Sunday, June 19, 2016

They Didn't Have So Much As A Parking Ticket

"Orlando" has happened. I find myself using the word "again" to describe the act of one person, armed with one or more guns, firing said weapons into a crowd of unsuspecting bystanders, killing in a high, high ratio.

This time (holy merde, this time) it's scores dead, scores wounded - over a hundred people involved in this act taken by one guy.

I remember how hard it was to accept that one guy could shoot and kill one sitting President, and the conspiracy theories still abound to this day - but it's happening over and over again with huge loses of life at this point. Right now, we appear to be in the midst of a syndrome - guy gets gun, guy has issues, guy shoots a whole mess of people who don't even see him coming. Men, women, children. Hell, a whole elementary school full of children - it hasn't mattered.

One guy, with guns. And issues. Blammo, people dead.

I find myself thinking of my mother. I do that often, comparing the challenges I face with what I know she dealt with. And she had, believe me.

Mom, first off, was a nurse. She went through nurse's training during WWII, 1941 when you couldn't even be married. She was, of course. She'd married Dad on a three-day pass in Kansas City, and she went back to school under her maiden name and nobody knew. She kept it a secret for two years, even from her parents. Mom wanted to be a nurse. Mom wanted to be married. In her mind, the two weren't incompatible. It was just what other people thought that was the problem.

If they didn't know, it didn't matter.

So she didn't tell anyone. And voila, she was both! Hadn't hurt a soul, and it turned out to be a good decision. Mom was true to herself, at the expense of being honest - a fair trade.

That appears to have been the case through most of her life. Mom was a GI Generation, 110% Danish-American, "Where's Mine?" health care worker. (That made life an interesting place when AIDS showed up, believe me. "Mom, they're talking about putting people in concentration camps!" "They'd better not - I'll be the first one through the gates!" "MOM!") I can remember hearing table talk between her and some of her co-worker friends about topics leading from contraception (Roe v. Wade happened when I was still in elementary school), motorcycles (you didn't say that word around her, Mom worked ICU at a district hospital before California had a mandatory helmet law on the books) to homosexuality. Yup. Even before Roe v. Wade, I got an education about being gay, but I seriously doubt you're in the ballpark about how.

Mom worked nights - 11:00 to 7:30 AM, getting home in time to see us kids off to school (it started at 8:00 or so, if I remember right). If something bad happened, she was late getting home. We had overnight sitters at that point (Dad had died in 1967, Mom went back to work full time in 1968 and wouldn't retire until the mid naughties in her seventies), and about 1972 or so (it's hard to place, nobody but me remembers it anymore), Mom was late getting home. And she was livid and heartbroken in the same breath, and it was one of those mornings that stay with you forever.

My sister, being the year older, was really good at getting to the heart of the matter quickly - what happened, Mom? Why did they do that? She was good at getting explanations out of Mom, but that morning it was as if she'd given Mom permission to tell. Tell everything, because it was so wrong.

She was late because she'd had to make arrangements for a funeral. A 67-year old man had to have help making arrangements because his 64 year-old partner had died suddenly and there was no legal next of kin he could call in to do it. At that point, neither of them had any family still speaking to them and there was nobody to call in to help. I suspect Mom had even had to call more than one mortuary before someone would take him. This is all before AIDS, mind you. This is even before herpes showed up. There's no risk of contracting a disease, no risk of being "turned" this way or that, nobody (at least us kids, then) really discussed being attracted to member of your own gender. You had friends, you had best friends and you fell in love and sometimes, you did all three with someone of the opposite gender. The idea of doing that with someone of your own gender was a new one for me - but why was it wrong?

"It's not," I remember hearing Mom say. "They did nothing wrong. They didn't have so much as a parking ticket!"

But Mom had to make the arrangements. People had found out, you see. They could then do whatever they liked to those poor souls, and Mom was livid. They had done nothing wrong.

It wasn't that they were wrong for being gay. It was what the world did to them, could do to them - that was what Mom objected to the most, and it was what she guarded us from as much as she could.

Don't marry outside your race. Are you having sex with that boy? No? Are you gay? No?

It wasn't what I was doing. It was what the world would do to me when it found out - if I was something the world objected to. Mom knew.

Mom had known the value of keeping your true self hidden. There was safety there. You got a lot for passing - take you pick what, in her day it was everything from marital status on down.

Today, we tell. We express our genders, we come out, we take pride - use whatever language you want. We are visible and we let those freak flags fly loud and proud and I couldn't be happier to see it. When has any of us been less than perfect, less that totally in line with the CW of the day? Wear those colors that clash, mismatch the shoes, skirts or pants - who cares? Love as you will, as you can, deeply and fully and who among us can say no? It's wonderful, and wild and amazing. Also - no threat to anyone. No danger whatsoever.

But we haven't come that far when the world can still do what it wants to those it doesn't accept. It only takes one guy, when they can get a weapon that makes them lethal far out of ratio to the population they live in.

This is what Mom feared for us. Homosexuality, race, ethnicity, religious belief - none of it - was either right or wrong - it was what the world would do to us. Being a different race. A different faith.

Somewhere in the world, there's someone who will do awful things because. Just, because. They found out.

(God just doesn't do enough for these guys - God doesn't zot people, after all. If there was ever proof that God loved unconditionally, it was in the face of doing absolutely nothing when we hate each other so vehemently, we're willing to kill over it. God doesn't take sides, but remains when we come to our senses, in my honest opinion. Those folks that have a wind-up God they point at other people when they need a reason - I don't get it.)

God won't end Them - well, then. Go get a weapon and do it yourself.

This is where the work needs to go - not in the tolerances, the acceptances, the coming outs and demonstrations. We need to go after the world that does things to people it can't accept existing. They are coming in ones, these days. Handfuls. Maybe.

You out them. And you call them wrong.

The world that would eliminate those it disagreed with for existing hasn't gotten the same attention, and now it has to.

People are different. Tell. It's wrong to fear the world. It's an incredible place, and we get so much more out of it when we rejoice in its diversity. Find those singular people who hate, and out them. It's right to live and let live, and it is wrong to deny people that right. And tell - by the way. Tell, with no fear. We will have come a long way beyond my mother's day when that happens.

And that's what I remember.

For the record, I'm not qualified to speak to race, being as very, very White as I am. You want to speak to race, speak to a person of color and listen up. I can speak to knowing that only when you can pass, you can be safe and that shit's gotta end. End the idea that if you don't like it, it has to go instead of your fool notions about it. So there. Nyah.

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