I’m trying to stay afloat, and I am asking for your help. I think. And, as I said on Twitter, while I don’t know the shape of my post-election life, I do know it must involve daily assuaging in others that same terror I felt as youth — but how do I do that?
I am in retreat, more or less, struggling with what to do. I am struggling with how much to speak and about what?
In my dark hours, of which there have long been many and of which there are now more and more, I sometimes wander down the dark path of wondering about the theatrical innovations and entertainments I didn’t get to see because Michael Bennett was murdered.
As a teenager I sat overnight outside the Kennedy Center waiting in line for tickets to the first national tour of his masterpiece, A Chorus Line, the album of which I had memorized every single lyric and orchestral measure, its gay characters beacons to the young — closeted because I’d have been dead were I not — rural boy I was with no role models. As a young no-longer-closeted gay man in my early twenties, the original Broadway cast recording of his Dreamgirls was the score of a particular period during which heartbreak became my hobby and habit.
Of course, if you are of a certain age, you understand Mr. Bennett is a symbol, a stand-in for all those others who were assassinated by the indifference and or glee with which much of society reacted to AIDS. Faggots being wiped out by an epidemic was, to many, not a cause for concern but, in fact, just desserts for cocksuckers and buttfuckers.
I was there. I survived. And I felt plenty guilty about it. What, I wondered, might the more gifted people with better coping skills, with more ambition and courage and intellect, have done with the lives they were denied? In some ways, my fear of rejection and inability to put myself out there had saved me: all the men for whom I longed but didn’t approach, the near-crippling faux-goraphobia of my early adult years coupled with the crust of protective shell I wore like armour kept me uninfected.
For what? Things are becoming LESS rather than MORE clear. Flashes of horror distort and upend me. I marched and fought and argued and stood up and lost and lost and lost and lost and lost and lost for . . .
This? I live in a country where control of all three branches of government has been turned over to a party now led by a band of merry misogynists, proud xenophobes, and hate-mongering homophobes.
And this was accomplished by a minority of people. In a democracy. How did we come to this?
I don’t have any of the answers — or, even, the questions — but I know — or, rather, I feel that we — or, rather, I am required to DO SOMETHING. I don’t yet know what that is.
Am I to exist, Buddha silent, in certainty that all is what it is and will be what it will be and is fate and destiny and temporary and my reactions of fear and loathing are earthly and unworthy of energy; instead, I should be seeing PAST all the hate and despair and misunderstanding and FEAR that brought us here, and focus on the foundation of LOVE and LIGHT eternal inside every soul instead? Should I be working to see ONLY that?
Because, right now, that seems like so much bullshit.
Is there a lesson to be learned from the Democrats believing too much in ultimate goodness of people? Should we have been more prepared for Republican dirty tricks? Refused — as tr*mp would have — to accept election results? Never concede? Impede every step of the way EVERYTHING he and his GOP-cohorts try to do?
If we don’t, who gets murdered this time? How many Michael Bennetts and could-have-been and should-have-been Michael Bennetts do we lose to silence and disregard?
I wanted to make of my life a work of art. I wanted there to be some reason, some purpose, some something. But, what I’m left with — it feels to me right now — is a compartmentalization of self, and a disconnect. All the Charlies I have been and am, screaming in cacophonous horror, “GET US OUT OF HERE” — because, this. Again.
What do we do?
I wish I knew. But, for now, all I can do is try to find the questions I should be asking, and survive this nagging certainty that complacency and compromise again equals death. And, Michael Bennett and all of the others killed by the callow disregard of hate in the 80s aren’t here to do whatever it is that needs to be done; they can’t make the noise or sing the songs or paint the paintings or tell these stories that need to be told.
So, I guess it’s up to us.