The Beginning Is Near

It seems to go in lurches forward, this thing called civilization. Or more kindly, like the shore when the tide is coming in, the surf washing in then retreating then in again, so it is further in, then retreating again. How long in civilization is 150 years? In geologic time it is like a passing breeze, even if to us it is a couple or three generations of humans passing. It was “only” 150 years ago that slavery was abolished in the United States of America. It wasn’t Ancient Rome where it happened, not even the Renaissance. This was the end of the concept that you could own another human being, given that his or her ethnicity was African. That end was the aforementioned surf slapping into the promised land. But it wasn’t as if they were suddenly thought of as equals among the rest of their countrypeople. It took 100 years for segregation to be outlawed, for the Civil Rights Act to happen. That was “only” 50 years ago. It comes down to one quote, we find, that makes sense of why the past happened as it did, and attempts even now to roll back what we have gained:

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”
          – Paul Farmer

This was the thought behind the “Black Lives Matter” movement. People who said of that statement, “No, it should be ‘All Lives Matter'” completely miss the point. One says “Black Lives Matter” because it is observed that black lives seem to matter less to this civilization. If you really believe “All Lives Matter”, you will be for the “Black Lives Matter” movement; the question might be why exactly it needs to be said. Maybe because it’s been “only” 150 years? Since such lives mattered more than a sum of money? We in the USA have elected our first black President, and still, racism is rampant. Even if our laws attempt to say all are equal in the eyes of the collective, in practice that equality falls short of being a reality.

Branching out from there, we observed in the 20th century that the notion of some group of people valued less can bring about horror upon horror. Nazi Germany put to death in unholy ways Jews by the millions (millions) based on that overriding principle. It was so bad that Holocaust deniers say something that horrific couldn’t have happened. But it did, now something burned into the racial memory of the people called the Chosen of God. And now—do we know better now? Have we learned? This is a heavy lesson, which others have paid dearly for. Race doesn’t matter. Religion doesn’t matter. Have we not learned? We are all human beings, all of us, and being American myself, I hearken to the words in our founding document: “dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal”. Yes, I edited it. Because this is what it meant.

Now, 150 years later, we are left with the last. As far as I can tell, if we got this, we got everybody: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transvestite, and all you other freaks out there: you’re part of those “people” up there, in the “proposition”. Yes, it’s “only” been 150 years since one type of people were worth at most 3/5 of another. Right now, right now, there are people protesting with signs that say, “I Can’t Believe I Still Have to Protest this Shit”. Indeed. The rolling back of the surf. The reactionaries, those who believe they have a good thing and don’t want to share, and then those who hold that things used to be better back when people just shut up about things and men were men and women were women and children said “sir” and “ma’am”, and everyone knew their place. I call this the blind leading the blind.

What such small people fail to understand is that the tide has already turned. They are on the losing side of history. True, old habits die hard, and Donald Trump is a candidate to be President of the United States, even, but the picture is bigger than that. I write this in the wake of the worst mass shooting that America has ever experienced. One man, in a gay nightclub. 49 dead by his hand. And I have seen the worst come to fore in this wake, some who profess to be followers of someone who gave his life and his all for everyone: these rejoicing that “finally, the shooters went after the perverts”, to “praise God that only faggots were killed”. To believe that some lives are worth less than others. What most believers don’t understand is that in the story of the Good Samaritan, Samaritans were hated by the general population of Judea. It is the story of the KKK member left for dead by the side of the road taken care of by a black man, or woman. The story of the fundamentalist antigay spokesman aided by the homosexual atheist. Love thy neighbor. And who is thy neighbor? The one you most hate. This is the Message.

It is now not as overt as all that, that it used to be, but here it is: people are still viewed in terms of monetary value. Perhaps I am biased in this view, but those 49 people who were killed were worth as much as the NRA paid the members of Congress to keep from passing the legislation that could have prevented this last tragedy from happening. This was what human lives were worth to them, and continues to be worth to them. And they will certainly not feel it is worth any political price to change their ways when these last killed are of value less than even the average person, who in turn is worth less than the opinion of the Money. This is their true God, however much they praise Jesus with their lips.

So what is to be done? Do you feel it? Get mad as Hell. Not with the rage that turns you to violence, but that which makes you SPEAK OUT. What many of us do not understand, on both sides of the issue of the value of a human being, is that there are more people who agree with that proposition, up there, the one about equality. In some parts, they are maybe the minority in their locale, but of all the people of the world, we who so believe outnumber the ones who care only about the Money. It’s just that now, as we have become comfortable, we have become domesticated. We are used to living our lives as they are, in the quiet of the offices, in the considerations of our vested interests. And it is the other side who makes all the noise: not in the streets, but in the media that saturates our eyes and ears. Get mad as Hell. Because they’re taking our most precious thing from us: our heart. Our ability to feel, and be human, to care about anyone. Who is thy neighbor? Why should we love them? Because ultimately, that is the right thing to do.

Because ultimately, our heart is where the soul is human, even if you don’t believe in some kind of Heaven where that soul supposedly goes when you die. Our soul is all that makes us, us. They will speak with many words and make you believe that you are worth more than your neighbor, and that is their lie which poisons your heart and makes your soul die, if little by little. Get mad as Hell. Mad enough to care. Care. Maybe just in case, in case the opportunity should arise, when it might just take a little more effort to do the right thing than not to do anything: to care, just then. To do something. None of us can do it all, but all of us can do something. But first, right now, let them not drown out what is important by their words and their other noises. Hold on. Let them never kill the human of our being. First, to care. What else is the key to the Kingdom?

The American Dream

I can see it, with one of my mind’s lenses: the world is going to Hell in a handbasket. When did it become OK that a young man make a mainstream music video that’s openly, unapologetically gay from beginning to end? Where did all these transgender people come from? It’s like they’re sprouting from the woodwork. This can’t be the new normal, can it? Wasn’t it better when men were men and women were glad of it? And if we allow these things that are reaching the surface now, what else is going to bubble up? And do they have to rub our faces in it? That can’t be right. There must be a path back to the halcyon days, there must. Those were sunny hours. That was when the world made sense.

Some people point back, pretty far back, nowadays, back to the 1950s as the idyllic age. This apparently was the American Eden. This was the Baby Boom, and the rise of the middle class. This was when television became popular (over half of American homes had one by 1954). And that showed us exactly what a perfect family was supposed to be, in glorious black and white… So what happened, exactly? If it was so perfect, what could possibly have come to ruin it? If this was Eden, what was the poisoned apple? One may ask, where did all the “freaks” come from? But was there no such thing as homosexuality in the American Eden? No one who was actually undergoing a crisis in gender identity? Was everyone actually perfectly happy then, when there was no “choice” to be gay or transgender, or whatever else? Was that it? Was giving all of us the “choice” mess it up for everyone?

How is that possible? Have you, if you are a heterosexual man, ever “tried” to be attracted to a man, sexually? And a woman, to a woman? Can you try right now? Because if it is indeed something we can will, we should be able to choose to be attracted and then choose to come back to normal, correct? If it is indeed as simple as a choice, we have nothing to fear from such an experiment. Similarly, being a man to choose to identify as a woman, and a woman to identify as a man. No problem, right? Switching back and forth should be a walk in the park.

Or are we saying that those kind of choices are agonizing affairs, weighing all factors as carefully as we possibly can look at things, and that, once we choose, we cannot go back? OK, heterosexuals, when exactly did you choose to be hetersexual? When did you make that agonizing choice? We are all equally equipped, are we not? Or did homosexuals get the choice but we did not? What would that mean? If homosexuality is “unnatural”, where does this choice come from? If you argue that it is from the images and role models from people who should stay in the closet, I ask again, when did you choose to be hetero? Because the complaints are that those images and examples are everywhere, that we can’t escape them. Having been so exposed, when did you choose?

One thing that the American Eden proponents ignore is that it was by and large a white people’s experience. And then, men more than women. The 50s were something quite different if you happened to be black. And not just in the South. In some parts of the North segregation continued through the 60s and even 70s. And racism continues to this day, all throughout our great land, however much some white people want everyone to believe that we live in a post-racial society (we elected a black President, right?). And an example of a mixed race couple, out in the open—that made people uncomfortable, like two men kissing now.

Can we not draw from that example? Can we not say that the American Eden had no black and white couple holding hands and walking unmolested through the town? They had their outrage back then, too, and their Bible verses (why do we always have to whip out our Bibles?). I can get in that mindset, in fact, though that’s not somewhere I want to stay long, how a black hand in a white hand could seem “wrong”. And you know what? There are people today that still subscribe to this mindset, not really doing anything to change the way they think, keeping it to themselves for the most part. They were on the wrong side of history, it is said. The world moved onto the next thing.

But some people still wax nostalgic. It was when children called you, “sir”, gas was pennies a gallon, women stayed at home and were the world’s best mom. One supposes it is easy to fall into this type of thinking, if one has idyllic memories of when all was right with the world. But do you want to know a secret, that anybody who is reasonable will agree with? It’s better now. Oh, I understand it’s nicer if you leave your bag in a public place and 10 minutes later you come back and it’s still there, but stuff like kids still calling grownups, “sir”, still happens. And a lot of the things that are now in the light may make you feel uncomfortable to see, or even know about, but the people you see coming out of the closet—they’re people too. And a lot of them, we’re for the first time letting them be who they are. And that’s America, for real, where all human beings are created equal. No exception.

Some people, and not just holders on to the past, haven’t taken stock of the state of the world. Its swing is inexorably to a greater technology, and more important, to a greater humanity. We have reached the point that, if we all wanted to, we could wipe out famine—from all the earth. Conceive of that. In the greater “developed” world, we no longer have rulers of random qualifications whose only requirement is that he was son of the previous ruler. The “civilized” world regards slavery as wrong, whomever is involved in the transaction. And anyone who wants to keep one section of the population down, for whatever “reason”: you’re wrong. Not only are you on the wrong side of history, you threaten to drag us all back to that side.

Sure, it may seem that giving the formerly unmentionable classes equality can seem to some as oppression of the rest. To the privileged class, really. But the dream of America is that there be no privileged class. Not only do we not have a king, we have no aristocracy, at least not formally. We do have the rich, the old money, but no dukes or barons. But ultimately, we can’t let money be what rules us, either. America is a grand experiment in this one idea: people will do the right thing when they see it. This is what our freedom means. Don’t be afraid of new ideas, they’re more afraid of you. We shouldn’t change everything all at once, but what is likely is that everything will change, given time…

We are entering an age where we are as if waking from a great sleep, and the reality of it all begins to dawn on us: to sense what is out there in the real world and what it is that we have done: and that the nightmares that we were responsible for were real. And as the prophets of old might say, “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Not to say that the world is ending—far from it—instead, that the Beginning is near. The beginning of a brand new day, limited only by the memory of hate that yet may linger from the previous, a new day in which we dismantle how the world worked when the game was rigged. We will finally be free to be truly human. All of us. Free. And that is the American Dream.