracy Thorne-Begland.