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A tradition changes for the better

Published August 14. 2013 4:00AM

Come mothers and fathers

Throughout the land

And don't criticize

What you can't understand

Your sons and your daughters

Are beyond your command

Your old road is

Rapidly agin'

Please get out of the new one

If you can't lend your hand

For the times they are a-changin'

- Bob Dylan

The times were rapidly changing when Bob Dylan authored those lyrics 50 years ago. The leaders of the civil rights movement were demanding an end to the long accepted injustice that relegated people to second-class citizenship because of the tint of their skin, risking and sometimes giving their lives for the cause.

In the 1960s the younger generation would challenge many of the precepts of their parents and grandparents - that America's wars were to be supported right or wrong, that women had to keep their place, that material acquisitions in a suburban home were the measure of success.

In June 1969, as that tumultuous decade ended, a series of violent demonstrations against police raids on gay bars in Greenwich Village, New York City - the Stonewall Riots - marked one of the first times homosexuals outwardly challenged a legal system that sanctioned their persecution.

The times, of course, are always changing, and not always for the better. The counter-culture movement of the 1960s embraced drug use, and ultimately abuse, ruining many lives. Criticism of a war led to a hurtful and misguided condemnation of those obligated to fight it by law or sense of duty. For most young people, the rejection of materialism proved fleeting and not terribly practical.

But the aspiration toward a society that treats people equally and with equal opportunity is a change that has endured. A photo published Tuesday by The Day of a routine though wonderful event long part of the culture of southeastern Connecticut - the return of a submarine after a long tour of duty - was a reminder that the times are again changing and in ways some "can't understand."

The photo, also the subject of the opening of the news story, was familiar - a sailor on bended knee surprising his beloved with a dockside proposal upon returning ashore. But there was a difference; the sailor and the object of his ardor were both men.

It was a scene once unimaginable, but then, so too was the prospect of racially integrated military units. Two years ago Congress ended the duplicitous "don't ask, don't tell" policy that allowed homosexuals to serve their nation and risk their lives, but only if they kept a major part of their identity secret.

This is the far better way.

The photo - provided by a U.S. Navy photographer - jolted some of our readers. Using the reader comments tool on theday.com, a reader, identified as "Chuck," commented on an earlier version of the story, one with no reference to the photo of the proposal. It instead carried a more traditional illustration of a baby running into a dad's arms.

"I just wish every kid from middle school through the 12 grade could see what the benefits are for bearing down in school and keeping their noses clean. You young men are the best there is. Welcome home and a job well done," he wrote.

Chuck was aghast when his comments remained as the story was updated, with the photo of a man proposing to a man.

"It went from a good story about a ship returning to homeport from deployment to another politically motivated Gay agenda story," wrote Chuck, demanding an apology from theday.com for having kept his comments up with the revised coverage.

This news organization's only agenda is to reflect a changing society, one that still welcomes home young men who are the best there is and acknowledges their job well done, but no longer demands they hide who they are.

Expect more changes, Chuck. The Navy is moving ahead with its plan to integrate enlisted women into the submarine service. Female officers are reporting for duty aboard the large, ballistic-missile submarines. By 2015 the Navy expects to assign women officers to attack submarines, the kind stationed at the Groton base.

Anticipate more welcome-home photos not seen before, reflecting change for the better.

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