Friday, October 14, 2011

A Death Less Noticed

Rain returned this week.  Nothing like the drenchings we had a month or so ago, but still enough to require double bagging of the newspapers.  Fortunately, the temperatures were mild so I was able to deliver in my shorts and sandals a few of the days.
And again, so many deer this week, including a family of three on the front lawn of a house in a neighborhood that I would not consider rural in the least. 

I mentioned in my last blog that the remarkable Steve Jobs died last week.  Clearly, his mark on history will be far reaching.

Perhaps even as important but far less publicized was another death, that of Frank Kameny.  I was completely unaware of Mr. Kameny's existence let alone his importacne in the gay rights movement.  As someone who likes to think that I am cognizant of the "players" in today's society, it disturbed me that I was so ignorant of this special person.  And makes me question just how our awareness of what is news and what is not reported is so influenced (and so controlled) by the very media outlets that we depend on for our information.

As I read the one column obituary of Frank Kameny, I was struck by the length of his battle to gain equal rights for the gay community and the changes that have occurred since he "came out" after being fired from his government job in 1957 (yes, over 50 years ago), and the apparent anonimity in which he operated. 

As early as 1965, he was included in a small group which staged a protest outside the White House during President Johnson's (yes, Lyndon Johnson) term.  He founded and cofounded many advocacy groups which fought using legal means as well as civil disobediance to bring light to gay discrimination in the military and other government agencies.  I can only imagine his amazement and satisfaction when, in 2009, he stood in the Oval Office when President Obama signed a directive extending benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.  This past May, his papers became part of a Library of Congress exhibit on US constitutional history.  At this solemn occasion, he was hailed as the Rosa Parks of the gay rights movement.

Whether he was the ultimate behind-the-scenes force for the gay rights movement or someone whose contribution was not fully
understood as it occurred, or simply that his cause labored in the darkness of the deep rooted discrimination against gays that permeated our society until recently, I find myself saddened and disturbed that only in his death did I know of such a person.

In honor of the progress that has been made in the past 50 years, and as a reminder to those that have used religion to suppress the rights of minorities of all races, creeds and preferences, I submit a story I wrote a few years back which described the struggle surrounding another, perhaps future debate regarding rights, in this case marriage rights.

                                                                               The Debate

The debate had raged in the streets and in the Senate for the past 6 months. Parties on both sides of the issue had dusted off their tried and true arguments while painting the position of the other side in an unflattering a picture as possible.

While the specific point of the law was new, the nature of its meaning was as old as humankind itself. Those in favor cited progress, the evolving nature of society, compassion for everyone and the obvious as well as hidden discrimination that the law would eliminate. Those against the pending law cited tradition, values and the very real possibility of the end of the human race.

On Intervision, from the driest of business shows right on down to the trashiest talk shows, representatives from both sides of the issue could be seen on a daily basis, sometimes cajoling, sometimes imploring the viewing public that the bill must or must not be defeated. Every institution had weighed in, every level of political agenda was heard from, every citizen-based organization was involved. Finally, after 6 months of posturing and propaganda it was decided that today’s session in the Senate, in the presence of the world ruling counsel and with what was expected to be the most watched Intervision broadcast on record, a decision would be rendered.

At 10:00 the Senate was called to order.

The pending law was read aloud, simultaneously translated into all the languages of all the world’s peoples. Immediately, both sides as represented in the Senate scrambled to position their speakers in a beneficial sequence, as the tradition of alternating presentations would be followed. This pattern of speeches, one for, one against the new law, continued for 4 hours as was the custom. As the end of the 4 hours neared, tension in the room began to climb as did viewership of the preceding.

At exactly 2:00, the last speaker was cut off, her final words inaudible to both those in attendance and those on Intervision. All eyes turned to the seven members of the ruling counsel.

Surprisingly, counsel member #3 stood up. He was a very old Senator; in fact, his exact age was not completely known. He was not known for his speaking abilities; in fact, no one present could remember the last time he spoke publicly. But it was known that his influence was great and that his opinions, invariably made known behind closed doors, often ruled the day. The air was still, all eyes were upon him as his voice, quiet yet clear and strong, spoke these words.

“My fellow humans. Today we make a decision that will change the very course of human destiny. It is not a decision to take lightly but not unlike similar decisions made years ago by our predecessors. I know of what I am speaking because I was present for some of those momentous choices.”

Counsel member #3 paused. He looked at each of the other six ruling counselors, then gazed out at those in attendance, and finally his eyes locked on the nearest of the Intervision transmitters.

“Just as it was decided a dozen generations ago that marriage between the races of our world should be recognized, just as it was decided 2 generations ago that marriage within genders should be supported, now it should be our decision to pass this law legalizing marriage between sentient species.”

And so, in the year 2060, the people of earth and the beings of Vega officially began the first of the universe’s joined species.

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