I went to a meeting this morning called ‘Firefighters & Friends’ thinking I was going to be surrounded by a legion of GQ firefighters. Well, not exactly. The ‘firefighters’ baited me to make the trip and I’m glad I went.
Speaking at the meeting was a sweet 79 year old man who has been sober for a year and a half. He told his tale from beginning to end, told of his grandparents coming from England for the Gold Rush, of his days in the Navy and of his dishonorable discharge when it became known that he was gay. There were breaks in his voice as he recounted how he was psychologically tortured and mentally and physically abused upon admitting to one trusted ‘friend’ that he was gay.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with my grandmother. I was about 12 years old at the time. Somehow the topic of homosexuals came up and she said, “Of course, there were gay men everywhere 40 years ago – no less than there are today. The difference is, they just didn’t advertise it or talk about it.” She seemed to be almost implying a ‘respectfulness’ in men keeping their sexual orientation to themselves. I choose not to fault her for those views or attitudes because she was a product of her environment. I like to call it benevolent prejudice. It really got me thinking how far we’ve come and how blatantly destructive that dynamic and environment was for everyone involved. Gays, straights, the whole societal umbrella, bore scars from self-denial and keeping their truth suppressed. Since being gay was not societally accepted or openly tolerated, people kept quiet to keep up appearances that there was order (read: no dissension, contention or discomfort.) This so-called order birthed endless chaos and destruction. Not discussing the big purple elephant in the middle of the room had dire repercussions. Families were ruined because men feared the consequences of coming out. None of them palatable: physical safety, societal and familial alienation, psychological abuse, in some cases, death. Fraudulent marriages abounded and were the blemishes and homewreckers of the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and beyond.
Hopefully we learn from the chaos and unrest of every previous generation. I believe that we are constantly refining the coal of the human condition into a diamond, but to do so we must be hyper-vigilant and aware of our foibles and mistakes and check ourselves ruthlessly. Destruction is caused more than anything else by one value that we too often choose to abandon. This is the value of simply minding our own @*&#^$@# business. How hard is this? It’s almost too obvious to even say out loud or put to paper, but it must need to be written if it still remains a problem.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.
– Daniel Patrick Moynihan
That should be applied to politics, religion, sexual orientation and a whole host of other untouchables. If we could take the following ideas, mix them up in the alchemical pot of virtue, then apply them, we might never have to give energy to such injustices again.
Shakespeare: To thine own self be true.
Hippocratic oath: Do no harm.
Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done to you.
Thomas à Kempis: Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.
Some may call me an idealist, but if you see a messy room there is no point in dwelling on the mess ad nauseum; the only sane reaction is to imagine it clean. As such, it is impossible for the room to ever get clean unless it is first imagined that way. That some can only see a messy room and don’t have the propensity to imagine it spotless – in all of its glory – is no reason to avoid picking up the mess. Let someone shun the idealist after those without imagination are reaping the benefits of a clean room.