The Way It Is

Did you have a good Thanksgiving holiday weekend?  I did. 

We had a small group of family and friends over for the first time in three years for turkey day.  I cooked and, gotta say, it was one of those meals where everything went right.

The bird cooked perfectly and I barely basted it.  The roasted sweet potatoes with apple, honey and maple syrup, was fantastic.  Cornbread stuffing made separately worked really well.  Roasted brussels sprouts felt perfect.  Even the green salad with pomegranate seeds was a standout, not to mention the homemade corn bread I made in my spare time, as well as the excellent cranberry sauce my sister-in-law made.

Ina approved!

It wasn’t all good news, though.

There were 22 people killed and 44 injured in seven mass shootings over Thanksgiving week.  That’s an average of one a day, for those who are now too overwhelmed or saddened or stumped to think about it. 

Of course, I thought about it.  But there was food to buy, cooking to get done and timing and plating to figure out, culminating with me watching some of the new Broadway musicals on NBC’s Thanksgiving Day parade (Note: Ugh, don’t bother.  And yes we’re speaking to you, Some Like it Hot!) on that all too treacherous morning of the big meal.

Don’t even get me started on this

Well, treacherous is a relative term.  Obviously.

But it’s not like the five that died and dozens more who were injured four days prior at that beloved Colorado Springs LGBTQ+ party spot, Club Q, thought a few hours of their partying prior to Thanksgiving was particularly dangerous either. 

And even though I’ve never actually been inside a Wal-Mart (Note:  Yeah, that’s correct), it’s safe to imagine that the six human beings blown to bits by a disgruntled employee would never have imagined in their wildest dreams that being in that location would prove to be the most treacherous place on earth for them two days later.

Sigh.

The great intellectual and writer, the late Susan Sontag, published a devastating short story, The Way We Live Now, back in the mid-eighties.  It described in snippets of conversation that felt casual and gossipy but were anything but, the new normal that the AIDS epidemic in NYC had wrought.

Life would never return to the naive everyday-ness that we had previously dared to intermittently consider to be treacherous. In fact, most of what we considered pre mid-eighties treacherousness would be considered quaint, and then some, from then there on.

Nothing about Ms. Sontag’s prose was melodramatic, studied or even particularly special at the time.  But that’s what made it unique. She was merely reporting the conversational facts of deterioration, disease and death as if they were an itemized prep list of thoughts, tasks and snarky tidbits one could encounter before, during and after a typical Thanksgiving holiday dinner.

A must read (click the pic for the link)

In essence, she was telling us we would grow used to anything if we had to because even with the grotesquely awful there were plans to be executed, events to attend to and meals certainly to be made.  What was going on outside was awful but, well, we’d just have to modify.  Amid the medicines, hospital visits and funeral plans, the rest of us would still get hungry.  Right?  After all, there was nothing we could do about it, anyway. 

Having lived through the dreadful beginning and middle of AIDS as death sentence in the eighties and nineties, I can’t help but feel a familiarity of those times to the way we live now – in 2022.

It’s not that gun proliferation and violence is a new virus in our midst, the way AIDS was back then.  It’s that it has begun to metastasize in a scarily virulent way.

The new normal

There have so far been 606 mass shootings in the US in 2022, as opposed to 610 in total in 2020 and 690 last year (an all-time high).  We could still be #1 by the time this year is out but no matter where we fall, or fail, we will certainly be competitive with the worst of the worst before 2023 rings in.

There are now more guns that people in the US. (Note: 393 million guns to be exact), the majority of which are owned by white men, who are more than likely to identify as rural and Republican.

No, I’m not racial profiling.  Here is an exhaustive story from CNN in June. 

And a front-page story in the NY Times this weekend casually chronicled the latest trend in a new kind of non-verbal public discourse – the armed demonstrator.

This should not be normal

Sure, it’s our right to carry a weapon if we have a permit.  But in June in the US we had an average of one armed demonstration per day.  What this means is that packin’ right wing protestors, sometimes led by the Proud Boys or Oath Keeper members,  routinely show up at public events in places like Phoenix or Nashville carrying sidearms, long guns or other such paraphernalia because…they can.

If it scares you, well maybe you should be scared.  Or not.  Our freedom, your choice.  Or, well, perhaps it’s both.

It’s worth noting lots of these events also seem to happen around abortion clinics, or gatherings sponsored by the LGBTQ community.  Sometimes they’re even near places where people vote.  Or where certain other minority groups choose to congregate. 

This feels right to me

This is not surprising since 10 states have extremely lax laws regarding firearms, allowing pretty much any gun owner the legal right to carry a weapon in a crowd, a government building or even restaurant serving Thanksgiving dinner. 

So if you found yourself in Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia or Washington over the holiday and made it out alive and unscathed, consider yourself one lucky dude, dudette or non-binary celebrant.

I myself felt relatively safe in Los Angeles this week, despite all you maybe have heard about our uptick in crime.   They might have guns, sure, but they’re not free to carry them anywhere.  At least not by law.

… and I’m never leaving

Besides, they’re mostly looking for Rolex watches and I was never big on expensive jewelry.

But that’s the way I, and we, live now.   At least here.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Because it was exactly six months prior to Thanksgiving that 19 small children and two teachers were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX and the only thing that changed were the lives of their relatives and friends.

Lana Del Rey – “Looking for America”

A Rare Bird

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 12.59.02 PM

To be an LGBT person is to acknowledge that you will always be in the minority. This seems likely even taking into account all present and future advancements in reproductive science.

I long ago came to terms with this and I can’t say it’s entirely un-pleasurable. In fact, in my more philosophical and egotistical moments it makes me feel a bit more exotic – like something to be particularly appreciated because it is so extraordinarily unique.

Yeah, I know the quest is to be treated as equals but still there are moments when I wax nostalgic for comedian Sandra Bernhard’s tart comment in the nineties:

I thought one of the benefits of being gay is that you didn’t have to get married or be in the military?

I’m paraphrasing, of course. Nevertheless there was a moment in time when this was particularly appealing.

It has its perks!

Of course, I’m also Jewish, which makes me a double minority. Though I didn’t realize the latter right away despite how much they used to try to drum it into you in Hebrew School in the sixties:

Rabbi: Always remember, the Jews have been the most persecuted people in the history of the world. We must stick together. 

Me (to myself): Really? Somehow this doesn’t seem right. What about the Civil War and slaves? Oh, we were slaves? But still… And as for sticking together, I like my Italian friends very much. Not to mention they seem to have so much more fun around the holidays. I wish I could celebrate Christmas.

Yes, I really did think like that, though not always to myself. Though of course, I am once again paraphrasing.

After all, Ol' Irving was a member of the tribe.

After all, Ol’ Irving was a member of the tribe.

When I brought myself to Hollywood and fully felt comfortable to live as my double minority self I considered it a great personal victory. Though truth be told this didn’t fully happen until somewhere in the mid-eighties and all I could think about was:

Well, I’ll show ‘em now. I’m gonna make up for all the wasted time!

Then the weight of the whole truth hit me like a ton of bricks. A gay Jew in Hollywood who wanted to be a writer was about as unique as…nothing. You could open up a window and find one. Or ten hundred. Though that’s not entirely true. Because seldom do many of us even go outside, at least in the daytime. Allergies, ya know.

homosexual-lesbian-edgy-cool-gay-pride-month-ecards-someecards

Clearly, I’m marketing a bit in cliché. But what is a cliché at all if it doesn’t contain more than an ounce of truth. I mean, I have an All About Eve poster on my living room wall and I like Bette Midler and Judy Garland. So draw your own conclusions. But don’t also forget that I never totally got Sex and the City, am obsessed much more by politics than Ru Paul (though will fight to the death for her), hate massages, and was a die-hard New York Yankees fan as a wee lad. Okay, I couldn’t play for shit, but everything about the latter is an entirely different story and will no doubt one day be the subject of an entirely different post.

Though I'd never be caught wearing vertical stripes #notflattering

Though I’d never be caught wearing vertical stripes #notflattering

The point here is no one is ALL or NOTHING, especially when it comes to their own sexual, religious, ethnic or physically specific stereotypes. Are all blondes bubble-headed? Certainly not!! Though I have met (and dated) a few, though not all of them natural. On the same token, there are a few terrorists that are Muslim – though a speck among the one billion plus Muslims in the world. And yeah, another speck of them come from the Middle East.   So what is that you’re saying?????

Twenty plus people died when terrorists took over a popular restaurant in Bangladesh on Friday. Isis/Isel/Dash is taking credit for it and who knows, maybe it was them/they/it. Though clearly it was terrorism. Three college students were among the dead, one of them from UC Berkeley. (Note: Not that it matters where they’re from but somehow the latter does matter to us, doesn’t it?). Five of the terrorists are dead and one is captured or dead, depending on which reports you believe. Forty people were wounded in and around the area and thirty-five people were held hostage overnight and then some.

Of course, these are just the latest examples of hundreds upon hundreds of terrorist incidents and fatalities in the last several years worldwide. In Bangladesh in particular, this incident specifically follows the murder of the editor-in-chief of the country’s sole LGBT newspaper, along with his lover, by six fundamentalist men who broke into his ground floor apartment with machetes and guns and hacked the pair to death.

Yes, the flip side of being a rare, spectacular exotic bird is that you’re a perpetual target from all sides for your “difference.” Though these days it is often other minorities who are doing the shooting, hacking and blowing up.

Le sigh

Le sigh

Oh wait, can you say these terrorists are a minority when there are more than a billion Muslims in the world? Well, just like not all gays like Sex and the City or prefer Ru Paul to politics, not every Muslim is a crazed fundamentalist terrorist. In fact, I’d safely venture to say that percentage wise there are more Muslims who ARE NOT insane terrorists than there are LGBTs like me that are non-SATC fans with a penchant for too much MSNBC. No, I can’t prove it. It’s based on anecdotal evidence and a life well lived, though sometimes not. So you’ll just have to take my unique, non-objective word for it as we all do with far too many sources on so many various things.

Elie Wiesel, the great writer and Holocaust survivor who died on Saturday but did manage to teach the world to never give up yet always remember, once said:

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.

This always made a lot of sense to me. It’s quite easy to be angry and spew out venom towards heinous acts or events beyond one’s understanding. And surprisingly easy after while, and after so many, to go on with one’s life, or barely acknowledge or ignore them.

What’s exceedingly difficult is to keep fighting and loving in your own unique way.

... but I can still hate this person right???

… but I can still hate this person right???

Think of it like this – when I was a movie critic back in the day my peers and I would fully acknowledge it was a helluva lot easier to write a mean, nasty review than it ever was to douse a film in unmitigated purple prose of praise. And a helluva lot more fun.

Yes, I’m mixing metaphors and analogies that probably should never be co-mingled. But that doesn’t make the above statement any less true.

There’s a very powerful tribute video that just came out from producer Ryan Murphy and the Human Rights Campaign that brought me to tears. No, really. Celebs list each name of one of the 49 deceased, mostly LGBT people, at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, who were shot down by yet another gay-hating and, from what we know, perhaps sometimes himself same sex-attracted and Muslim – though the crazed radical kind – terrorist.

Whether he was or wasn’t any one of these things or who specifically he hated (or did not hate) is not the ultimate point. These kinds of things will happen alternately to any of us rare, exotic birds – which means pretty much all of us – and the people who love and/or hang out with us (which pretty much means the rest of us) if any of us manage to be in the right place at the wrong time.

The question remains: In our own ways – grand or small or somewhere in between –what can we do about it and how do we avoid indifference or hate? Since at some point, and given the wrong or right locale, we all, each us, will be in the minority.