Thursday, January 29, 2015

Times, They Are A’Changin’

Courtesy of Wikimedia CC-3
As I cleaned out my filing cabinet so a new year’s worth of valuable stuff will fit into it, I came across some things I’d kept from my college years. Dried and cracked and yellowed as they were (see last week’s post on aging), one piece of paper caught my attention. It was an essay or more likely just the anguished expression of emotions one of my college classmates had put on paper. He read his passionate prose to us in a dry, empty tone, and that – alone – caught my attention. Only later, did I come to appreciate the words themselves.

As I reread his piece, it occurred to me that perhaps he – I’ll call him James – had seen the future more clearly than the rest of us. Attitudes about gays have changed drastically since then. 

There had been four of us in the little impromptu group who read our scribblings to one another – a sort of critique group before we knew what a critique group was. We had all been discomfited by James’ bold words. This was Texas in a time when such sentiments could get a fellow killed. But to the best of my knowledge, none of us ever betrayed his confidence.

Although I long ago lost touch with James, I have no hesitancy about reproducing his essay because he gave permission to do whatever we wanted with it at the time of the reading. His words follow. You can get some idea of how old this is by the fact he used double spaces at the end of sentences – a carryover from when we did things on typewriters. For those of you who don’t remember such devices, I’ll refer you to Wikipedia or an ordinary dictionary.
By James
The righteous sneer, “Wicked!”
“Unnatural deviants!” hiss the virtuous.
“Nay!” my heart cries.  “Tis love as deep and abiding, as sweet and strong as any that enriches your lives.”
Pitying their ignorance, I draw close my friend, my lover and move to pass them by.  But it is not to be.
This is the day noble Society and bigoted Religion extract a toll for flaunting archaic injunctions.  And just as with women stepping beyond accepted boundaries, and Black slaves chafing against their chains, and Native Americans clinging stubbornly to their lands, the cost is exorbitant!
One cretin tears away my beloved.  Another, an odiferous, unclean skinhead, pins my arms from behind.  A florid man of dark, heavy jowls pummels bloody my beautiful lover.
Oh, how proud I am as Peter shakes them off and stands tall and manly to face his tormentors.  A foolish mistake, of course, but one born of intrepid pride.  The barbarians beat him unmercifully until the growing unease of passive onlookers give them pause.
Smaller, weaker, and frankly not so valorous, I cannot fight my way free of him who holds me helpless.  Denied the consideration of even one bone-crushing blow, I am shoved atop my fallen hero as the thugs depart, laughing at the life-lesson they’ve taught the queers.
Sobbing myself into paralysis, I watch helplessly as that precious, sensitive life ebbs away on the hot, mean sidewalks of this accursed city.
And who will give justice for this cruel horror?  Not the black-uniformed storm trooper who only considers that there is one less faggot to plague the world. Nor the dog-collared clergy of the stately cathedral towering mutely above us on the far corner. Certainly not a shocked and aroused citizenry wrathfully demanding equity.
For the first time, I truly understand that dreadful credo of the old West:  “The only good Indian is a dead Indian!”  It is equally applicable to me and others like me.
But beware!  I have not perished, at least in the flesh.  And energized by my rage, emboldened by my crushing loss, I live to plot terrible retribution on the hide-bound, sanctimonious fools who dare impose their morality even to the destruction of one superior to them in every way that counts.  And do not look down long, blue noses and proclaim: “Love it or leave it” to me.  For I am legion in your midst, claiming equal ownership of this, my homeland.
Yes, I am here to stay.  And in my own time, in my own way, I will raise my voice and Cry Justice for Peter!

The incident happened elsewhere, so I do not know if James’ lover was actually killed, as is implied by the writing, and he would not discuss the matter further. But there is no doubt in my mind that a violent attack took place. James was a scarred individual, on the inside, at least.

Thanks for indulging me in some more nostalgia. And keep on reading, guys.


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