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? Did 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.