Saturday, April 20, 2013

Seeing Our Best In Our Darkest Moments


Hello dear readers...it is nice to be back after missing last week. Over that time however, it seems as if some crazy things have been happening in the world. The Boston bombings and fertilizer plant explosion in Texas has been on mind all week as it seems as if the wounds of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings haven't even healed yet...but....it's not those tragedies themselves that are in my thoughts these day so much as our response to them. Terrible events tend to bring us together as a people in ways I wish we would find when we aren't grieving some terrible loss.

I spend my days swimming through a see of opinion about people attitudes and opinions to LGBT people and our rights and if you can say one thing about it, it is that it is contentious. The loudest voices are often the most hateful ones and those people need to be met and countered. The path to seeing an LGBT person as a normal human being and not a national threat has been a long and loud one and we are far from seeing the end of it. Even the repeal of Doma and the passage of  LGBT inclusive immigration and work place reforms will not end the culturally entrenched homophobia that still needs to be met daily with courage and truth.

But as I watch the T.V. in the wake of the Boston Bombings and hear such amazing stories of  compassion...like people running toward the blast sights to help the injured instead of running away in self protection...it makes me think. Why can not this be who we are all the time? And given that LGBT people are there in these same events, suffering in the carnage and helping to heal it...when will the world learn that we have bigger problems to face in the world than two people of the same-sex getting married?


As you can tell...this blog is more stream of consciousness then  asking a question for which I have a good answer. some problems are simply more complex in their answer then the simplicity of asking the question. Terrible events have a way of bringing out the best in some people and we see that when police and firefighters raced to rescue people from the burning and collapsing twin towers on 9/11. Or in Sandy hook teacher Vicki Soto hid her children in cabinets and tried to mislead Adam Lanza away from them, ultimately being killed herself...and now in Boston were an entire city was galvanized into action by the bombings. Boston, Texas, Oklahoma City...when the worst happens, we often see the best in each other.

Now, I live on the other side of the country, and my heart has been with Boston all week. I find myself wondering if all the divisions that normally plague us on regular days have been put on hold while Bostononians worked to recover from the explosions and then find the men responsible. Whether you are gay, straight, black, white, or whatever.....is there just one Boston right now?...Showing their strength and courage in an event that effected everyone equally. because from my vantage point, that is how it looks.

Whether it is the explosion of a bomb left by a terrorist or the accidental loss of life from the plant explosion in Texas, people are rushing to help each other. We are treating wounded, standing with those grieving the deaths of loved ones and pouring out love and support for each other. And woven into these stories are individual LGBT people who are victims as well as first responders who's lives are as wound up in these events as anyone else. For example Officer Javier Pagan, who is the officer on the right in the picture at the top of this post was present at the epicenter of the first bombing and among the first officers to respond. Pagan, is the Boston Police Departments liaison to the LGBT community and married to his husband Pedro, a retired NYPD officer:



As I have watched events unfold with a mixture of both utter horror at the tragedies that have occurred this week and then with inspiration as I have seen people pull together in support of each other, I can't help but wonder what happens to us all once the dust clears and the public consciousness once again has space to hear the wingnuts come unhinged about gay people marrying, bi-national couples wanting to not be deported, and gay people seeking protections from being fired on the basis of their sexuality alone. Gradually we will return from this tragedy to another conflict, this one internal...."culture war"....and it seems like a lesson in compassion lost.

And just as tragedy can uncover the best in us, so to can it unveil the worst as we give vent to fear and anger. Two seconds ago we may have been helping a stranger we may have never talked to on any other given day because we were all being effected by the same event....and then we shift gears into finding the people who did it and immediately we start looking at groups instead of individuals...like the Saudi man who had been tackled after the blast just because he was middle eastern and wearing a backpack. I don't think anyone expected the bombings to come from two young men from Chechnya...Islamic or not. It seemed so far out of left field. yet, in an instant, the unity that took place in grieving gave way to anger and opened the door to prejudice before we knew what hit us.

All I am asking of the world is, when the dust clears and the pain subsides, to remember the moments when we all rushed to take care of each other and nothing mattered but one human being coming to the aid of of a fellow. Can we take that memory with us when the Family Research Council and the National Organisation for Marriage do their damnedest to make us afraid that America will fail and the world will fall apart if we allow gay people to love and marry equally. Could we short circuit culture war if we remembered there is no "us vs. them"...there is only an "us". Can we treat every day like one in which someone desperately needs our help?

I already know what the answer to that is.....no. Once things settle and people return to their everyday routines, then we forget how little difference meant when the chips were down. Even though many gay people suffered and died as well...and many rushed to help bandage wounds and search for survivors, we will have to return to our homes and our lives and to people talking about us as if we are different...set apart...dangerous..and to be feared. No longer the policeman who pulled you from the wreckage of someone else's hatred and cruelty. The hysteria machine will begin again...but this time when it does I hope we can see that its fearfulness is so much garbage that disappears when the world really does fall down around us.

But one thing we can learn is that we are capable of better. When most days we shrug our shoulders and say, "that's just the way the world is."....we know that's not totally true because we have seen these glimpses of ourselves as so much more. We know who we can be....we know that there are times when our colors, gender, sexuality, and race don't matter as much as drawing together in survival....how can we make that who we are in good times?

What do you think readers...am I being too naive yet again? Sometimes I think I expect too much from the world. but just as we have seen great darkness in humanity...we have also seen amazing moments of courage and compassion. We will never be perfect of our own accord...but we can be better.  These are my thoughts and what I took away from this weeks events...its still a lesson in progress, and there are no easy answers. But now I open it up to you the reader....What do you think?

until next time dear readers....


10 comments:

  1. I just spent the night w/ my friend the fire chief and hiking in some amazing places. Besides finding out he and I are on completely different pages sexually, the town where the blast occurred is named west. Also, if anything happens in large scale in terms of fire in certain places we are screwed but we will be together in that cluster muck.

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  2. There is much hope and potential in us humans. I completely agree that is a sad thing that it takes events like the ones of the past week for us to show that to one another. But it exists and I am so grateful for that.

    I even felt it personally. I was at mile 24 of the route cheering on the runners when the bombings occurred. Almost immediately calls and texts of family and friends, some of who I rarely talk to, started pouring in checking on me. Boston is forever grateful to so many. All levels of law enforcement, doctors and nurses, EMT's, each other, and the world for offering prayers and support. Thankfully all my friends and family are safe, though still a little on edge.

    Monday, a week on from the event of Marathon Monday, I'm wearing my Boston Pride shirt. It is a shirt I bought at gay pride two years ago. Now it has more meaning though, it means so much more to me. Boston. Pride. Boston pride. Boston is a diverse city and we have a strong LGBT population. A very historical, wonderful, lgbt welcoming church stands right on Copley Square. It shows up in all the footage. Old South, http://www.oldsouth.org/ It is a wonderful place, and hopefully it's congregation will be able to get back home to their building soon.

    Peace to your family.

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  3. Yes, we are capable of being better but, for most people, regardless of sexuality, it takes those extraordinary events such as a 9-11 or a Boston Marathon bombing to bring it out. To even wonder if we could be like that all the time seems to imply that you might be that way yourself naturally or at least noticeably more than other people. That makes you a better person than many, for few can equal you in your compassionate heart and sentimentality. Those are very attractive qualities to have and those are the very qualities Jay started to notice in you some 18 years ago in that movie theater when you cried during some film—maybe “Uncommon Valor” or some name like it I’d recognize if I heard it again—and those characteristics of you are what made Jay start to fall in love with you.

    Unfortunately, those very admirable qualities also DO make you a bit naïve. You DO seem to expect more from the world than it is capable of delivering under normal circumstances. On an ordinary day, most people will NOT be better. You might be, but you are not most people and, yes, you may take that as a complement. I think most people are more cynical and LGBT people SHOULD be cynical when confronted by adversaries such as FRC or NOM. In the culture war we have, don’t forget that it is a war and that our best defense might actually be an offense. The world needs to learn that sexuality is biologically determined and therefore cannot be chosen, which makes orientation-based discrimination/oppression all the more contemptible and ignorant.

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  4. I understand totally what you mean Bryan, I often wounder about that. Why cant the world be as compassionate, caring and even selfless all the time. It is nice to know that people can be that way, but it makes it all that much the more sad that they can't be that way all of the time. But then again like you I often find myself wondering if expect to much from the world too.

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  5. The fact that we can means, simply, that we are. When someone runs faster than the fastest mile, we never run slower again. This past week we bore witness to amazing and inspiring "community" and that can't be taken away. As we learn to "not fight against" but to "fight for" that which we know to be right, it does get better. Thanks as always, Bryan, for your thoughts and time.

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  6. I like what Chris says above--to fight for, rather than to fight against.

    However, I'm more cynical than you are. Most of the time, the vocal majority (meaning, those who want to keep things as they are) are happy to have gays, immigrants, non-Christians, females, not white Anglo Saxon fight their wars, put out their fires, tend to their sick, pick up their garbage and harvest their food.

    It's the way it's been for 200 years and counting.

    Having those same people have rights equal to that vocal majority? Why, that's discrimination against those same privileged straight white Anglo Saxon males. Leveling the playing field means that they'll have to compete, to work harder.

    Really, how dare we ask for equal treatment in all areas?

    /sarcasm

    As a straight female, I'm not asking for special treatment--just as gay people are not asking for it. We just want to be equal, to start at the same pay rate and with the same legal rights as everyone else.

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  7. a sad truth in all fights for equal rights in this country is that a counter exists because there are those who use the equal opportunity to try and claim special treatment and they get it(whether for guilt or for fear of prosecution). i am not merely white and have never had the wealth to really enjoy the status but that is what people see of me so i get told that i dont 'understand' which is quite funny especially when the person telling me has had a more privileged life than me.

    the capacity we have for love is revealed in our darkest moments because they are times of testing in which we have no other option but to break or be better. it would be nice if we did not need those moments but they are life changing revelations that pull our heads from less illuminated places we exist in dealing with daily routine.

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  8. Thank you this, Bryan.

    Always enjoy reading your column.

    p.s. You are handsome too.

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