ANTI-GAY BIGOTRY IS ALIVE AND WELL

“AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”

Rev. Jerry Falwell, Christian evangelist

Remember when a gay caballero was defined as a happy Spaniard? Today, if you told a Miami Cuban he was gay, you might be peering down the bore of a .380 Barretta semi-automatic. Tune in to the nostalgia channel sometime and listen to the dialogue in movies of the 1930’s, Fred Astaire or Claudette Colbert exclaiming, “Oh, they had a gay time at the party.” Imagine your spouse hearing about your gay time at the office party?

The modern era has arrived. Being “gay” is now irreversibly defined. So has the omnipresence of gays in all walks of society, which some folks don’t like very much.

“The New York Times and Washington Post are both infested with homosexuals themselves. Just about every person down there is a homosexual or lesbian.”

— Jesse Helms, former U.S. Senator (deceased)

Securing the basic rights of all Americans has been the cornerstone achievement of the twentieth century. Yet, bigots still claim that traditional values of family and decency are being violated. When racial segregation was effectively banished, and women emerged from the kitchen, those horrible homosexuals brazenly followed suit and demanded an end to discrimination. Oh no, some even want to be married…to each other.

“Don’t use the word ‘gay’ unless it’s an acronym for – Got Aids Yet?”

— Rep. Bob Dornan, former U.S. Congressman

Bigotry and hatred is healthy as ever as nitwits try to convince us that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment to America for tolerating homosexuality. Many say the same about September 11th. We deserved it!

The problem, is that millions of people within mid-stream America feed into that kind of garbage and then go on to teach their children the same rhetoric as though it was from the mouth of God Himself. Follow the teachings of the Bible, say the bigoted evangelists, and love one another. But wait — it’s okay to hate homosexuals. I suppose “love” needs an asterisk.

The righteous right, led by the likes of Rev. Jerry Falwell and Rev. Pat Robertson, have enjoyed huge followings, espousing hatred in the name of God. So are their clones of 2007. They carefully watch the responses of political candidates when they are asked about gay rights, gay marriage, and gays in the military. Because the Falwell-types represent huge numbers, the candidates tap dance around every question trying to appeal to both sides of the fence.

“Many of those people involved with Adolph Hitler were Satanists, many of them were homosexuals – the two things seem to go together.”— Rev. Pat Robertson, Christian evangelist

I was introduced to prejudice and discrimination in my youth as a normal outgrowth of mainstream society in the post-war 1950’s. I accepted the premise that “queers were bad and all homosexuals were perverts.” Then I grew up, removed the blinders and took a closer look at what the human race has yielded. Whether we accept it or not, same-sex love is all around us, a part of our every day lives, our history and our present. It fills our book shelves and our museums, entertains us, and educates us. The righteous right turns their heads from the fact that many of the most influential and talented human beings that ever walked the face of this earth were homosexual.

I have enjoyed poems by Gertrude Stein and novels by Willa Cather or Truman Capote, gay authors each. I recall the wonderful showmanship of Liberace and marveled at his virtuoso. I took my family to see Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet and a concert of The Pathetique symphony, aware that these were the creations of a tormented homosexual who once entered into a legal, ill-fated marriage to quell the wrath of Russian bigots.

Religious zealots would have us boycott the music of Elton John or all movies starring Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson, Lawrence Olivier or Danny Kaye and bury their memory like they never existed. While we’re at it, let’s rid ourselves of such epic creations as Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story or Tennessee Williams’ Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, both products of gay writers. Still, they applaud athletes like Greg Louganis and Martina Navratilova, willing always to disregard their lifestyles when it was time to be entertained.

Alfred Kinsey, in his study of 1948, reported that one in ten were homosexual. Other estimates put the numbers anywhere between five and ten percent. If only five percent of America is, in fact, homosexual, that’s fifteen million citizens, and the true number is probably double that. That’s a lot of people to hate. That’s a lot of people to discriminate against. That’s more people in the U.S. than Jews and Muslims combined. That’s more people than many of the states in this country. These folks certainly aren’t going away.

“Hear the word of the Lord, America, fag-enablers are worse than the fags themselves, and will be punished in the everlasting lake of fire!”— Rev. Fred Phelps, Christian evangelist.

The pompous says homosexuality a choice of lifestyle and suggests that all gay persons should reform and immediately revert to being a heterosexual. That is like telling a black person to be white or to force a lefty to be right-handed.

Why would anyone make a choice to be outcast, degraded and discriminated against for life? Gay friends tell me they would have preferred the straight life had they a choice. Such was not the lot they drew. Yet, they live and breathe our air, pay taxes and bleed red, just like the rest of us.

As the evangelical right postulates before the cameras and congregations, followers should bear in mind that many of those pretty perms and cuts were the creation of gay hairdressers, or that the sculpture sitting on their mantel was created by a gay artist, or the face that appears on a one dollar coin was that of a non-heterosexual woman.

While in Europe, I marveled at the most magnificent creations of religious art in the world, DaVinci’s Last Supper, Michelangelo’s statue of David, his Pieta and the wondrous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, some say all inspired by the hand of God. If they were, in fact, so inspired, then the almighty Himself must have anointed those who the righteous would otherwise condemn.

Think about that, folks.

“Homosexuality is a crime against humanity.”

— Paul Cameron, famed psychologist

A MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS SMILE

I strolled around the church antechamber playing Broadway tunes, Christmas Carols and Patriotic songs on violin while my friend, Jay, accompanied on piano. The folks all sat facing us in a semi-circle, singing along, clapping, laughing at my antics. Twas a marvelous feeling for the two of us, to bring an hour of music and joy to the seniors of a day care center.

I announced that Jay Barnhart and I had retired from the field of criminal justice, he a medical examiner, me a homicide detective. Now in retirement, we are enjoying the gift of music that our parents instilled into us. They roared when they heard our new tag line: The Dick-Doc Duo. (I didn’t tell them our other nickname: Bag ‘em and Tag ‘em.)

As various tunes were played by heart and I roamed the room, my eyes often met theirs —one by one— winking, smiling. In one swift swoop, I let an upbow sling from my hand like a dart until it hit the floor. Laughter filled the room. My hips wiggled to strains of “If I Were A Rich Man,” and they laughed again.

One gentleman smiled broadly the entire hour. He seemed so robust and I wondered why he was among these people, some of whom obviously suffered from dementia and other old-age maladies. Eyes brightened happily as one attractive lady recognized us from a prior engagement. On her name tag: Nancy. I imagined her fifty years ago and wondered just how beautiful she really was at thirty-five.

One woman to my left, perhaps of mid-east descent, seemed alert and immersed in the entertainment. I wondered about her life, children, career, her ups her downs. One elderly gentleman with a cane seemed more detached and I hoped he was enjoying the day. Perhaps, he didn’t even know we were there. Another man sang heartily. I figured him a veteran of the big war.

As we finished White Christmas, I caught myself playing directly to a dark-haired lady sitting to my right. Something was different about her. She bore a distant scowl on her face. She looked up at me, but…you know how it is, she wasn’t looking at me. I lowered my fiddle and approached. “Smile,” I told her. She looked up toward me, but remained stoic. I then smiled at her broadly, “Come, it won’t hurt.” I moved my fingers upward at the corners of my mouth. She didn’t move a muscle. Perhaps, I thought, I am being out of line. “It’s okay. You can smile.”

I knew all the others were watching, including the day care supervisors, but wanted to give it one more try. Next to the lady, was an empty chair. I sat near to her. Strangely, she rotated her head toward me like Linda Blair in The Exorcist and gazed directly into my eyes. Everyone in the room was lasered toward the unfolding scene. I was about to rise, violin in hand, when — like an awakening — it happened. The woman’s face lit up like a Christmas tree with the most wonderful smile I’d ever seen on any human being, her pearly whites glowing in the light, her eyes wide and happy looking right at me.

The moment caught me a bit emotional, but I dared not show it. “You are so pretty,” I told her. And, she was. Moments later, the woman reverted back to her stone face, but that was okay.

She and I had a happy moment, together.

Jay and I come to nursing homes to entertain seniors, not for money, but for the reward of seeing happiness on the faces of delightful people who have made so many contributions to the wonderful world we live in. All the applause, laughter, and sing-alongs filled our hearts with gladness, but nothing that could match that incredible smile from a woman who never smiled any more. It shall remain among my most memorable gifts ever.

The people in day care centers and nursing homes have been war veterans, nurses, policemen, plumbers, journalists, ditch diggers, boat captains, dancers, artists, clerks, moms, dads, grandmothers and grandfathers or just, human beings. If we’re lucky, we’ll all have our turn at aging.

It is so important they not be forgotten.